Sandy Saga, Part 1

By Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina

Wind forecast for 7pm Monday 10/29/12, from NOAA’s North American Mesoscale (NAM) model, showing winds blowing into NY Harbor at 45-50mph (red color) and even 50-55mph (magenta). The eye of the storm is the region with weak winds (white). Reproduced from SeaAndSkyNY.

Here’s your “feet-on-the-street” reporting from Hurricane/Nor’easter/Frankenstorm Sandy, from NYC. Please keep in mind that, as of this posting, we have no idea whatever what is going to happen—all we know is what the models forecast. Future posts will describe what actually did happen.

For an ongoing update, please check Philip Orton’s blog, SeaAndSkyNY. He’s an oceanographer and scientist whose data and insights we rely on regularly.

(For an amusing assessment of models and the people who create them, we recommend this xkcd cartoon. Be sure to mouse over the cartoon and read the comment that pops up.)

Friday 10/26/12, noon-ish. We decide to cancel our planned weekend camping trip up the Hudson, on the grounds that if Amtrak shuts down, we’ll be stranded. Little do we know we are going to miss out on the excitement of finding a body near our planned campground

Saturday 10/27/12, morning. “We should get some supplies,” Vlad says. Since this is more or less what Johna has been thinking since we’d cancelled the camping trip, we are pretty much in alignment. (Vlad’s comment takes a generalized anxiety and makes it immediately actionable.)

So we run out and lay in supplies: salami, cheese, nuts, crunchy veggies, anything tasty and filling that doesn’t require cooking (in case of a power outage.) Plus food that can be cooked, in case the power is functional but the rest of NY infrastructure is not: sausages, meat.

Saturday 10/27/12, afternoon. Gowanus Canal paddle. We’re out for four-and-a-half hours in New York Harbor, mostly poking around.  (Photos are here.) The salient elements—from the standpoint of an incoming hurricane—have to do with changes in the weather. When we set out it is overcast and warm—warm enough that Johna is overheating in her brand-new wetsuit and wetshirt. By the end of the afternoon, the wind has picked up and changed direction—instead of coming from the south/southwest, it is coming from the east. And we are happy to be wearing the wetsuits.

The most exotic part, though, is the sundog. If you’ve never seen one before (Johna hadn’t), they’re awesome. Looks like a brilliant double-rainbow in the sky—until you notice the two rainbows are symmetrical and curved facing each other, on either side of the sun. The sundog guides our travel most of the way home.

Sunday, 1o/28/12, noon-ish. New York City announces the shutdown of subways and buses. Amtrak closes lines, thus validating our decision not to go camping.

We rejigger plans (both professional and personal) to handle contingencies. The sky is slate-gray, but no wind or rain.

Sunday 10/28/12, afternoon.  We are out and about. The wind has picked up, it’s definitely colder, and there’s a tang in the air that smells like snow to come—slightly odd since the temperature feels like the high 50s.

Sunday 10/28/12, 4:40 PM. The wind picks up even more, sending dry leaves dancing. A feathery smattering of rain sprays down, but nothing lasting. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this was an ordinary late-October day: cool, overcast, breezy, drizzly.

Sunday 10/28/12, 5:00 PM. The first serious gust kicks in. It’s still no more than 20-30 mph (hard to gauge on land) but something about it feels serious. Then it dies down.

Sunday 10/28/12, 5:30 PM. The local Duane Reade is sold out of bottled water. Also canned goods. But not, fortunately, of staples like olives and ice (for martinis).

Sunday 10/28/12, 9:15 PM. Stepping out of the neighborhood restaurant where we’ve had dinner, we’re greeted with a sustained blast of wind. Still no rain, though. Halloween decorations rattle (we wonder how well they’ll survive the next few days).

More to come…

Part 2 —>

40 responses to “Sandy Saga, Part 1

  1. Waiting out the storm too (in NJ). Hoping for minimal damage!


  2. Oh my. We’ve been watching. Praying for our East Coast. Will remember you. So glad you canceled that camping trip! Stay safe.


  3. Pretty much the same here in South Jersey – by yesterday morning, the supermarket seemed to be running low on bottled water, and that’s a good thing; means people were stocking up. Today, just an ordinary rainy October day. I can see how people in New England were taken completely off guard by the monster hurricane of 1938 – they didn’t have satellite coverage to warm them it was coming, and probably by the time the weather became truly threatening, it was too late to escape.

    Stay indoors and safe tomorrow!


  4. Take care of yourselves… :-)


  5. So far we are waiting it out. Very scared of the high tide surge, that spells disaster for us here on the Sound. Got the jeep and bag packed just in case the water goes over the seawall. God bless everyone


  6. I know you two are adventurous, but please wait a while before heading back into the kayaks!! This blog is great! I’ll be reading regularly to get the first-hand account as I sit in Chicago at a comfortable distance from the storm!


    • In Chicago, you’ll get all that snow later on this winter that we certainly won’t envy ;-) But at least we should both be grateful that we don’t have earthquakes… well, every few hundred years in NYC… due about now… :-(


  7. What an interesting moment by moment post. I’ll look forward to following the progress of this storm through your eyes! Be careful, though. In California we are having the most perfect weather of the year. Sorry we can’t transport some of it to you!


  8. From one coast to the other, we’re thinking about you over there. Take care of yourselves.


  9. Pingback: Sandy, Stay Still « wordsaver

  10. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you that it won’t become (too) bad!
    Take care, and stay safe,


  11. Take care and stay safe!


  12. Same here, keeping my fingers crossed!


  13. Stay safe…A pity that question of the olives…Still…May be you can do an effort and have Martini without them! ;) Take a lot of care!


  14. Those martinis sure will be shaken! This guy also has good storm information:


    • Yes, I’ve looked at John’s Facebook posts…. it’s amazing how much information it’s possible to gather (ignoring the obvious fakes) about what is happening while sitting comfortably at home—at least until the power goes out…


  15. Be safe! Your reporting is so excellent, though I admit to being bemused that martini availability ranked near the bottom of the list.


  16. Sounds like time to keep off the water. Sold out of bottled water, shocking, have you tried a tap (faucet)? Watching from the other side of the Atlantic with interest.


    • Actually, the point of bottled water is that when the power goes out, so does the water in these high-rise building, since the water gets pumped up to the holding talk on the roof by electric power. In the last blackout, people were getting very uncomfortable not because of the loss of power, which they had anticipated, but because, unexpectedly, no water was coming out of the tap (faucet)…


      • Vladimir,
        Sorry, did not think of that not living in a high rise.
        Sorry to hear about the loss of life. Very dramatic pictures of NY and the flooded subways. Last night I listened on the radio to an interview with a NY cab driver about the place being empty, what an entertaining speaker, would do well in a talk show.
        All the best


  17. Glad to hear you are safe and making the best of things. I hope it stays that way. Take care both of you.


  18. Pingback: Sandy Saga, Part 2 | Wind Against Current

  19. Pingback: Kayaking Through the Gowanus Canal on the Eve of Sandy | Wind Against Current

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