I think the extreme weather changes this year is signaling doomsday, perhaps not too far from the movie 2012. Crazy weather catastrophes have showered down onto New York and Long Island.
Back in January of this year, there was a giant blizzard so big it gave me a snow day in medical school. The last snow day I had was senior year in college, when a huge snow storm in Manhattan lead to the first school closing in NYU history.
This summer has been bizarre for the East Coast. I was away in India from June to July, but the week before I came back, there was a scorching heat wave. Luckily, I missed it as I returned just when the intense heat wave ended. It was hot enough that you could fry an egg sunny side up on the hood of a car. Instant breakfast, smoking hot too.
Then, mid-August, Long Island was hit with heavy rain and flooding. It was like the monsoon I didn’t experience all the way in South India, where monsoons are supposed to happen. But monsoon rain in New York? I mean, my sister experienced torrential monsoon rains in South Korea. Around Seoul, in Gang-nam, the monsoon rains were so bad that people were swimming through muddy water. But monsoon on Long Island?! I was driving to work at Macy’s on Sunday morning and Old Nichols Rd had to be closed off due to flooding. Taking a detour, I drove up and down hills, only to encounter deep pools of water. My car went swimming through multiple bodies of water. Lucky I had my dad in the passenger seat, who helped me navigate and told me to drive at the pace of a snail, backing up cars behind me. Never before had I felt so anxious and hesitant over driving in the rain. It was the first time I had to deal with serious flooding and drowning my car.
Tuesday, August 23: Earthquake strikes the East Coast… Earthquake?! It took me and the whole East Coast from Canada to the Carolinas by utter surprise. At precisely 1:50 pm, I vividly remember sitting in lecture at Stony Brook Health Science Center, learning about papoviruses. Suddenly, I heard a squeaking sound. In that lecture hall, each row had a long table and attached pairs of chairs. Initially, I thought an obnoxious guy was shaking the entire table. I looked up and noticed it was only girls in my row. The row continued to rock back and forth and the squeaking noises continued to emanate from the metal rungs of the table and seats. Up front, the screen where the lecture was displayed undulated. The whole class went quiet, mainly baffled. I definitely felt the whole room rock and shake. I believed it was construction in the building, since there really was a construction site blocked off by the L2 escalators. Besides, I’ve been in enough school buildings undergoing construction that the muffled rumble (or the obnoxious jackhammer) and shaking ground were not out of the ordinary. I lived in Manhattan city long enough that I’ve become immune to construction woes. An earthquake was last on my mind. For 15 seconds, time stopped and life went on pause. The room seemed to wobble, almost dizzying. So in class, as most of the native East Coasters sat stupidly and blankly, the California kids knew what to do. My friend next to me joked, “Ok, time to duck” and motioned to hide under the table. Yes, the California kids have been drilled to hide and duck for cover.
As soon as the quake hit, it ended. Class resumed. The professor, unfazed, went back to his papoviruses. In the meantime, everyone perused the Internet and ran to Facebook. So is this what people do after an earthquake, go to Facebook and post the same status as everyone else?! I did some Internet hunting and quickly found out there was a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered from Mineral, Virginia. Due to landscape and rocky nature of the East Coast, the shockwaves were not well absorbed and traveled longer distances. There was no significant damage either. I found out later that Washington DC had a few casualties: cracks in the Washington Monument, fallen pinnacles off the National Cathedral, and more cracks in the Smithsonian Institution. Otherwise, there were mostly foolish people evacuating and running out of buildings onto the streets and making frantic calls like there’s no tomorrow.
I’m more concerned with the infrastructure of buildings and homes on the East Coast. They are not designed for earthquakes. The last time I checked in Earth Science, the East did not lie on a major tectonic plate or fault line. As Stony Brook shook, I worried more about the building imploding upon itself. If a tangible earthquake is able to shake the entire East Coast, I’m wondering what else is possible in the future and whether we will be prepared for potential disasters. Judging by how people in major cities reacted, I don’t think anyone knows what to do.
Now the Californians can poke fun at New Yorkers’ foolish reactions and panic attacks amidst the confusion and shockwaves. Even I laughed at people’s reaction to the tremor, and I’m not from California. The last thing you do is to run onto the streets in a frenzy. The first thing you do is stay calm. Then you drop, duck for cover, and hold. That’s because you don’t want falling debris to strike you into an amnesiac state. So when I found pictures of people clogging the city streets and driving their cars out onto highways to evacuate, I thought “Wow, stupidity at its best.” I also heard Donald Trump was the only one to stay in the building and ordered his workers to get back to work as they filed out with lightning speed.
My sister relayed to me what happened at home. Mom and Kelly were napping in the master bedroom. My sister was sleeping on the ground. She felt the ground shake mysteriously. She also thought it was perhaps, construction around the condo. Next, the mirrored closet against the wall started to shake uncontrollably. My sister was startled and confused. She said she had a Stephen King moment. That is, she thought she was dreaming and had the urge to make a creepy story out of the random occurrence. I mean, it was a shaking and squeaking closet that appeared possessed by the demon. Anyway, my mom woke up too and thought there were rats in the closet. My dad, sitting outside watching TV, thought he was crazy when the room shook.
Today – Hurricane Irene touches down in the tri-state area. Since I was young, I loved learning about natural disasters. Hurricanes were amongst my favorites. Next came tornadoes. In 6th grade, while I was reading the Voyage of the Mimi and learning about whales, I recalled asking the teacher “Do whales feel hurricanes?” That was a serious question, but the class thought it was funny and foolish. One black kid said to me, “What’s with your obsession with hurricanes?!” Well, it wasn’t an obsession, just a thirst for learning… geez.
Back in the 1950s, there was a Hurricane Connie, and that was powerful enough that it’s retired into the Famed Hall of Disastrous Hurricanes. Did you know the earliest and most devastating earthquake to strike Long Island was the ‘Long Island Express of 1938,’ which whipped from the Carolinas to New England in a matter of 6 hours? Did you know the last destructive hurricane to reach Long Island was Hurricane Gloria in the 1985? It was still a strong Category 3 hurricane by landfall. There were extensive damages all along the East Coast. Power outages stretched up to a week. Many fallen trees and blown-up rooftops littered the ground. Winds up to 100 mph struck the entire island. Storm surges along the South Shore threatened homes and natives. Remember Hurricane Floyd? I was in the 5th grade at that time, and the tropical storm was an ominous threat to Long Island yet again. I vaguely remember dark clouds and heavy rain and winds.
And I wonder why many major hurricanes have female names? Are women forces to be reckoned with after centuries of oppression? Is it possibly Mother Nature’s revenge against the history’s long sexism against women? Historic Hurricanes
Well, Hurricane Irene made its first appearance in 1999, a commonly forgotten storm in the Florida region. Except now it’s here to exact its revenge and go down in the history books. As I sit in my house watching the constantly updating news, sadly stranded for the weekend, the hurricane is making landfall. I can hear the rain and winds. I saw a flash of thunder not long ago. Earlier today, Hurricane Irene whipped through Virginia and Washington. Then the Jersey Shore was savagely hit. Atlantic City was eerily empty and the boardwalk awash.
Since this afternoon, NYC transit has shut off. Penn Station closed. LIRR shut down. Long Island Expressway and major highways and roads are closed. If you are caught out, you can get arrested. No one is allowed on the streets and beaches Saturday evening into Sunday. Even locally, Stony Brook parking is only allowed in the garage. The bridge connecting the medical center and HSC is closed off due to the heavy gusts. Stony Brook has become one of the main operating hospitals for emergencies. I believe several New York hospitals near low-lying areas evacuated: NYU Langone and the VA Hospital by the East River, Staten Island Hospital, and Coney Island Hospital. There was a record cancellation of over 4000 flights and all Broadway shows. My parents are in San Diego sending my sister off to college, and they’re stranded there until Thursday.
New York City has been broadcasted for the last few hours – depressingly wet and empty. Manhattan, the Big Apple, is now the Big Ghost Town. Brightly-lit Times Square was juxtaposed with torrential rain and desertion. Mandatory evacuations of Zone A were instated, around Staten Island, Lower Manhattan, and Rockaway. There were also two idiots who decided it would be fun to kayak in the chopping waters off Staten Island. Rescuers had to go fetch them, needlessly put at risk and unnecessarily dispatched when Bloomberg issued a warning already. Because it’s a state of emergency, everyone is urged to stay indoors for the duration of the storm. I don’t understand why the news reporter and cameraman are standing in the storm, reporting live. I’m thinking, the guy can fly away any moment now. No man should put his life on the line in a storm, even in the line of duty and rain ponchos!!!
So it’s been a state of emergency all day. This is a serious storm, more so than just heavy rain. Tropical Storm Irene intends to strike Long Island with gusty winds up to 80 mph. South shore Long Island, like Fire Island, had to evacuate because of the storm surge warnings and serious flooding.
I heard from friends about the precautions people were taking. People went crazy getting gas and stocking up on food and water. It was mayhem at Costco, BJs, Stop & Shop, Waldbaums, Hess, etc… Flashlights, water, batteries, and many other goods depleted quickly. You know how I stocked up for the storm? Two footlong Subway sandwiches and Butternut Squash Ravioli w/cream sauce & walnuts from Ol Sol Mio. If the power goes out, I’ll live in a cave. If I get thirsty, I have Poland Spring water in the kitchen. I still have yogurt drinks, ice cream sandwiches, bananas, clementines, Chinese herbal bean soup, soy sauce daikons, chili sauce, milk, cereal, and chocolate Craisons available at my pleasure. I have my TV on, fan running, and laptop charged for entertainment’s sake. I have a bathtub filled with water. If power really goes out, I guess I’ll keep studying viruses.
Glad I partied it up last night with friends and first years. First Tiki Hookah Lounge for a birthday party, then a house party that reeked of sweat and alcohol. Epic and eventful, but gross with the stench of perspiration and ethanol. Now the party’s over and school mode needs to seriously kick in, I’m camped out in my condo and stranded for good, home alone.
Sunday morning will be the worst for Long Island. There are warnings of torrential rain, strong winds, storm surges, flooding, and possibly tornadoes. I already hear the rustling of trees and howling winds. I’ve always liked the feeling of being stuck in storms. Water is the essence of my personality according to Chinese personality, and perhaps that’s why I enjoy rainy days and historic storms. That is, watching rainstorms from my window, not actually being stuck in the torrent.
Because the East Coast is densely populated, with many major urban centers scattered from top to bottom, natural disasters will become a looming problem. And we are not immune. As seen with this past year’s string of disasters, the East is susceptible to earthquakes, torrential rains, and devastating hurricanes.