The lighter side of Hurricane Sandy: Is preparing for a northern hurricane any different than in the south?

A look past the media hysteria to see if northerners prepare for hurricanes any differently than they do in the south. Photo: (AP Photo)

DOTHAN, AL, October 29, 2012 — There are times when I miss living in Manhattan, but today isn’t one of them. With Sandy bearing down on the entire northeastern area, I’m quite happy to be down south in hurricane alley. Our hurricanes are much smaller. I don’t recall too many times when New York City shut down its entire transit system unless there was a strike going on. Having also lived along the Gulf of Mexico for some years I got accustomed to the annual parade of tropical storms and hurricanes (and there is very little difference between them) marching into the Gulf and aiming at the most vulnerable cities, usually poor New Orleans.

To people along the Gulf Coast a storm with 70 mph winds is a wimp. A storm that drops 10 inches of water is no big deal because the sandy soil soaks it up. To people in the northeast, a storm like that can be catastrophic. Southerners know how to prepare for storms and there is nowhere near the media hype because few outside the area really care unless gas prices go up.

Northerners aren’t used to making sandbags, boarding up windows, living without power and storing water for when the pumps go out. There is a reason swimming pools are popular in the south since they are sometimes used for more than just swimming. Pools are also a source of bathing water and a convenient place to dump your patio furniture so it won’t blow around.

After living in the south so long, I was curious to see how things were going up north with friends and family. The first thing I was reminded about northerners, at least ones I know in the tri-state New York area, is that they don’t need advice. Well they might need it, but they don’t particularly want it. So I kept quiet as I did my random and unscientific survey of how people are preparing for Sandy.

In Connecticut there is a lot of concern over where electric power lines should have been located, on poles or underground, and how to survive without the internet or HBO for several days. To be fair, Connecticut usually gets an A+ when dealing with snow and ice, but hurricanes are another matter. People on Long Island are starting to take seriously that they may not be there in another twenty-four hours, and they can’t do much except watch the water rise. Long Islanders can’t easily evacuate since they would have to get past Manhattan, which is basically closed for business, plus no self-respecting Long Island resident would be seen dead in New Jersey.

Manhattan is the Woody Allen of the northeast. Residents dither and chatter and worry and fret but the fact remains that living in a million-dollar condo on the 19th floor is usually pretty safe, and Con Ed is under strict orders to keep the Upper East Side powered with electricity no matter what. Across town, my old neighbors in Washington Heights are pretty amused at how locals react to storms since many of them hail from the Dominican Republic where hurricanes and storms are a way of life. The Battery district of south Manhattan might become awash if there is a storm surge as predicted and maybe all that water will help clean up Wall Street. And maybe that was a lame joke.  

That brings us to New Jersey. The entire state is a flood zone and goes underwater even with spring showers. One friend, who likes to be prepared for everything from hang nails to nuclear holocaust, has a rowboat ready in the driveway, has purchased a small generator, has enough food and water for the entire neighborhood and keeps a loaded gun in the house in case of looters. His home is elevated enough that if he floods the entire state would be underwater, and I would guess that looters tend to avoid flooded areas unless they are looking to steal rowboats.

Elsewhere in the state, reactions to the storm range from panic to standing outside, shaking a fist at the sky and shouting “come and get me you *&%(*&!!” Of course that may just be Governor Christie, I’m not entirely certain.

In Pennsylvania, one friend of ours is busy baking cakes and making coffee to store in case the power goes off. Her response, when asked about the storm, was that her house was built in 1801 had probably seen a lot worse. Well, if she has to go without power then let her eat cake. Moving on and hoping no one noticed that pun, further west and south they are not worried about Sandy as much as they are about a huge winter storm coming from the opposite direction.

Parts of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and the Carolinas are bracing for snow. Our friends high up in the Blue Ridge mountains tell us they are used to snow since summer only lasts there about three days in August anyway. They are preparing for the storm by chopping more wood for their stoves. For you city folks, wood is an ancient substance that in some areas is still burned to heat a residence despite EPA regulations. 

Our politicians are preparing for the storm by getting their speech writers to come up with some new and barely relevant material about global warming, FEMA, taxes, jobs, Marxism, capitalism, binders, Big Bird, federal debt, oil prices and illegal immigrants.

All those things actually come into play in a storm scenario: global warming and storms require more funding for FEMA, which means more taxes and more jobs are needed so people can pay taxes. We can’t have that with Marxist policies, but on the other hand capitalism tends to put all the money with rich men who keep women in binders and want to kill Big Bird. As a result of all those things, the federal debt keeps growing, foreign oil prices keep rising and perhaps we could put illegal immigrants to work cleaning up the mess from the storm.

So, if you’re in Sandy’s path and are likely to lose power, try to look at the bright side. Without electricity you won’t have to hear about politics or read my bad puns for at least several days, which proves the old adage that every cloud actually does have a silver lining.

Stay safe and may God be with you during this difficult time.

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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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