sandy new york city

What Hurricane Sandy Uncovered

It was 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast United States. New York City was fixated on a dangling crane in midtown Manhattan. Weird stories and photos circulated the internet and social media. Most notably, a picture of a shark on the flooded front lawn of a New Jersey home. One of the more disturbing picture I saw was of a casket floating down an empty street. I’ve searched high and low for a copy of that photo more to prove my story than anything.

Caskets floating away during a flood aren’t a new thing believe it or not. In New Orleans, the problem of airtight coffins popping out of the ground because of heavy rain fall became so bad most graves are now either lined with concrete or built above ground. Before Sandy, this phenomenon was unheard of in the state of Connecticut. I never saw it personally mind you. I just saw the picture I mentioned and a few stories from patrons at the bar I used to work at. Problem is, drunks aren’t exactly known for their honest story telling.

The story I’m telling you took place the day after the hurricane. The bar I work at is located on the outskirts of Waterbury, Connecticut. My boss called me and asked if I could go check out the place and make sure it hadn’t been damaged or looted. I said I would on the condition that I could drink for free when I got there. He agreed (Not much choice. He was flooded in) and I was in my truck and on the my, figuring I’d spend my afternoon relaxing at an empty bar.

There’s something creepy about a city the day after a storm. Major roadways are abandoned. Street lights are out. One major intersection I had to go through simply had a stop sign stuck in a Home Depot bucket in the middle of the road instead of it’s usual working stop lights. The power was out so most of the houses I passed were pitch black. Pure silence with the exception of my truck’s engine and the country station I was listening to. Only one word came to mind at that moment. Apocalyptic.

I pulled into the strip mall were the bar was located. I locked up and moved towards the glass front door. The neon sign outside had been broken in the storm. “McKinley’s Gin Mill” was written in hunter green gothic type on yellowing plastic. The break in the sign was in the top left corner were an Irish caricature grinned over a mug of beer. With the top left part of his head missing the single remaining eye made his smile seem more sinister than sarcastic.

I opened up and flipped the switch. The lights stayed off. Powers out signs broken, but I couldn’t see any other damage. I grabbed a green Jameson bottle along with a portable IPod player we kept under the bar and made my way into the adjourning room. The way McKinley’s was set up was as soon as you walk through the front door you’re in the bar room. The room had wood paneling, and was decorated with photos, posters and signs scattered on the walls. Across from the bar was a 5 foot gap in the wall that lead to an area with a big screen TV, pool table, juke box, and a few tables. I put the bottle on one of the tables and set up my IPod. I enjoy solitude for the most part and the idea of drinking a bottle of Irish and listening to music while improving my pool game was welcome compared to how I usually spend my nights. Noisy 20 somethings taking Instagram pictures and comparing how drunk they are. I put my “Chill Out” playlist on and set up the table.

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US Reaction to Hurricanes shows a profound Failure of Leadership

Reflecting on the past decade of hurricanes’ devastation – Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and all the others – I’ve seen that our leaders have a nearly unvarying knee-jerk response, as Michael Kimmelman puts it:

American politicians make big promises. They say: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared.

But then they don’t actually come through. 

Take Harvey as the most recent example:

Michael Kimmelman, Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale

Unfortunately, nature always gets the last word. Houston’s growth contributed to the misery Harvey unleashed. The very forces that pushed the city forward are threatening its way of life.

Sprawl is only part of the story. Houston is also built on an upbeat, pro-business strategy of low taxes and little government. Many Texans regard this as the key to prosperity, an antidote to Washington. It encapsulates a potent vision of an unfettered America.

Harvey called that concept into question. It may have been an unusually bad hurricane, dumping trillions of gallons of water in a few days, even more to the east of the city than to the west, in the prairie, and setting all kinds of records. But it was also the third big storm to slam Houston in three years, dispelling any notion that Houston shouldn’t expect more of the same.

Climate change holds a mirror up to every place its impact is felt. Global warming may not specifically have caused Harvey, any more than a single major league home run can be attributed to steroids.

That said, scientists have little doubt that climate change is making storms worse and more frequent. The floods that ravaged Houston on Memorial Day in 2015 and in April of 2016 — now called the Tax Day flood — left behind billions of dollars in damage. Coming right after those events, Harvey has led even some pro-development enthusiasts to rethink the city and its surroundings.

“Harvey caused me to look differently at the world we live in,” said Judge Ed Emmett, the chief executive of Harris County, which encompasses Houston and much of the Katy Prairie. A self-described traditional Republican and big backer of the Grand Parkway, Judge Emmett had planned on spending his twilight years in public service saving the Houston Astrodome from demolition. Harvey altered that. Now he thinks his mission is to protect the entire region.

“Three 500-year floods in three years means either we’re free and clear for the next 1,500 years,” as he put it, “or something has seriously changed.”

After every natural calamity, American politicians make big promises. They say: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared.

But they rarely tackle the toughest obstacles. The hard truth, scientists say, is that climate change will increasingly require moving — not just rebuilding — entire neighborhoods, reshaping cities, even abandoning coastlines.

I completely agree with the necessity of adopting a long-term view of climate-change-induced hurricane activity. The appropriate course is *not* to rebuild in vulnerable areas, and *not* to create counter-to-reality incentives for increasing development and growth in areas like Houston, Miami, and other low-lying areas in the most likely paths of future hurricanes. But that is the modus operandi.

And there is no dislodging the now deeply embedded and nonsensical approach that we see every. Single. Time. 

The details Kimmelman offers about Houston’s specific situation, while informative, are swamped by the similarities with other locales. New Orleans residents grew angry when discussion turned to relocating people from the most flood-prone neighborhoods. In New York and New Jersey, residents of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Sandy continue to try to rebuild. Yes, in all locations some are trying to have their homes acquired by state and federal governments, especially those that have been flooded out several times in recent years. But the general trend is the recitation of Kimmelman’s litany: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared. Blah blah blah.

The reality is that our leaders have not accepted the fact that the climate has already changed profoundly, and it will not ‘get back to normal’ – even with our best efforts – for a thousand years. Time is not on our side. 

But, the politicians say their rote responses, and then return to arguments about who should be using which bathroom, or attempting to increase our nuclear weapon stockpile. 

This is strangely similar to our political response to mass killings. First, the prayers and condolences. Then the pledge that this must never happen again. That actions will be taken. That the crazy won’t get access to guns. Commissions are appointed. And then, people change the channel and set their alarm clock.

Of course, life is full of trial and tribulation. We live in a vale of sorrows. We’ve accepted 40,000 dead each year from car accidents in the US as just a matter of course. What’s a few thousand more dead from assassin’s bullets or a few hundred from a heated up climate’s megastorms? What’s on TV tonight? How about those Knicks?

But we are supposed to have a more deliberate and far-seeing approach from our government, those we put into power to take the long view and to not turn on the Late Show. 

We should be preparing a reasoned response to global climate change and its most obvious manifestation: megastorms, increased temperature, more variable weather patterns, and so on. We can’t afford the hundreds of billions or trillions that could be squandered on pointless redevelopment of vulnerable areas. 

But a similar argument could be made about the stupid human waste and needless suffering of allowing mass murder on a national scale. 

In the final analysis, these are both failures of leadership, of foresight, and of base venality. And the only answer is better leaders.

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“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”
—President Obama in a 2011 radio address

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.”
—Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, in Shanksville, Pa., in 2002

“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”
—President George W. Bush at the Pentagon in 2008 

“So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.”
—New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the World Trade Center site in 2003

Creepypasta #376: What Hurricane Sandy Uncovered

It was 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast United States. New York City was fixated on a dangling crane in midtown Manhattan. Weird stories and photos circulated the internet and social media. Most notably, a picture of a shark on the flooded front lawn of a New Jersey home. One of the more disturbing picture I saw was of a casket floating down an empty street. I’ve searched high and low for a copy of that photo more to prove my story than anything.

Caskets floating away during a flood aren’t a new thing believe it or not. In New Orleans, the problem of airtight coffins popping out of the ground because of heavy rain fall became so bad most graves are now either lined with concrete or built above ground. Before Sandy, this phenomenon was unheard of in the state of Connecticut. I never saw it personally mind you. I just saw the picture I mentioned and a few stories from patrons at the bar I used to work at. Problem is, drunks aren’t exactly known for their honest story telling.

The story I’m telling you took place the day after the hurricane. The bar I work at is located on the outskirts of Waterbury, Connecticut. My boss called me and asked if I could go check out the place and make sure it hadn’t been damaged or looted. I said I would on the condition that I could drink for free when I got there. He agreed (Not much choice. He was flooded in) and I was in my truck and on the my, figuring I’d spend my afternoon relaxing at an empty bar.

There’s something creepy about a city the day after a storm. Major roadways are abandoned. Street lights are out. One major intersection I had to go through simply had a stop sign stuck in a Home Depot bucket in the middle of the road instead of it’s usual working stop lights. The power was out so most of the houses I passed were pitch black. Pure silence with the exception of my truck’s engine and the country station I was listening to. Only one word came to mind at that moment. Apocalyptic.

I pulled into the strip mall were the bar was located. I locked up and moved towards the glass front door. The neon sign outside had been broken in the storm. “McKinley’s Gin Mill” was written in hunter green gothic type on yellowing plastic. The break in the sign was in the top left corner were an Irish caricature grinned over a mug of beer. With the top left part of his head missing the single remaining eye made his smile seem more sinister than sarcastic.

I opened up and flipped the switch. The lights stayed off. Powers out signs broken, but I couldn’t see any other damage. I grabbed a green Jameson bottle along with a portable IPod player we kept under the bar and made my way into the adjourning room. The way McKinley’s was set up was as soon as you walk through the front door you’re in the bar room. The room had wood paneling, and was decorated with photos, posters and signs scattered on the walls. Across from the bar was a 5 foot gap in the wall that lead to an area with a big screen TV, pool table, juke box, and a few tables. I put the bottle on one of the tables and set up my IPod. I enjoy solitude for the most part and the idea of drinking a bottle of Irish and listening to music while improving my pool game was welcome compared to how I usually spend my nights. Noisy 20 somethings taking Instagram pictures and comparing how drunk they are. I put my “Chill Out” playlist on and set up the table.

I was maybe halfway through my second game when I heard the bell over the front door tingle. I put down the pool cue to the sound of a scraping stool. I walked back into the bar room and saw the man’s back. “You got a drink, friend?”, he asked in a sing song voice. I made my way to the shelf with all of the liquor bottles. The man was dressed odd compared to our usual clientele. He was wearing a dark black suit, like the guy had just gotten out of church. “What do you want?”, I asked. He rapped his knuckles on the wood. “Four Roses Bourbon. Three fingers neat if you don’t mind”. I reached up to the top shelf and grabbed the dust covered bottle. I took a clean rocks glass from the bottom of the shelf before turning towards the man and pouring the drink. The man grabbed the glass and I looked up at him. That was the first time I got a real look at him.

His suit wasn’t Sunday best as I had originally thought. Patches of it had rotted away. It was covered in patches of mud, dirt, and pus yellow stains that shown past the black. The shirt underneath which had once been white was now a light brown with the same sickly yellow blotches scattered about. But that wasn’t the horrifying part. His eyes were glazed over white with the only evidence of pupils being putrid milk colored dots. His skin was pulled tight against his skull like pale cling film. The right side of his face didn’t even have that much. The bottom of his right eyeball was visible past a half rotten eyelid. Cheek bone, jaw, teeth, were all visible and a deep yellow color. He sipped the whiskey and brown liquor ran out through the gaps in his teeth. “Damn good stuff”, he said with a half grin.

I pulled back and the man gave a deep laugh. “I know. I know. I look a mess. I caught my reflection in a store window. Don’t worry. I don’t mean any kind of harm…to you at least”. I reached under the bar. My hand wrapped around a sawn off baseball bat we kept in case of a robbery. “If you use that bat you better make sure your first hit is true friend. I don’t want to hurt you but I will”. How did he know what I was thinking? Did he check under the bar when he walked in? Did he see the reflection in the mirror? He answered for me. “When you’re dead going on 60 years you start to see things no one else does”, he said while pointing at his half exposed eye. “The eye sees all I’m afraid. I see your heart racing. I see the bat. I see you Frank”.

My fingers tightened around the leather grip. He took another sip. “I don’t know how I know either. Please, let go of the bat. I just got out and would just like a bit conversation. Grab a drink pal. I’m buying”. I let go of the bat and tried to feel the shelf behind me. I half swung my hand around until I felt fingers touch glass. I put another rocks glass on the bar top in front of me not wanting to lose sight of the stranger. When a man with half a face who somehow knows your first name asks to have a drink with you, you have three options. Option A is to try and kill him. That wasn’t a choice if he knew what I was thinking before I thought it. Option B is to scream and run. But to who? The police? Sorry officer but can I trouble you to take care of this zombie in my bar? Yes, I’ve been drinking. Why do you ask? Option C. Have the drink and hope for the best.

I poured myself a bourbon and tried to avoid staring at his face. “Go ahead and look”, the man said. “Before you ask, I don’t know why I’m here. Well, not here here. I’m here here to have a drink and a conversation. Here though, that’s a surprise. Woke up staring at silk. Clawed at it. Screamed. Don’t know for how long. Could have been a day. Could have been 60 years. I didn’t exactly have a calender. All I know is the box I was in started to move. The wood was old enough that after a few hits I cracked it. Ripped apart the top and made my way here. You can imagine it’s been quite an interesting day for me”. He chuckled. I drank deep and poured myself another.

“Is East Windsor road still three blocks down?”, he asked. “No. Three blocks down is Kennedy Street”, I responded. He looked confused. “Kennedy Street? Who’s Kennedy? I’m talking three blocks that way”, he said while pointing behind himself with his thumb. “Yeah. That’s Kennedy Street. And that’s Kennedy”, I said while nodding towards a black and white photo of JFK we had hung on the wall by the mirror. “Kennedy…Hmmm. What did he do”. I responded to the 60 year dead man the same way I would a drunk patron. “First Irish Catholic President”. The man laughed. “Irish Catholic. God, I would have loved to see that. What else? First female president? First black man? First Atheist?”. I stared at him a moment. Hope he’s not racist. “We have a black President now. President Barack Obama”. He laughed so hard he almost fell out of his chair. “My god! A black man as President. What a time! God. I have missed so much!”. He rapped his fingers on the bar. “You believe in fate friend?”.

I shook my head. “Well I do”, he responded. “At least I do now. 60 years in the Earth. Only me to keep me company. I know why too. My pretty wife, well, I guess pretty ex-wife, killed me”. He shook his head. “I knew that stew tasted funny. Anyway, My wife wanted to be with my friend Teddy. I knew at the time they were running around together. One night I go home and eat a nice home cooked meal. Next thing I know I’m clawing at the ceiling”. He finished his bourbon. Dark brown trails on yellowed bone through gritted teeth. “I’ll have my revenge. I’m going to walk down…Kennedy Street. Go right up to my house. Knock on the door and yell, ‘Honey. I’m Home’. Then when I see her face, well, she won’t be so pretty anymore. God, I hope Teddys there too”. He stood up. “I’ll pay you back friend. When I get a chance”.

He turned around and walked out the door. As the bell above the door tingled, I fell to the ground shaking. I had finally composed myself a few hours later in the mid afternoon. I locked up, texted my boss about the damage and went home. I didn’t sleep much and I ended up calling out of work the next few days. But, with a combination of sleep deprivation and repeating, “It was a bad Halloween prank”, I finally found the courage to go back.

Then, a week after my return, I was opening up when I found an envelope shoved under the door. Inside was a newspaper clipping about an elderly couple who seems to have been ripped apart by an animal. Also, $9. Once I found out from the owner a glass of Four Roses cost $3 when they first opened up in 1951, I quit and left the state of Connecticut for good.

Credits to: Victor_King

The exhibition Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront (2010) explored solutions to rising sea levels. This Earth Day, look back on the projects

[Rising Currents exhibition entrance. The exhibition’s graphic design was made to appear similar to blueprints, the mode of graphic communication among architects and builders. Photo: Jason Mandella]

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On this day in 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City and the surrounding area. The hurricane was huge, but it was not the windiest storm to ever hit the area. Sandy’s biggest threat was the huge pileup of water — called a storm surge — those winds produced. On top of this, the massive storm surge hit at almost the same moment as an unusually high tide.

New York City has 835 kilometers (520 miles) of coastline, much of it low-lying, so officials expected flooding. But the deluge was worse than anyone thought it would be. In lower Manhattan, seawater poured over floodwalls, flooding roads, subways, and electrical stations. Many were left without transportation or power. The seaside communities were hit worst. As waves crashed into the coast, the storm surge flooded homes and businesses, destroying entire neighborhoods. In the end, the storm took 43 lives, and left many people injured and without homes. It also caused at least $19 billion in damage.

Learn more about this historic hurricane.

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Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters is now open! 

From earthquakes and volcanoes to tornadoes and hurricanes, nature’s forces shape our dynamic planet and often endanger people around the world. This exhibition explores the causes of these natural forces, considers the consequences, and assesses the risks they pose.

Interactive stations will help visitors discover the processes behind each of these natural phenomena, with opportunities to manipulate a model earthquake fault, generate a virtual volcano, stand in the still eye of a roaring tornado, and assess the power of Hurricane Sandy via an interactive map of New York City. 

Learn more about the exhibition and get tickets!