Making It Through Hurricane Sandy

The morning before Hurricane Sandy, my husband and I debated staying home in Hoboken. We had evacuated for Tropical Storm Irene last year, but that proved unnecessary. This time around, we didn’t want to panic.

“We’ll be fine,” my husband, Nishi, assured me. And for the most part, I agreed. We had done our due diligence. We had gotten supplies from A&P and Home Depot and readied our apartment for days of rain and darkness. I was also comforted knowing that our building is on Hoboken’s highest elevation and that Wallace School, which the city uses as a shelter, is right across the street.

Then I heard Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer say in a television interview that hours before Sandy was expected to make landfall, the Hudson River water level was already higher than it ever was during Irene. At that moment, I knew we had to leave. After all the preparations we had made, the last thing I wanted to do was pack up two adults and a baby, but after throwing our pajamas in a bag, we were on our way to my in-laws’ house in Bergen County. After multiple floods in their basement, my in-laws had had a generator installed, mainly to power their sump pumps. We knew we would have power there, and I figured we would be back in Hoboken in no time. But I was wrong.

Hoboken is just one of the communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and we took a major hit. An estimated 500 million of gallons of water flooded most of the city, destroying homes and businesses and leaving thousands of residents stranded in buildings. Despite having its own generator, the shelter at Wallace School lost power and supplies dwindled. Two days later, the National Guard was called in to help with the rescue effort. I didn’t hear much else after that.

At my in-laws’, we were certainly grateful to have power, but we had no phone service. We could not send texts or e-mails or turn on the television to get a sense of what was happening beyond my in-laws’ front stoop. All we had was a small portable radio. We listened to whatever news broadcast would come through; conditions didn’t sound good.

The morning after the storm, Nishi and I tried to get to Hoboken by car, but were unsuccessful. Police told us the roads were closed, so we parked in Union City and walked down the 14th Street viaduct, which is under construction and has just a narrow plywood pathway for pedestrians. I peeked over the edge toward the north and saw an entire parking lot full of yellow taxicabs submerged in water, no doubt totaled. I saw a small crowd on top of the stairs of a building nearby. One woman had her arms crossed, just staring at the water that held her captive.

It felt like it took us hours to get to our condo. I was so anxious to see how our building had fared in the storm and was so relieved to see it hadn’t flooded. When we got inside, we discovered that we could send and receive text messages. So in a flurry, we tried to contact as many family members and friends as we could. We also figured that since our block wasn’t too bad, we would be able to return, with our baby, relatively soon. But we were wrong.

When we tried to get to Hoboken the next day to collect the clothing and supplies we had left behind, we were turned away and couldn’t get close enough to walk. As we made our way back to my in-laws’, we were shocked by the devastation. I can’t imagine all the damage New Jersey as a whole has endured, but from what I was finally able to read online, it looks like it will take years to recover from Sandy. But it also seems communities are coming together. On a popular online forum for Hoboken residents, I read posts of neighbors offering neighbors they might have never met before a chance to come by to charge cell phones or have some food and conversation. Maybe all the cooperation will be the sunlight that finally breaks up these clouds. If I ever get back to Hoboken, I will certainly join in.

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