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Sandy vs. Irene

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4

November 09, 2012 – Comments (0)

Board: Macro Economics

Author: FastMike

"...About 25 mi (40 km) offshore Long Branch, waves reached heights of 44 ft ..."

Dear seaworthy Fools :

Well, Sandy was an experience. However, it was not the first time I had to "face the elements". Hurricane Sandy made Hurricane Irene look like a cakewalk. But Irene was still wussy compared to the December nor'easter of 1992.

On 30 October, 2012, a Sunday afternoon I arrived home from work into a commotion in the lobby. A mandatory evacuation order had already been in effect since 8 A.M. Residents were expected to evacuate by 4 P.M. How nice. I report to work at 6 A.M. and quit at 2:30 P.M. !

Since it takes about 20 minutes to drive the five miles home from work, (Hard to believe? 7 traffic lights, one railroad crossing and three stop signs) that gave me a whole 70 minutes to pack a bag and get out. Well, what's to worry? I've seen the very worst it could ever be once before.

The lobby was filled with confused and frantic tenants. The police wanted us out. The tenants wanted to stay. The city website still said that the mandatory evacuation was for the lower lying area a few miles north of here, and not for us. (As usually happens in a bad storm). The building owner wanted to shut off all utilities and the Fire Department Chief said he wanted them on.

I went upstairs, stuffed a small knapsack with some clean clothing and a few things that I would need just in case it was a "real disaster".

This included my check book, debit card, credit card, health insurance card, etc., and whatever cash I had. Why should I worry? I could always go to a cash machine. The laptop? Safer here. Might drop it, lose it, whatever. Leave it home. I'll be back tomorrow.

After all, Hurricane Irene was nothing compared to the '92 nor'easter so how much worse could Hurricane Sandy be? Never heard of the December 1992 nor'easter?

For a few years in the early 90s, I was an on site caretaker for a local beach club. Let me draw a picture of how suddenly the ocean can become vicious and deadly in the blink of an eye.

The club's chaise lounge deck was about 150 from the tide line and the beach slopes up about 15 feet high to that deck. The chaise deck ran from the beach back about 30 feet to the pool deck. The deck continued back about another 20 feet or so to the deep end of the pool. The pool continued back 100 feet to the shallow end and another 10 feet to the office/caretaker building. So the building roughly 320 feet and perhaps 20 feet above the tide line.

At that time I would take care of winter time maintenance chores at the club in the afternoon, take a quick nap and then work the midnight shift at the USPS processing facility. My routine was to come home and flop into bed asleep before my head hit the pillow. The back to the daytime chores. The gale was just kicking up when I arrived home that morning.

Something, I'll never know what, broke loose and was banging away in the wind. It was about 10 A.M. "Okay, I'll go tie it down and fix it later". Still half sleep, I thought that the office door was stuck. I couldn't get it open. It took a few minutes to realize that the wind was holding it closed. I had to fight it open and get outside. It slammed shut behind me. I saw something that I always thought, until then, was a Hollywood dramatic effect : the ocean literally looked like a mountain range. I worked my way as close to the chaise lounge deck as I dared by moving between the pool cabana's walkways. The wind must have been 50 mph. They would eventually reach hurricane force. By this time, the waves were crashing just short of the chaise lounge deck. Debris was flying everywhere!

The east and west wings of the ocean cabanas were being smashed. Water had lifted the chaise lounge deck off the pilings underneath. I went back to the office to telephone the pool club's manager. As I was describing the damage I witnessed what I later learned was a "tidal surge" : several waves broke, but didn't rush out. Finally, in one smooth motion a big wave broke and kept coming like a river. It nearly filled the empty 165,000 gallon pool in minutes and rushed along it's walkways towards the office. Where it finally stopped and slid back.

The surge happens so fast and so furious, there's hardly time to react:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_1992_nor%27easter

Had that been Sandy's tidal surge, it would have washed away the office, and continued out over the parking lot, another 100 feet out onto "Ocean Boulevard". (And from what I've heard, it might have. I don't yet know for certain).

Anyway, the experience of the '92 nor'easter, and having seen Irene come close to the boardwalk the previous year and the very good probability that this could be worse, I decided to leave merely thinking that this storm would be something in between and a one or two day inconvenience. It would be simpler to stay at a nearby discount hotel.

Instead, I spent one night in my car, two nights at a Sheraton with no power, (staff was wonderful, served hot meals) then "home" to a cold dark six more days. The power came back on as the temperature was dropping last night. I saw an eerie nightmarish world of gas lines, boarded up store fronts, yet open for business, people shopping with flashlights inside, and patrolling national guard troops on local streets. And home! Home became a cold dark, hollow place!

How fast our comfortable world can change!

A million thanks to those line workers from all over the country who were out there in a driving rain yesterday to get power to this section and did so, just in a nick of time.

So I pretty much experienced what Jeff (Ormont), LOTROQueen, scaryblondechick, notehound, chkNYC and others experienced.

I thought that I witnessed, first hand, up close and personal the worst storm in living memory ever to hit the Jersey shore in December 1992. I couldn't imagine anything worse.

It's really, really difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that I've just experienced a storm that made the '92 storm pale by comparison.

And I'll leave you all with one bit of advice : when the ocean unleashes it's full fury, don't go down to the shore to see it. Just get away as fast as you can!

Your storm wise Fool,
FM

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