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August 26, 2011


No easy decision as hurricane looms

by Geoff Grant

In the past, I’ve always kind of shaken my head when I’ve read about people who have stayed in the path of a hurricane, despite all warnings. I’ve never understood that. Not with all the sophisticated storm tracking and advance notice. But I now I get it. Up close and personal, it’s not that black and white.

Because with Hurricane Irene bearing down on New York, our mayor has called for the evacuation of Hoboken. And I’m torn between staying or leaving.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the severity of Irene. I do. According to images from NASA satellites, it’s roughly one-third the size of the entire East Coast. The storm’s path could affect 55 million people. And state officials have acted accordingly. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered the evacuation of all of coastal areas and ordered all train and bus systems to shut down at noon tomorrow. New Jersey and Philadelphia are halting transit, too. Airlines like JetBlue have already cancelled flights through Monday. Major bridges will be closed as soon as winds reach 60 mph.

And specifically in Hoboken, we’ve been told to expect severe flooding and power outages that could last for days. Considering how badly our streets flood during a normal rainstorm, I have no doubt that much of Hoboken will be under water come Sunday night.

And yet I’m still torn. I understand all those risks. But I still wonder “how bad can it really get?”

On one hand, I don’t think the government is overreacting. They’re doing their job, and evacuating people who are most at risk. On the other hand, there’s a lot of history against a hurricane directly hitting Hoboken or Manhattan. Like all of recorded history. As Nate Silver chronicles, the closest a storm center has ever come to a direct hit on Manhattan is five miles.

The flooding and possibility of losing power don’t overly concern me, either. I live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, and the flooding is unlikely to reach or affect our building. As for losing power, I’m OK with that, too. We’ve got enough water, enough PB&J to last a month, and there are worse things than eating dinner and talking over candlelight.

My biggest concern — maybe my only concern at this point — is flying glass. Our place is a wall of windows overlooking the city. If the winds from Irene are strong enough, they could blow out all the windows and make the shards deadly projectiles.

But the hurricane should “only” be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane by the time it reaches Hoboken, if it reaches Hoboken. Our windows “should” be able to withstand the winds.

But those aren’t givens. Nor is the hurricane’s path or relative strength by the time it reaches landfall. Which puts me back to square one and being torn.

No matter what we decide over the next 24 hours, the next time I’m reading a story about those who chose to stay in the path of hurricane, I’ll better understand their decision. Because it’s not always black or white.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. michaelm
    Aug 26 2011

    I know how you feel. I was camping out with friends on the beach in the Yucatan in Mexico in 1966 when Hurricane Inez blew in. The British consul in Merida, who knew we were there, drove down in his Jeep to warn us to evacuate immediately. We decided to stay. We put up a lean-to at one end of a big roofless stone ruin. Thought we’d be safe. Then, at night, came the storm. Outside, coconuts were flying by at 95 miles an hour. Then coconut trees. Then the wall at the other end of the ruin collapsed. If we’d been at that end, we’d all be dead. Next morning the wind died down. Oh great, we said, thinking it was all over. In fact, we were just in the eye. Soon coconuts were flying by in the opposite direction. We spent the next month helping nearby villagers rebuild. Quite an experience. But I understand anyone’s reluctance to evacuate. Stay safe!

  2. Jeff
    Aug 26 2011

    Go. Don’t take a chance.


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