Thursday, August 23, 2007

Water Weather

So you’re thinking this is a subject not within the purview of the Dramahound? Well, yesterday I received an attractive pamphlet in the mail from the city office of Emergency Management. It was not about preparing for a terrorist attack, but for a hurricane.

When I lived in Rhode Island, there was one bad hurricane. I ignored the warnings and went to work at The Perishable Theatre that morning. But after awhile, no one else came in, so I called my boss. He told me to go home- the roads into Providence had been blocked off by the National Guard. So I started walking home and was indeed met by several members of the National Guard, who told me to give up any idea of buying candles, the stores were all out. I went home, waited out the storm, the electricity came back on by evening and that was that. Other Rhode Islanders didn’t have power for a week, but I was lucky.

If you spend much time in downtown Providence, you can’t avoid being reminded of hurricanes. There’s a big, ugly hurricane barrier in the bay, and a plaque on the Biltmore Hotel showing how far the water rose during the big hurricane in the 1930s- almost to the second floor. There’s been two hurricanes that swung by New York since I moved here, the big result of which were office buildings taping their windows. Nothing compared to a really bad nor’easter. For a hurricane to do real damage here, it would have to come all the way up the bay. Ever taken the Long Island Railroad from Montauk or East Hampton? It’s a long trip.

However, the NYC pamphlet tells me a bad storm could put the lowest lying parts of the city under 30 feet of water. It has three levels of evacuation zones for flood conditions. I was surprised to learn that not only do I live in an evacuation zone (if wind speeds hit 110 miles per hour), my old apartment in Yorkville is in one as well. It also suggests what you should have packed in a bag to leave, and what your emergency supplies should be (mine are woefully insufficient). The pamphlet alludes to Katrina, which was a nightmare. But New York’s topography isn’t the same as the Gulf States. Still, if a tornado can touch down in Brooklyn and do the damage it did- not a wide geographical area, but I’ve seen the ripped off roofs and pulled up trees- anything is possible.

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