Sandy: The Morning After

What a difference a day makes.  Twenty-four hours after Sandy, the air is cool and crisp, the sky crystal clear, and the moon full and bright.  In fact, this full moon photo, as well as some scary and festive decoration photos, was my plan for a Wordless Wednesday Halloween post.   Now, most of those decorations are blown away or are tangled in branches, and the crisp moon now illustrates how much can change in a day.

To fully understand the storm and its impact on Long Island, it’s important to understand Long Island.  If you look on a map, Long Island is shaped like a fish.  Traveling west to east, it’s home to Brooklyn and Queens (two of New York City’s five boroughs), as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties (traditionally considered Long Island).

Photo courtesy of

Long Island is 120 miles long and 25 miles wide at its widest point.  The North Shore is rocky, with pebbled beaches and high bluffs overlooking the waters of Long Island Sound.  The bluffs are actually cliffs of sand.

The South Shore is framed by a series of barrier beaches, some of which have small communities – and all of which serve as protection from the Atlantic Ocean.

Joe and I live in the center of Long Island, very close to one of its highest points.  Because Sandy was forecasted to hit New Jersey, wind was going to be a major concern for us.

For people living on the North and South shores, water would be added to the equation.  Sandy’s arrival coincided beautifully with high tides, which were higher because of the full moon.  In addition, Sandy’s path meant that Long Island would be located in the NE quadrant of the storm, the most dangerous portion.  While New Jersey bore the brunt of hurricane force winds, Long Island received steady tropical storm force winds, which pushed water against the South Shore and into Long Island Sound.

Even when low tide arrived, the wind direction prevented water from exiting.  Sandy’s slow progression meant that the next high tide cycle would be still higher – and this cycle would continue again and again until Sandy weakened and moved further inland.  In fact, although the degree of high tide flooding has decreased, it still remains an issue for some coastal communities — especially now that their usual protections are now washed away.

As a result of all this, the coastlines were hammered.

As soon as the sky brightened on the morning after, Joe and I ventured outside to document our yard and neighborhood.  Tattered pieces of leaves clung to every surface, like the glass on the potting shed.

The lawn was now a carpet of wet leaves – some whole, some in pieces, all of it looking like morning-after confetti.

In 1966, Joe’s grandmother planted a Blue Spruce and she was always obsessed with pruning it.  No matter how often young Joe told her that pruning the top would give the otherwise symmetrical tree multiple tops, she insisted.  And so the tree grew.  It’s single trunk splitting into triplets.

At about 6:00 on the night of the storm, the wind sounded nastier than it had all day – a constant roar.  That’s when the middle trunk snapped and fell, the neighbor’s fence taking the brunt of it.

Now, when I look up at the triplets, I see only two – and I wonder if the remaining trunks feel the void.  After all, they were a group act for 46 years.  (By the way, that aluminum frame is where Joe normally parks his 1965 GMC pick-up.  Fortunately, we moved it to a safe location before the storm arrived.)

On the other side of the house, the neighbor’s evergreen fell completely over, ripping the electric box off of the side of his house.  He was advised to shut off his power, and now a heavy-duty extension cord runs from our garage to his refrigerator.

My neighborhood looks nothing like the images of the coastal towns I’ve watched on television.  Many homes here are without power, but the damage – just a few miles from either shore – is limited to fallen trees and twisted signs.  Along the coast, the damage is much, much more severe.

Speaking of fallen trees, I wanted to share these photos with you.  This is the house in which I grew up – about thirty miles from my current home.  My parents still live in the house.

During the height of the storm, two massive pine trees, about 50 years old, came down, a branch puncturing the roof.  Fortunately, my parents were not injured – the roof can be repaired and plants planted.

So where are things 24 hours after Sandy?

In many places, things are a mess.  Most of Long Island is still without power, as are large areas of New Jersey and New York City.  Many – too many – people are still facing ongoing flooding or trying to mop up, often having to schedule cleaning and recovery around the tide cycles.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s devastating.  It’s disheartening.  And we have all been told that it will be some time before life returns to normal.

And then, as I sit and look at this beautiful moon, I reflect on the day.  I’m thankful that we’re okay, that my family and friends, many without power and life’s necessities, are safe.  And I think of my neighbors who worked together, cutting and removing fallen trees.

I wonder if other people are looking at the moon.  Its light must seem especially bright in a world without electricity – and I hope they can find something for which to be thankful.  Even the smallest things might be enough to help all of us weather the storms ahead.

That being said, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost a loved one and those who are facing unbelievable destruction.  Now more than ever, we need to stick together, to come together as a community, and help one another.

Blue skies will return.

41 thoughts on “Sandy: The Morning After

  1. Beautiful post! I’m so glad you and yours are safe and your optimism intact. Here, in Oklahoma we’re used to tornadoes and their utter & complete destruction…well, you never really get used to them, but at least they’re fast and over with pretty quickly. This hurricane was so massive and affected such a large area…I know the cleanup will be difficult and lengthy. But people always seem to overcome, don’t they? The last picture is my favorite!

  2. I am very happy to learn that you and yours are fine and that nothing was damaged that can’t be replaced or repaired. My best thoughts to all on the opposite side of the country. Also happy to learn that all those photos/videos that my wife’s friends keep sending to one another of sharks well inland seem to be fake. I am glad you don’t have suburban sharks.

    • Hi Calvin. Many thanks. There are many fakes out there. No sharks — but before the hurricane, people were releasing their pet alligators. The truth is that there are many, many communities that have lost so much from the hurricane, fires, and now there are reports of looters. I just keep believing that there are more good people than bad, and that the human spirit will ultimately prevail.

  3. Well written and well said.. We can always look to see something in all things that we can be thankful for. It isn’t always as easy to do as you travel through….but so much better for us then spiraling downward with gloom. They were certainly beautiful big trees and you will miss them…But on a positive note…what will you plant in their stead.
    Thankfully you and yours did come through with out harm. I too send best wishes to all the family’s who suffered even greater loses. Heart felt thanks to the people who choose to work in jobs that involve their being out there rescueing and returning life back to normal.

  4. What wonderful words you found! We watch TV over here and try to get any possible news, recognize some streets and pictures that we know so well from our visits to NYC and we think of you! We send best wishes to you and all the people around you!
    Best regards, Dagmar from Berlin

    • Hello Dagmar. Many thanks for your warm wishes and thoughts. One thing about people in this area, we tend to dust ourselves off and get back up again. 🙂

    • Many thanks. It’s funny that you mentioned predictability. Today is Halloween, and I’ve never been a fan of the holiday (even as a kid). But today was different. It was the first normal thing we’ve had — and it was a great treat for the kids.

  5. So relieved to hear that you and yours are OK despite the devestation – everyone has been thinking of you all alot here. Those beautiful trees gone in seconds – but your optimism is that of a true gardener – we will start again. Congratulations on writing so eloquently about an event that has only just happened. Ursula

  6. Kevin, I’m very thankful to read that you and Joe made it through the storm okay. But I share your sentiment. May peace be with those that lost loved ones in this storm.

  7. You know that the communities around New Orleans also pulled together and helped their neighbors. There was crime, but neighbors became like a small police force. Several walked the neighborhoods, just to make sure the neighbors that left had a home to come back to. Some areas were devastated and there were other areas that seemed like the storm only came close. My car was in East New Orleans at the home of a friend, who lived on the highest part of the city. My car and their home was not touched by flood waters (a total of 8 homes in their neighborhood was the same) The rest of New Orleans East was totally under 12 to 16 feet of water, but not were I parked my car. I was thankful. I know there will be miracles that come out of Sandy and knowing my new blogging friends are safe is a miracle. That is what I prayed for; all to be safe. My prayers are also for those families who have lost loved ones. It is hard, but life goes on to live another day for those of us left, to pick up the pieces. Wonderful Post Kevin. I will continue to pray for you and yours. 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your memories of Katrina. I realize that there are those elements who look to take advantage of a bad situation — but there are so many stories (some publicized and others quietly spoken about) of heroism and good deeds — like the woman who returned to her destroyed home that’s now surrounded by caution tape. There, she set up a table with candy on it for any trick or treaters in the neighborhood. Those are the stories that give us all hope.

    • Hi Sharon. I’m really okay with the loss of the tree — especially when I see what so many other people are facing. There is so much happening here. It’s overwhelming.

    • Hello Sarah. My photos are nothing compared to what is happening along the coasts. So many communities were flooded, homes washed away or knocked off of their foundations, personal items stacked along the street to be hauled away, long lines at gas stations, and cold temperatures at night. The only way to go is up. . .

  8. Hello Kevin, I am looking at the same moon as you, from my living room window here in London, it is just as bright and pretty – strange it shines down on us all, wherever we are, whatever weather we experience. The news is filled with reports from the aftermath of Sandy. What an innocent name for such a beast! I am glad you and your family are fine, but I understand so many people have lost so much and it will take years to get back to normality for many of them. We have had a lot of freak weather this year, but nothing quite like you have had the last week. Stay safe and let’s hope we have had enough freak weather for 2012, for both of us.

    • Hello Helene. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I chuckled when I read your comment about freak weather. We’re coming close to Election Day, and climate change is actual one of the topics that the candidates have campaigned on. One side actually doubts that the weather is changing — although we are all witnesses to weather that does not make sense. I wonder if this new weather is our new world?

  9. Sometimes it takes a storm like this to bring a neighborhood together and help to reset our priorities. We lost some power but came together to help those around who couldn’t help themselves.

    • Hi Reed. It seems that with each bad news story, there are so many more good news stories — and during times like these, we can use all of the good news we can get. This will just take time. Glad to know that you and yours are safe. Be well.

  10. It breaks my heart to see the devastation that has came from this storm. I am just glad you two are safe. The rest can be dealt with in time.It is sad about grandma’s tree. Looks forlorn without the middle branch. Stay safe.

    • Hi Lona. Thanks so much for your well wishes. Although Grandma’s tree looks a little lost, it’s minimal in terms of the scope of the devastation along our coasts. A tree can be replaced — but memories, family heirlooms, photographs, and lives cannot. In the end, the region will return — there is no other choice.

  11. I wish you well. I feel rather helpless here many 100 miles away. Right now it seems like the fate of the many is dependent on the few, namely the electric companies and their workers and they work to restore power.

  12. Kevin, so glad to hear you and your family are okay. I live in Staten Island and we got a terrible battering from Sandy. We and our house had minimal damage, my husbands car was hit by a large branch, tree survived. We were very lucky. My heart aches when I see the devastation all around me, but your blog lifted my spirits. Yes we will get through this. I am looking forward to the blue skies! Thank you kevin, Lesley

    • Lesley, thank you for sharing your Sandy story. It’s great to hear that you survived with minimal damage. When I see the scenes, I still cannot believe that this happened here. I watched the special concert last night and just cried. Be well and hang in there.

  13. Hi Kevin, Happy to learn you and Joe are fine. My little cottage in Brookhaven hamlet survived. Lost some big trees in the woods, but all fell away from the house. Spent the hurricane cuddling with a little foster dog from Kent Animal Shelter. Scotty Boy is looking for a home, and he is on their website. He’s a keeper. If I wasn’t traveling so much, I’d adopt him. Maybe one of your readers will read this and give him a chance. Love to you both, and again, glad you both are safe.

  14. I was surprised and pleased to see that you live near one of , or *the* highest point on L.I.
    Born and raised on L.I. I landed in Ma., but hope someday to return.
    I write because I grew up on Chichester Road and on Sweet Hollow was jane’s Hill, supposed to be the highest point on the Island, although this talk, not fact.I lived on the hihest point of Chichester, on the dark side of the road.
    When I moved & after the Sweet Hollow/Chichester Intersection heading towards Mt. Misery we were the 3rd house on the road. It has been redone, but I hope one day to speak to whoever did such a lovely job with it & ask them if they ever found my E-Z bake oven in the basement. I never grew tired of that toy, of course today it would be considered insane to give a child a toy that actually had a heating element, but at the time our parent’s gave us some credit for knowing hot from cold.
    As far as gardening gooes, my mother plamted a rock garden, she used Phlox and other creeping plants, that is something I would like to see again.

    • I’m familiar with these locations. I’m actually a little farther east, very close to an area that used to have skiing! Yes, a ski slope on Long Island! Thanks for commenting — and I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. Be well!

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