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).
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.