On Awaiting the Arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

I live in New York City, and we’re waiting for Hurricane Sandy to hit. The wind and rain will get bad today, and the storm surge–that’s the real threat to the city–will be at its highest tonight.

Usually I dismiss dire weather warnings (especially a hurricane with the mild-mannered name of “Sandy”–really?), but when I heard that the mass transit system was shutting down, I started paying attention. In New York, everything depends on mass transit.

Now, we wait.

I’ve used the phrase “the calm before the storm” in conversation before, but I never really thought about its meaning. Now I get it. There’s no rain now, and just a breeze, yet the city is preternaturally quiet for a Monday morning.

One characteristic of human nature is that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. Loss, or threat of loss, makes us aware of everything we’ve taken for granted.

I’ve been feeling so grateful for electricity, running water, New York City, the subway system, my apartment building, my neighbors, grocery stores, my intact windows and roof–for my beloved ordinary day, and I’ll try to hang on to that gratitude long after the storm has passed.

Have you ever lived through a hurricane, earthquake, or the like?

Just in the time that I’ve been writing this post, the rain has started.

  • I’m also waiting with bated breath for the storm to eventually hit land. I’m all the way in Greece but I’ve got my Statue of Liberty webcam on in the background. I really hope everyone stays safe (my sis lives out there!). Staying indoors is the perfect excuse to get your home in order and tackle all those niggly tasks you’ve been putting off! Organising my sock drawer would be top of my list…

    I lived through Hurricane Andrew in Florida back in 1991. It was one of the most surreal experiences!

    Maria xx

  • Janice

    I live in the Santa Cruz mtns at the epicenter of the 1989 Lima prieta
    earthquake. No warning whatsoever We are a family of five and all
    five of us were in different places. We were without water for months.
    Long story short, we learned that we are amazing survivors! We learned
    what mattered most….our love for each other and helping others.
    Houses around us fell down the hill but our old little log cabin that was
    built in 1926 remained and still does to this day. The logs were flexible
    which made it able to take the whip and thrashing around from the
    earthquake movement…just as in life now with all we have experienced
    when things get tough we remember to take things like our little log
    cabin home did…”It’s better to bend than break!”

  • My family and I went through Hurricane Fran in 1996 here in Wake Forest, NC. We were without power for 8 days afterward. So many trees were knocked down that it was difficult to get around for the first 2 or 3 days. The storm itself came through in a few hours. I remember that quiet time when the eye of the storm came over. The whole experience was unforgettable for me. So thankful for our safety through it all. Three years later we went through Hurricane Floyd too!

  • DeeCee

    While not a hurricane, I experienced the ice storm in 1988 that hit eastern Canada and parts of New England. I will never forget the feeling of leaving my home in the dark, suitcase in hand, destined for a hotel that had electricity and heat. So happy and relieved to have found a hotel, but “fleeing” my home is something I hope never to experience again. When the electricity finally returned 6 days later, we opened our home to friends and family who did not have power restored, and out of those few days came incredible memories of friends working together during trying times.

  • Katrina

    September 29, 2003 Hurricaine Juan hit Halifax. It was a spectacular site. Tress fell all over the city and power was gone for days. No one took the warnings seriously. Months later we saw White Juan (February 18, 2004) that dumped a metre of snow, falling as fast as 20 cm per hour. It crippled the city for days. We learn a great deal about preparation and about family and neigbours in these situations. We end up spending very much time together. Not surprisingly there was a significant jump in the number of deliveries the hospitals experienced about 9 months after these events!

  • Hope

    I live in Ho.,TX… Hurricanes in TX are serious events! Our most devastating recent storm was IKE… the TX = of Katrina! Galveston Island was ravaged by high water and waves flooding all in it’s path. Houston, (4th largest city in US) completely shut down by the winds and flooding. We had no power for 3 days and many residents for several weeks. It was a very humbling experience. The key to surviving it all were the families and people helping each other both during after to get back to normal. Texans WILL BE PRAYING for all in Sandy’s path to be safe and come through the storm with as little damage and lose of life as possible. My all in Sandy’s path be protected! H:-)

  • anne

    i was supposed to be in nyc this week. amtrak canceled my train, so i’ll sit out the storm in virginia. because i spend several days in ny every few weeks, i think of it as a home away from home. sending good energy your way as you wait. that’s what we’re doing too, but i doubt the effects will be as dire here as they may be in ny.

  • Kathy

    I’ve lived through both earthquakes (CA) and hurricanes (FL). You’re right about appreciating normal so much more before and after the storms, and preparing beforehand does make things easier to bear when the power goes out! We’ll be thinking of you and all the others in the storm’s path–hoping for the best.

  • Anne

    I grew up in New Orleans. When I was a kid, I thought hurricanes were fun. Then came Hurricane Betsy.

    It destroyed my father’s business and injured my mother in a way that resulted in her death a few years later. The insurance company wouldn’t pay because they claimed they’d sold my father storm insurance “in error,” although he’d been paying for years and they’d accepted the payments. (Long after my mother’s death, they settled a few minutes out of court. By then, of course, it was almost academic.)

    We were without electricity for a month. Hot, still, stifling. Portions of the city began to get power, and we went to a cafeteria for dinner one night. We relaxed in a normal atmosphere and steeled ourselves for the return home.

    When we did get home, the lights were on, the refrigerator was humming, we could turn fans on. Life was as close to normal as it would ever be for us as a family again.

    In spite of everything, though, I still remember the small miracle of coming home to halfway normal conditions.

  • Kay

    I, too, had an earthquake–the Great Hanshin Earthquake that leveled Kobe, Japan in 1995; so lucky–survived though my house did not; lived in corridor of school for weeks–people helped, there was a great upswell of gratitude and compassion and energy to help–now my daughter is on the Upper West Side and I am worried, but also for those right in the path of the center…..let’s all do what we can. Take good care! Keep us posted if you can……

  • Megan Gordon

    Hurricane Wilma passed right over my house – we got the eye and everything. It was really odd – it sounds like you are standing right next to a speeding train. She was slow moving, so it went on for hours. Then the eye passed over. Calm and quiet. Then the back side – the train coming in the other direction, along with banging and other noise that we couldn’t idenitfy because we had metal shutters on the windows.
    The worst part was going 10 days without power – including street lights. You never realize how dark night really is until all the light pollution is gone.

  • sandy

    I’m in my apartment on the Upper East Side, also waiting for the storm to start. It’s so strange that everything is closed but the city is so calm. It’s not even raining here right now.
    Stay safe, warm, and dry!
    -Sandy (and yes, that’s my actual name. The jokes have been unending)

  • peninith1

    In my career as a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers I worked in or around storms like Hurricane Floyd (1999), Isabel (2003), Charley, Jean & Ivan (2004) Katrina (2005) and Ike (2008) together with other, smaller storms. I remember fighting to find an unflooded path to work 18 hours before Floyd even made landfall, attending public meetings in devastated towns like Princeville, NC, where homes were picked up and dumped on cars in the driveway, and the businesses where people worked were ruined, traveling through devastated trailer communities in Florida where the only recognizable house parts were plumbing fixtures, witnessing the remains of Katrina’s storm surge, from lines of clothing hung at high water mark to shrimp boats heaved up on dry land, looking out my hotel window at 3 a.m. during Ike and watching Houston’s entire electric grid shut down black, black, black in big rectangular sections. Later, I recall standing in a small public park for a community meeting, and seeing small fish ensnared and dead in the 10-foot high chain link fence where the storm surge had passed over a small town, flooding all but 10 homes to the eaves. Nature –especially WATER–has an awe-inspiring power to destroy. Response and recovery are huge, expensive undertakings. I admire the enduring power of so many people and communities, and also honor the willingness to do dirty, frightening, dangerous work I’ve seen in so many of our emergency personnel. I hope everyone will prepare to the extent of their ability, refrain from going foolishly into harm’s way, and assist response workers in every way possible!

  • Susana from Spain

    I’ve lived through an earthquake in South Spain (Granada countryside) when I was 7). Was so quick and you realized afterwards what have really happened. Be calm. Everything is going to be ok.

  • Suzanne

    NYC and east coast in general is on our minds on the West Coast. Stay safe. Many prayers and candles for all the lives at stake. Much love from San Jose, CA.

  • Anne

    Sending good thoughts your way from Southern California. I lived through the1994 earthquake here and then last year had huge storm winds & was out of power (and heat) for 6 days. I have two kids a little older than yours. I am hoping and trusting that Sandy will end up being mostly a huge, awful inconvenience, which is what the earthquake and storm were for us personally (after the terror of the events subsided). With the aftermath of the storm last year, I tried very hard to be flexible and make it an adventure for the kids — candles at dinner, etc. With the 1994 earthquake, the moment I remember most clearly afterward is being out on the streets of Los Angeles and seeing the Milky Way, because the power was out all over the city, so it was like being up in the mountains without any light pollution.

  • Jeanmarie DiTaranto

    Hoping for the best for you and your family, as well as for everyone in the path of this thing. I’m in Central New Jersey, hoping we have done enough storm prepping to get through unscathed.

  • Linda

    Hurricane Irene passed directly over us last year… I’m grateful for our warm house and small generator to keep the essential sump pump going in case of a power outage. My 19 year old cat is trying to catch the blowing leaves through the sliding glass door. It is a sight to see!

  • Jackee

    Praying for you all out east! <3 I've only been in minor earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes so I can't imagine the stress.

  • Lynvz

    Last year we were hit by a snowstorm around the same time as the storm today. We lost power for over a week. Many in our area, Massachusetts were out of power for more than two weeks. Last year I was able to travel to my monther’s home while we were waiting for power to be restored. Loosing power made me so grateful for all that I have been blessed with.

  • Good luck with Sandy – ~!
    This is the first I’ve been at this site. I am midway through Happier at Home and I’m loving it. So much of what you’ve written touches a chord with me, and three months into my maternity leave – with a strong desire to make our home ‘homier’ and more functional – this book is just what I need.
    I found my word today! Dwelling. Our home, where we spend so much of our time, and the awful habit I have of obsessing about something — all of the reasons why yes, I should be angry at this person or that situation…mostly anger. But I spend so much of my time in those places. Dwelling.
    I didn’t read The Happiness Project but now definitely will. Thank you, Gretchen! Your writing is fantastic, and I appreciate the honesty with which you share your experiences.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that my work strikes a chord with you. Good luck with your happier-at-home project.

  • Alison

    We are watching the news headlines here in London

    It looks very frightening and we send our thoughts and concerns for everyone’s well being. I have not had the chance to visit the usa but my uncle lives in connecticut and times like this strip away the awkwardness of distance. I was in Queensland with my australian in laws and six month old baby during cyclone yasi in 2011. My husband was working back in London.

    I hope you and your family stay safe gretchen.

  • Stay safe! I’m worrying about all my friends on the East Coast. I’ve never experienced a hurricane or other big natural disaster (thankfully).

  • Sara Lewis

    Stay Safe!

  • melacey727

    Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards–I’ve seen them all. Every time, I’ve been grateful my parents took me camping, and taught me that being resourceful is as or more important than being prepared. Last fall, I hosted 8 guests for a week after Hurricane Irene, without electricity (but we did have hot water and some heat), cooking on a camp stove, reading by lantern light. It was fine, and even fun most of the time.

  • Linda Ryan

    Dear Gretchen, how our thoughts are with you, your family and the other American families at this time. I was here in Santiago in February 2010 when the earthquake struck and remember wondering whether my girls and I would survive all the while telling them of course we would be fine – because the tremors that day kept coming. However, my worst day was in January 2003, when a bushfire turned the sky of Canberra orange. Over 500 houses were destroyed and 4 people died. We were glued to the radio and heard as street after street were lost, not knowing at the time whether the inhabitants had made it out safely. It seemed so improbable that our city of 350,000 people would have become a war zone. However, both in Canberra and in Chile, I was struck by the kindness of neighbours, the civility and good humour of people in long queues afterwards at the shops, the community’s generosity to those who had lost everything. Thinking of you all. Linda

  • Cindy

    Stay safe! I live in Florida, so our seasons include spring, summer, hurricane, winter. In 2004, we had 3 storms pass directly over our house. It’s not fun, but at least we don’t get snow!

  • Painted Maypole

    I lived in Louisiana – just north of New Orleans, for Katrina. We learned so much through that experience, the greatest of which is the sense of community you get from working together to overcome something. To recover. To keep on. To restore. And we were fortunate, but so many we know lost so so much. And the truly important things become so much clearer. We were also new in town, and the journey after Katrina… it made our new town HOME. Be safe.

    • peninith1

      Yep, Hurricane Floyd and witnessing the terrible destruction from that storm in so many communities made a North Carolinian out of me!

  • La McCoy

    I pray all is safe! Lmc

  • Life as I knew it ended on August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina washed away everything I owned…my home, my possessions, my job and my life in New Orleans. Since then I have lived a new and different life in Tucson and Austin. My former life will never be replaced, Nature is a force of power and I have leanred never to underestimate her.

    Be safe and well.