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Cheryl Saban Ph.D. Headshot

Weathering the Storm

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It's 8:17 a.m. on a Monday morning, and by now, I'd be having my last sip of coffee and checking to see that I have everything I need in my briefcase, including my security badges -- before walking the three short blocks to my office at the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York City.

But today, that's not going to happen. The UN and the U.S. Mission offices are closed, like almost everything else around the city, including NYC schools and much of the transit system. Instead of sitting in the Security Council today as an observer in the U.S. delegation, I'll be staying in my apartment like nearly everyone else in NYC, waiting for the mother of all storms to hit. This rare, hybrid storm, according to all the news outlets -- the so-called Frankenstorm -- may ultimately reach 1,000 miles end to end. Specialists are saying that it could impact as many as 60 million people. As one of those 60 million, I have to tell you, I've been well informed. Mayor Bloomberg didn't waste any time getting the city prepared, and immediately evacuated low-lying areas. Governor Cuomo was also direct about the dangers, and there have been constant updates by news media, as you can imagine. The fact that there are high tides due to the full moon is making matters that much worse. All in all, this "perfect storm" has coalesced into the worst-case scenario. Hurricane Sandy could bring a life-threatening storm surge to the mid-Atlantic coast.

I can scarcely believe this West Coast girl is hunkering down on the 15th floor of an apartment building to witness one of Mother Nature's most powerful spectacles, making me, a mere human being, feel very small and ineffectual against her, indeed.

As I stare out my 15th floor window watching expectantly for the wind to pick up and the rain begin, totally prepared with my flashlights, lantern, extra water, blankets, food -- all the things I need in case the power goes out, I realize that there is an important, critical difference between being a West Coast woman who has experienced a few frightening, deadly earthquakes in California, and now, being an East Coast part-time inhabitant, having been given time and warnings to get prepared, and directions about what to do.

With earthquakes, there is no warning. They are nature's inner movements, and they happen suddenly. They can be swift, or slow and rumbling, but they are powerfully catastrophic and, sometimes, tragically deadly.

However, even with warning systems and protective planning, a storm such as this one has the potential to do plenty of damage. It can wreak havoc, and may still be life-threatening to many people. I am hoping and praying that lives are not lost in the predicted 75 mph winds, and the "peak surge" of 6 to 11 feet that is forecast for Long Island, Raritan Bay and New York Harbor.

I admit that I'm experiencing all of this with a sense of awe and wonder. I certainly have gratitude and respect for Mayor Bloomberg and his entire NYC Emergency preparedness team as well. Am I a little concerned? Hell, yes. But, honestly -- not overly much. I'm not in the eye of the storm. I'm much more worried about the folks in the low-lying areas -- especially seniors who may not have friends and family to care for them. But, from what I've seen so far, there will be an emergency plan in place to cover every neighborhood in danger, and that is a comforting thought. We'll see. But after this is all over, based on what I've seen thus far, and the way this city pulls together, and works together as a team -- I am confident we will weather this storm.