When I moved back to New York about a month ago, I thought I had left behind all the hurricane angst I had become too accustomed to living with in South Florida.
There were going to be no hurricane seasons in my life anymore. No more tracking storms as they left the deserts of sub-Saharan Africa and crossed the Atlantic and Caribbean to see whether they would hit or miss the Florida peninsula. No more stocking up on canned goods, batteries and gasoline starting July 1 and no more hurricane safe rooms. No more having to endure that hurricane anxiety when those NOAA cones of hurricanes assigned human names estimate the storm track to hit where my family lives.
So while I was packing up the garage, I was tempted to sell both the generators I had bought after enduring three hurricanes in a row in 2005 and forego the expense of moving the heavy generators and all of my accumulated hurricane supplies.
But something told me to pack them on the POD and take them to my new home in upstate New York.
Maybe it was enduring the tremendous downpours of Isaac right before the move, which ended up damaging my car when I tried to escape my flooded development in suburban Lake Worth. Or maybe it just was something in my gut that told me my hurricane woes were never going away.
Sure enough, on Monday night, that hurricane angst returned to visit me up North.
I sat in my new home on a beautiful lake in the Catskill Mountains, watching its normally peaceful waters build into a caldron of forceful waves and whitecaps, a conduit of dangerous high winds that swept across the landscape carrying flying debris and trees. After several flickers, we lost electricity and Internet service at about 4 p.m.. As dusk turned into night, the winds began growing strong as Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey shore hundreds of miles away and stayed steady most of the time, punctuated by what I can only describe as freight train-strength size and noise. I stood in my bedroom nervously watching huge trees, some hundreds of years old, bend from nature's power and fury. During the storm, I braved the high winds to go out to clean up dangerous debris from a neighbor's metal carport that easily blew apart and garbage cans and recycling bins someone stupidly left out from the morning's collection. Sadly, I watched my friend's roof next door slowly lift, rip and then tear off as the night proceeded.
Riding out the storm in a shaking house, that hurricane angst returned. I particularly worried about whether or not my roof would stay put, whether newly-installed windows would endure the violent gusts of wind and whether the huge oak tree shaking like a buoy in the wind next to my daughter's room would end up crashing and destroying my home -- and my new life.
Tuesday morning, I felt great relief that all of us were safe and the house rode out the storm unscathed. I still had a weird feeling arising from having no connection with the outside world. We had no phone, no cell service, no Internet, no power and no heat. We got out the expensive generator bought in more prosperous times, filled it with gasoline my wife had obtained that morning at the corner store (imagine, no gas lines at all) and with three pulls, started it up (yea!). I pulled out all those 100-foot extension cords I had packed in my garage freezer and began laying them across my living room floor, attaching them to the refrigerator and coffee maker, charging up all my families' phones and computers. It was very cold after this hurricane, which felt weird to me after experiencing the hot and humid weather following so many Florida storms.
Later, I took a four-mile hike with my son, who had escaped the devastation in New York City with a relative to ride out the storm with us. During the four-mile walk in the increasingly cold weather, we surveyed the awe-inspiring damage left by Hurricane Sandy -- houses damaged and destroyed, trees crashed across roads and downed powerlines. While the focus is rightfully on the shore areas in New York and New Jersey, the Catskills suffered serious damage too. I know it will be days before we get back our electric and heat.
Today, I walked into the Bagel Bakery and the owner looked at me, smiled and said: "Aren't you glad you moved from Florida? The hurricanes are following you."
Yep, but because I had lived in South Florida, I was truly ready for Hurricane Sandy.
Published in The Sun-Sentinel on November 1, 2012