Hurricane Sandy Shakes Things Up for East Coast Whitties
“I remember talking to my mom on her cell phone that night and she said it sounded like a freight train outside,” said Hensley Fradkin, a senior from Westchester County in New York.
Sandy, the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane to date, made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29. Its 13-foot storm surge and gale-force winds hit New York City on the same day, to devastating effect.
“A lot of the old trees came down, a lot of cars were destroyed and houses had trees on them; two or three blocks from my house, a couple walking their dog got crushed by a tree. My family was pretty affected by that,” said senior David McGaughey from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sandy, surpassed in cost only by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, caused an estimated $52 billion in property damage and killed at least 193 people in the United States and the Caribbean. Though it dissipated over Pennsylvania on Oct. 31, power outages, flooding and supply shortages persist in many areas.
“My house in Westchester [County] was seriously affected. We have two big pine trees in my backyard that fell on our garage,” said Fradkin. “The trees haven’t been cleared yet, because there’s so many trees down in the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods they just can’t get to them all yet.”
In New York City, some have compared the extent of the damage and its effect on the population’s morale to the aftermath of 9/11. Flooded streets and shortages of gas, food, water and electricity have continued to plague many neighborhoods for days after the storm’s impact.
“As far as the city itself, it’s definitely terrible, unbelievably terrible. People do not realize how bad it is,” said McGaughey. “Life stopped in a city that never stops.”
Though the storm caused severe damage, it has also raised a topic in the national discussion that some feel took a back seat during this election cycle.
“A lot of people who either didn’t think climate change was happening or didn’t think it was caused by humans, now are either thinking about it or have changed their minds. Sandy was very important as a wake-up call,” said Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies Bob Carson.
According to McGaughey, the attitude of many NYC residents toward climate-related disasters has shifted.
“No city is disaster-proof, and disasters are not going to be decreasing,” he said.
Support from the Whitman community has been helpful to some students experiencing the effects of Sandy from afar.
“A lot of people have reached out and [said] ‘Hope your family’s safe’ and asked me about stuff, which is good,” said sophomore Peter O’Rourke, also from Westchester County.
Still, students said, distance can make mentally handling the disaster even harder.
“It’s made me feel a little alienated from the place where I grew up, seeing a lot of people on Facebook talking about [Sandy],” said O’Rourke. “It’s kind of weird being 3,000 miles away and not being able to relate.”
McGaughey agreed, noting that the low population of east coast-based students at Whitman can contribute to the isolation.
“It’s very easy to get caught in the moment here, so far away. I’ve never felt as far away from home as I did this week. Here it’s not even a conversation,” he said. “It’s really kind of a lonely place to be.”
With regular flight schedules resumed, most east coast students can expect to be able to make it home for the holidays, but some are apprehensive about what they’ll find there.
“I’m kind of scared to go back home for Thanksgiving,” said Fradkin. “Things are definitely going to look different.”
Others, like McGaughey, say they’re prepared to experience the remaining effects of Sandy along with their fellow New Yorkers.
“I’m really excited go home and see,” said McGaughey. “[I’m excited] to go to Coney Island and places on the shore that I value and see what they’re like.”
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