Hurricane Irene has come and gone and , luckily for us , she didn’t leave much of a mark on Edison , NJ. Heavy rains , some roads still closed because of fallen trees and a power outage lasting for a few minutes ; but that was all. Listening to the reports of flooding , damaged houses and overflowing rivers in North Carolina and Virginia we got off very lightly.
I’d written those lines a few days ago and I’m going to have to amend them . We ( meaning our household ) got off lightly but many others in Edison were not as fortunate . In talking to friends and neighbors in Edison and in nearby towns , it turns out that many , many of them suffered from flooded basements when Irene knocked out the power.Going down Featherbed Lane , we saw piles of household goods stacked by the roadside , waiting to be carted away. They had been so badly damaged by water that they were unsalvageable. One of my friends was trapped in her house for three days because a fallen tree prevented her from opening the garage door and getting the car out . Another in Carteret told me that his basement was flooded to a height of 8 feet and the fire department had to pump the water out. The water table in their neighborhood is very high and the sump pump was unable to keep up with the inflow. However all of us were lucky compared to people the New England states which were badly lashed by Irene . One friend in Connecticut was without power for three days and had to evacuate and go stay with relatives in upstate New York .
In the past , such things seemed to happen only to other states , other people and I’d fallen into the belief that here , in New Jersey, we were immune to the vagaries of the weather. Hurricanes were for Florida and North Carolina , not for Jersey. Earthquakes were for California , not for the Garden State. Droughts were for Arizona and Texas ; three foot snowfalls were only for North Dakota and Montana and Minnesota and Wisconsin , not for us in Sopranoland. Then, in the space of two weeks, we felt the wrath of hurricane Irene and experienced an earthquake . True , the epicenter of the 5.4 earthquake was in Richmond Va. almost 450 miles away but we felt it too. We were playing bridge at the club when it struck and we couldn’t believe it was an earthquake . Those who were sitting at the time felt the tremor but those who were standing didn’t feel it at all. We pooh-poohed those who said it was an earthquake — after all , New Jersey never has earthquakes , right ? Some of us even ascribed the shaking to furniture being moved around in the basement . Boy , were we surprised to read the newspapers the next day.
Even though it wasn’t widely reported in the news , some nearby communities also experienced hailstorms with hail the size of tennis balls . A friend who lives on the border of Queens and Long Island told me that ,on August 1st, falling hail badly damaged his car and cracked his windshield . A neighbor of his had parked three of his cars outside and all of them suffered cracked windshields. Then , speaking to my nephew in Fort Lee , NJ I heard that his car was also similarly damaged . Hurricanes , earthquakes and hailstorms … what next ?!!
I must say however that people seem to panic when there are storm warnings . I went to the supermarket on Thursday , two days before Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey and found people buying up bread and milk and bottled water in record quantities. I can understand buying some extra supplies , but two cases of bottled water ( 70 bottles) seems like too much . The day after the hurricane we were expecting some visitors and I went to get some rolls and had to come back empty-handed . The milk , bread and bottled water was completely gone , the shelves stripped bare, and the other shelves were also half empty. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the same thing happens whenever there is a storm warning . I can understand such behavior in Florida or North Carolina but here , in New Jersey, the response seems excessive .
I understand that the authorities have to think in terms of the worst case scenario and prepare accordingly but I sometimes wonder about the motivations of the news channels . Do they exaggerate the severity of the expected weather conditions to get more viewers ? I wouldn’t be surprised . At such times , people are glued to the news channels for updates on the weather and I understand the advertising revenue takes a sharp upward jag.