Apologies, readers, if The Brew has been running on half-speed lately, but I’ve been in Central Jersey helping my Dad cope with Sandy and, much worse for him, the subsequent snowy Nor’easter.
Since big nasty storms are, sadly, the new normal for our planet and since the Baltimore area escaped a clobbering this time only by luck, I thought it would be worth showing you what we could be in for if (when) we take a direct hit. (I know the folks in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore can provide-closer-to-home examples. Jersey is where my camera and I have been, so that’s what I have to show you.)
I arrived at the family house (located inland, luckily, away from any floodwaters) a couple of days after Sandy. The super-storm had knocked out power and dropped big trees and branches all over the yard, but we were fortunate on one score. The gas station around the corner had a generator, was pumping gas and the police officers keeping order allowed walk-ups to jump the line and fill gas cans. The people in cars had long, long waits.
Large swaths of Route 9 (you know where I mean, Springsteen fans, “Sprung from cages on Highway 9.” That Route 9.) were dark. Strip malls dark. Housing developments dark. I had to drop my son off at Newark Airport at one point and the trip up 9 to get there was strange. With stoplights out because of no electricity, the cops needed to block cross traffic and they did it by placing school buses and patrol cars at the intersection medians. Route 9 traffic zoomed along at highway speeds for long stretches, light-less.
As for my Dad and I, though, fortified with food and gas, we decided to check out Point Pleasant Beach Wednesday afternoon. (I have fonder boardwalk memories of Seaside Heights but no one was being let in there, where the destruction was even greater.)
The flood-zone in Point Pleasant was easy to pick out – the streets were awash with sand and the houses had piles of wet mattresses and old dressers and trash bags full of ruined belongings. Block after block of streets were just piled high with sodden possessions.
Out on the boardwalk, what was left of it, restaurants and pizza joints and souvenir places were splintered and sand-filled. Bulldozers were out at the surf line making a dune to protect the town from the next storm, the Nor’easter.
As we drove out of town we saw a huge Coast Guard helicopter take off (a guy with a side-arm weapon of some kind told us that an earlier ‘copter had been looted) and noticed lots of boats washed up several blocks inland and left “parked” in parking lots.
Back at the house, things shifted. We were more victims of crazy weather than observers. This was storm # 2, the Nor’easter. Snow started falling – wet, fat flakes – and my son’s return flight to Newark was canceled. Big tree branches outside were sagging under the blanket of soggy snow. There were clunks and other odd sounds up against the house. The power was working at this point but the lights were flickering.
I switched on the yard light behind the house where there are spruce and mulberry trees and stepped out. CRAAACK! BOOM! Somewhere in the woods a big tree or branch had fallen. Yikes, there was my station wagon, parked right under sagging mulberry branches. Sprinting out to move it, I heard cracking sounds RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD. A huge branch came whooshing down and I barely lunged out from under it in time.
We spent the rest of the night listening to moaning wind, sitting in the part of the house we judged least in the path of falling trees. At some point in the night we heard a really big boom and a tree DID hit the house – an old mulberry. It didn’t seem to have pierced the skin of the house but it was hard to tell. The power went out.
The next morning we saw where the tree had split and dropped down on my brothers’ old bedroom. And that it was a good thing I’d moved my car. And that trees had fallen all over the property and caused all kinds of destruction to other structures and to wires.
Dad’s still piecing together what happened, what got wrecked and what to do. I’m fuming mad about the CO2 emissions and our changing climate and how Seaside got wrecked and all of it. We’re both watching footage of people who have it much, much much worse from these storms.
But it was warm and nice today and there’s nothing nasty in the immediate forecast. So I guess I’ll leave you with my favorite image from the visit to Point Pleasant: this woman sitting in the sunshine, feeding wild cats. Tomorrow I’ll be back in Baltimore.