Arrigato Irene

Autumn is not known for storms blowing up the Eastern Seaboard, but in late october 1991 a tempestuous Nor’easter combined with a cyclone off the the Maritime Provinces and a sputtering hurricane. This unusual triad formed what is now known as the Halloween Storm or the Perfect Storm. The latter title was made famous by Sebastian Junger’s book and a subsequent movie.

I was living in New York that year.

The storm struck the city hard.

The FDR Drive was flooded by the storm surge. Commuters ignored traffic cops and drove onto the drive. Their cars were overwhelmed by the surging current and ended up sinking in the East River. The coastal communities were pummeled by the high tides and winds. The Andrea Gail out of Gloucester sank with all hands. The sea did not give up those dead.

Big October storms generated monster swells and on All Saints Day RT and I threw our surfboards in the back of Uncle Carmine’s station wagon and headed out to Long Beach. The surf report was ‘acres and acres of unbridled hell. RT poobahed the warning as fear-mongering by wimps. The Californian ate those words standing on the Lido Beach boardwalk.

Houses were floating atop towering waves. The gale force winds ripped the air from my lungs. Rain pelted my face like a scattergun shot of BBs. The thunder of the shore break mixed with the grating suck of beach sand. Several other surfers stared at the chaos and shook their heads.

No one was going in the water with good reason.

Hurricanes are deadly as the City of New Orleans learned from Katrina in August 2005. The 6th most powerful hurricane in history made landfall as a Category 3 storm. The eye misses the low-lying city, but the torrential rains overwhelmed the levees flooding most of the city. Government response to the disaster failed on every level and the aftermath of Katrina became horror show of neglect and a lasting symbol of GW Bush’s inadequacy as a president.

No politicians wants to be caught so unprepared for a forecasted threat from nature and the cities, states, and federal government launched into action this week, as Hurricane Irene swung up the coast. NJ’s governor ordered his constituents to evacuate the beaches and flood zones.

“Get the hell off the beach … and get in your car. “You’re done, its 4:30, you’ve maximized your tan.”

Locals and tourists rejected his strident demands and flocked to the shore for a weekend by the sea.

New York City mayor had been stung by harsh criticism after the mismanagement of the Xmas blizzard and he brayed at residents of the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan to flee their homes. The subway system will be closed for the duration of the storm along with the railroads and airports. New York City will be cut off from the world.

Mayor Bloomberg has refused to evacuate the 12,000 prisoners on Rikers Island, despite the penal colony lying in a tidal flood zone and his announcing at a press interview, “This is a storm which if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, could be fatal … It is dangerous out there.”

The inmates are staying put as are many New Yorkers.

I’m scheduled to fly from Bangkok into JFK on Monday. All international flights have been cancelled until 3pm. My ETA is 5pm. Something tells me that I’ll be stuck in Narita along with hundreds if not thousands of NYC-bound travels.

Arrigato Irene.

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