Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Irene’

Where to begin? What can you say? So much destruction, so much pain, so much loss, so much mess.  We were warned…. we took precautions…we put away the outside furniture, we took what we could out of the freezer and we dutifully left as we were told to do.  It was a teary good-bye on Sunday afternoon as we pulled away from the cottage not knowing when we would return and what would we find when we got there.  

New York City seemed to be the much safer place for us and then again we didn’t really have the choice that we had a year ago, when we decided to ride out the storm with Hurricane Irene.  This time, mandatory evacuation was insistent and I reluctantly went along with the plan.  I had plans for Monday and Tuesday in the City anyway.  So back in our apartment we unpacked, ate dinner and went to bed listening to some light wind but not much more.

This morning it was raining lightly and since the Mayor closed the subways and stopped the busses, most of Manhattan’s residents woke up with a day off!  We went to  The Mansion for breakfast with my daughter Chiara, her husband, my sister-in-law, her son and of course Finley and Francesca.  The place was MOBBED! There was a festive mood throughout the diner, really like having an unexpected snow day when you’re in school. The City was virtually closed, Broadway was dark, schools were closed, Wall Street was closed, the airports were open but 95% of  the flights were cancelled. 

By 1pm the winds were really whipping around.  It kept swirling around creating waves of whooshing sound.  By 4pm it was raining and the wind was extremely strong and by the time I walked home 6 blocks I was drenched and winded.  Things started to go downhill rapidly from that point on.  

Soon the windows were rattling and rain and wind pounded against the panes.  By now every television in the apartment was on tuned to either CNN or ABC.  Reports started coming in as the menacing storm raced to our coast line.  We were stressed to the max dividing our anxiety between Ocean Grove and Manhattan.  We felt fairly secure in our home 14 floors up but so uncertain as to what was happening to our little cottage La Vie en Rose as it sat squarely in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  And I was concerned for about the tea room at The Lillagaard.  The hotel sat only 2 properties in from the boardwalk and was extremely vulnerable – it also had been locked up, sand-bagged and left to fend off the storm by itself. 

It’s now 11:30pm and the following is a partial list of the highlights, well actually the horrors of the Hurricane:


A construction crane 90 stories high in what has been called the Billionaire’s Building partially collapses and is presently dangling over the very busy, highly-trafficked West 57th St.  Buildings all around the building were evacuated.  My cousin had to leave her home on the corner of W. 57th and 6th Avenue.  Con-Ed shut down the power in the building and the gas.

Hundreds of trees came down, littering residential side streets and I saw one fall on First Avenue – not exactly what you expect to see in The City.

The subway entrances were cordoned off and sand-bagged, the grates sealed down, the entire system shut down in hope of preventing any salt water from entering the tunnels.

Battery Park City at the bottom of Manhattan was flooded by noon. Eventually there was over 13′ of water running over the walls.  The Hudson River breached the West Side Highway and was running eastward on 23rd St.  The East River breached and flooded FDR Drive.

There were a series of explosions as transformers blew up and one sub-station.  Con-Ed also voluntarily shut down some areas to preserve equipment.   By 10pm most of Manhattan south of 42nd Street and from river to river was dark – NO POWER.

Our lights are flickering every now and then and earlier this evening I lost cable tv and internet access.

No school tomorrow, no subways, no busses, and maybe no power.  At this hour every tunnel and bridge are closed so you can’t get in and you can’t get out!  How long can the few restaurants that were open or the few grocery stores open last without receiving new supplies.


I agonized most of the day trying to find out what was happening to our seaside community.  Tonight I was able to get online and check out Blogfinger – Ocean Grove Faces Hurricane Sandy’s Destruction

The Garden State Parkway was closed south of exit 129, the New Jersey Turnpike was closed. 

Neptune Township restricted  traffic on municipal streets. Police banned cars from Ocean Avenue and people from walking along the boardwalk.

Mandatory evacuation was extended further west and along streets near the lakes.

Additional man-made sand bermes were made along South Beach.

By mid-afternoon and mid-tide, the ocean had risen to the top of the Fishing Pier.

The high tide breached the dunes and washed over the boardwalk.  Water ran west as far as Beach Ave and a storm surge flooded New York Avenue and Broadway.  Power was out in most if not all of Ocean Grove.

Wind and waves destroyed the fishing shack on the Fishing Pier.  Part of the roof of the Great Auditorium was blown off. 

A tree came down on the corner of Central and Main and also one at the corner of Main and New Jersey Avenue.

Hurricane Sandy, Ocean Grove, Blogfinger, Mary Walton

Hurricane Sandy brings down a tree

Photo taken by Mary Walton for Blogfinger

Ocean Grove, Fishing pier, Monday October 29, Hurricane Sandy

The Fishing Pier 5pm Monday October 29th

Photo taken by Mary Walton for Blogfinger

The news is most disheartening and I think I will be canceling my Wednesday plans are heading back to New Jersey to assess the damage and see what state the Lillagaard and the tea room are in.  In the great scheme of things, the loss of food is minor, even though it creates a disgusting mess.  However, prior to leaving I spent considerable time baking in preparation for some imminent tea services.  Right now the thought of having to bake everything all over again and shop for all the food destroyed is pretty grim – BUT as I said  I know that’s so minor compared to the real devastation and loss wreaked by this vicious act of Mother Nature.  

Well, let’s see what tomorrow brings.  The lights are still flickering here, so I have filled the bathtub with water to flush the toilet, filled water bottles for drinking water and two huge pots for cooking water.  

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Did anyone in Ocean Grove really sleep last night? Every hour or so, one of us got up and went downstairs checking the basin and pail for overflow, looking out the front door to see if Broadway was a road or a lake, then stumbling back up the stairs to bed for another hour of sleep.

Sunday morning dawned and we cautiously looked outside to see if there was any damage to the front of the house and if there was a layer of sand on Broadway indicating the storm surge actually breeched the dunes, the boardwalk, Ocean Avenue and rushed down the road to us.  Thank God, NO!

After opening up the doors and pushing the storm windows up and bringing the screen back down,  my thoughts turned to the shore.  “Let’s go see what happened at the beach”.  By the time we got to the Boardwalk, it was already highly populated with fellow survivalists who like us wanted to see what happened at the source.

Shocked and suprised, we found an intact boardwalk but some heavily damaged dunes.  There was less sand on the boardwalk than there was after last winter’s Nor’Easter.  But the concrete benches were pushed away from the railings like so many pawns in Mother Nature’s chess game.  There was a salt water pond between the dunes and the boardwalk which looked to stretch from the Broadway beach entrance to the Beach Office.    Peter and I walked to the Fishing Pier which still had police tape across it, where a large group of people  had gathered.  A utility shed had been torn off its base and now rested up against the boardwalk.   Then we walked onto the beach  at the South End entrance to get a closer look at the angry foaming sea.  I noticed that I only walked down two steps and I was on the sand – that stair-case has a least 6 steps!!!!

The beach was very small and the shore line significantly closer.  Hopefully the tides will revert to their normal height over the next couple of days.

hurricane Irene, Ocean Grove boardwalk, Ocean Grove, NJ
Mother Nature re-arranged the furniture
hurricane Irene, ocean grove sand dunes, ocean grove nj
Dune Fence Uprooted
hurricane Irene, sand dunes Ocean Grove, Ocean Grove, NJ
Ravaged By Irene
hurricane Irene, Ocean Grove nJ
Irene’s Foot Bath Behind the Dunes
hurricane Irene, Ocean Grove boardwalk, South End beach Ocean Grove
And Where Are The Other 4 Steps?
hurricane Irene, Ocean Grove nj

Storm-surged Shed

hurricane Irene aftermath, Ocean Grove, NJ

The Angry Sea Foams at the Mouth

All photos taken by me.

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There’s no way I’m going to sleep tonight so I thought I might try to write the next chapter in the Hurricane Hoopla of how we rode out the storm.  All I can say is “Thank God I was here!”

Normally an accounting of  a day in the life of  starts at the beginning but not this one.  Here’s what’s going on now…. my heart is still racing a little.

I just covered the chest in front of the bow window and everything on it with a sheet of plastic!  Then I put a basin and a pail on the floor to catch the drips that are dropping steadily.  Apparently the wind is pushing the water up under some of the shingles or where there is a seam in the roof of the bow window.   The constant dripping sound is so ominous and is competing for my nerves with CBS and Peter upstairs trying to tune in his radio and get it to work on batteries.  Add to that the sound of the rain pounding on the air conditioner in the kitchen and believe you me as they say, I am so uptight, I’m sure I’ll be writing this blog at 3am.

Earlier this evening we were watching a movie because we just couldn’t listen to any more news and Peter noticed a drip, dropping right in front of us on the coffee table.  Needless to say, I screamed and ran upstairs to see where it was coming in from the roof.  And Juanita, if you’re reading this, sorry but that is why I said I had to go!  Got upstairs, checked both ceilings and saw nothing.  Run back downstairs, move furniture and get the dish basin to catch drips.  OMG, my house is so out of order that I am in battle to the death with my own OCD and the storm and not sure who is winning yet.  Two of the porch chairs are in the living room, all the front porch tables are in the living room, and now that I had to cover the bow window area, the plant stand and books are in the middle of the room. Oh and the porch floor lamp is in the living room and the coffee table is now in the middle of the room.  However all that is a digression because I have to tell you the source of the drip.

I went back upstairs and walked over by the window in the bedroom and realized the carpet was wet! There was a puddle by my nightstand.  I threw books on the bed, grabbed a towel to mop it up and saw that the water was being blown into the room underneath the air conditioner.   Yelling for Peter to bring me towels, I stuffed some under the unit and he went into the guest room to check that unit and sure enough it was leaking water in also but not nearly as much.  More towels.   It only took 5 minutes for the towels in our bedroom to be wet so in the middle of this storm, we took the damn air conditioner out of the window!!!  Right now it’s in a trash bag but of course there’s no place to put it so it’s still in the bedroom and I hope I don’t walk into it in the middle of the night.   Wait, that’s not gonna happen because I’m not going to bed.  As soon as we got the window closed, the leak in the living room stopped

So then we checked the air conditioner in the kitchen and why are all of these goddamn air conditioners in windows facing East!! That one is much more secure, minor water collection around the base and I have stuffed dish towels around it and put plastic on the floor and moved the kitchen table away from the window which puts it sort of in the middle of the room and I had to remove the cafe curtains and where are they? In the living room along with the slickers, the clogs, rain ponchos and more plastic.  Oh yeah, the storm is winning!

By the time we actually got into Frank’s in Asbury Park it was noon so we had lunch instead.

We showered and drove off for coffee and breakfast, thinking a Starbucks and a hot breakfast  would help fortify us for the rest of the day But first I wanted to go the boardwalk and see what the shore looked like and the waves.  Lots of people were on the Fishing Pier taking photos.  I fed the sea gulls a lot of bread tossing bits in the air and marveling at how they are able to grab a piece mid-air.  The tides had already played havoc with the shore line; on the south side of the pier, a dune had formed and on the north side, it looked a like a giant with a shovel, scooped out the sand.

Hurricane Irene, Ocean Grove NJ
Waves Crashing

 And then the Beach Patrol came along and told everyone to get off the pier and they ran police tape across the access.   I had to mail a letter and yes the Post Office was open so we headed to Main Avenue and this is what we saw!

Ocean Grove bakery, Hurrican Irene, Ocean Grove, NJ
Bread and Board
boarded up fo hurricane Irene, Ocean Grove, NJ
Boarded Up

Seeing Main Avenue like this really upset me.  I KNOW they were only boarded up to protect the glass but now that the day was here and evidence of impending doom was everywhere, I felt my eyes well up with tears.  Maybe my nerves were already shot.

So going backwards in this day of days, Peter made several trips to the garage and deposited all the rest of the porch furniture along with some cartons of food designated for New York.   We moved the glass top table closer to the fence and I repositioned trash barrels, lawn chairs and our enamel table and anchored everything with bungee cords. And the phone kept ringing with concerned friends and family asking if we were safe or were we coming home?  Thanks for all the concern shown for us today!!!

Before all this (remember we’re going backwards in time) a sudden extremely strong rainfall woke me up-I had the door to the porch open to get some breeze and the door to the front porch on the second floor open for cross-ventilation so I heard it!  I jumped out of bed and screamed at Peter to get up and out because I had no intention of bringing wet porch furniture into the house.  It was already humid inside and destined to get worse.   In my pajamas I grabbed all of the cushions and brought them in.  Now I was racing against the rain to get stuff in the house and in the car and the water was already over the sidewalk.  Good morning Vietnam!

Go to this link to see photos of some of our worst hurricanes. http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2010/09/02/15-worst-hurricanes.html?om


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So that was Friday in Ocean Grove and now it’s Saturday and I have some interesting photos from Grand Central Terminal.  Murray got to GCT just before it was closed down by Mayor Bloomberg.  Official close time was to be 12:20pm today.  If you are at all familiar with Grand Central Terminal, you know the only time you ever see it empty is on a post card!  Take a look at what Irene has done to our City, (and she’s not even here yet).

Hurricane Irene, Grand Central Terminal,

High Noon in GCT

Grand Central Terminal, Hurricane Irene

Time To Get Out Of Town

metro north, Grand Central Terminal, Hurricane Irene

Metro North Comes To A Halt

Grand Central Terminal, hurricane Irene

All Alone Am I

All photos by Murray Head


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Goodnight is right!!! Oh dear God, hurricane fever has been here for days and NOW, Irene is almost here.

It all started for me on Thursday. Peter arrived late in the afternoon and I was still at the Tea Room finishing up and we decided to go to the store and pick up a few Finley items such as whole milk and orange juice without pulp.  Once I arrived at Wegman’s two things became instantly apparent;  Finley probably wasn’t coming to the Jersey Shore and Hurricane Irene was on her way – have you ever been in a major grocery store and seen all the bread shelves EMPTY?? I mean EMPTY!  We did get milk because after all, milk is PERISHABLE and everyone knows you are supposed to stock up on non-perishable foods.  I think all of Monmouth County is planning on eating Pb & J’s all weekend!!!

And so it began….no news except hurricane news, talk, talk, talk, only about the impending storm and plans A, B, and C formulated in each household.  Who was staying and who was going, that was the really BIG QUESTION.  My thoughts immediately were to stay and I  think at that point I wasn’t really comprehending the breadth and depth of what was to come.  I said, “well the apartment is safe and the cottage is vulnerable, so I need to be here to protect it.”  Peter thought about this and agreed.  We really didn’t think we would be in real danger, just that house might be in some and perhaps if we were here, we could prevent and/or protect.  The thought of being in NYC and watching the happenings and wondering what was happening to my sweet La Vie en Rose was quite disconcerting, so I said, “We’re staying”.  Thursday night seems much like any other night.  Peter even went to get me ice cream.

Friday dawned sunny and bright and the buzz was everywhere.  Some neighbors immediately started hauling in porch furniture and tying down everything else.  Mmmmm should we go after all?  Several conversations later, it was decided that Finley would be better off in NYC with her Daddy and her baby sister.  Chiara HAD to go to the middle of New Jersey to attend a wedding on Saturday;  she is a Bridesmaid.   I thought she would never get off “the Island” which was probably evacuating itself westward to the City.  But she made it, dropped them off and kept on going.  I hope for the bride’s sake some people come to this wedding.

I don’t hold out much hope though because the NEWS which was now broadcasting 24/7 alternated between Governor Christie declaring a State of Emergency on THURSDAY and Mayor Bloomberg saying the City was in the cross hairs of the storm and therefore, the subway and bus systems would be shut down, the news just got more dire by the hour.

By Friday afternoon, Peter and I had packed up the back yard furniture, put away the umbrella, turned the glass top table upside down, removed bird feeders, and with bungee cords anchored the trash cans and some chairs.  I moved the upstairs porch furniture into the guest room making my tiny cottage just that much more smaller.  Things were beginning to feel weird!

Ocean grove, police tape. beach is closed

Beach is CLOSED

Let’s go to the beach!  It was 4:00 the sun was still somewhat high in the sky so we took off to get a good long look-see at our beach not knowing when we would see it next or in what condition it would be.  There was police tape across the  entrances to the beach so we walked a ways to Bradley Beach and got onto the beach there.  We took our chairs and our books and sat down near the water’s edge for about an hour or so enjoying the last of the sunshine, sharing the experience with about 5 other people as far as the eye could see.  The tide was extraordinarily high which was the result of new moon.   Well clearly we were illegal and I heard later on that if you got caught going into the water, you could get a $500 fine.  Of course Peter had to push the envelope a bit and get his bathing suit wet which caused the young ticket taker on the boardwalk to come rushing down to inform us that the “main lifeguard” sent him down to tell us we could NOT be in the water.   Why didn’t someone tell the surfers that?  As we left the beach, two young surfer dudes, boards under arms and a young girl passed us on their way to the shore.  The young girl looked at Peter and shook her head and rolled her eyes.  Governor Christie told everybody to get off the beach in Asbury Park, they had enough tan, now get out!

Governor of New Jersey

Christie says "Get Off The Beach"


Ocean Grove, beach is closed

From Here to Asbury Park

Friday night we had dinner out because it would probably be our last good meal once the power went out and surely it will, they say.  And in New York City, Broadway was shut down, the subways system cut back and Battery Park City under mandatory evacuation!  We received numerous calls imploring us to return to NYC and truly we vacillated so many times I couldn’t tell you what the number was, but something has kept us here.  It didn’t help that the beach town north of us and two towns to the south of us were under mandatory evacuation, and the Governor reversed the highways so you could only leave and not come, they even made the tolls free.   There is a bit of foolhardy adventurism at play, the swagger that comes from having toughed it out and not the least, the need to be here to protect the homestead.  At 11:30pm an email alert came through from Neptune Township informing us that Broadway from Ocean to Pilgrim Pathway was under mandatory evacuation: WOW we are two houses in from Pilgrim Pathway.  I sure hope the storm surge knows where it is supposed to stop.  Tomorrow is another day and Irene is expected to hit the Jersey Shore in the early evening. 

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