It’s the calm before the storm right now, and despite my natural tendency to brush off the warnings as overly-conservative measures, people really do seem to be taking Hurricane Irene seriously. Parts of New York other than the low-lying Zone A areas have also been evacuated, and shops are actually starting to run out of more than just booze and coffee: things like bottled water and batteries.
I’ve also taken the opportunity, given my enforced day staying at home, to take stock of the damage done by Irene to other parts of the country. Pictures of flooded homes and roads in North Carolina, alongside some of the devastation done in the Bahamas already by Irene contribute to making this something more than an Internet joke.
In his most recent press conference though, Michael Bloomberg gave every impression of a mayor in charge of his city, being very realistic about the fact that the subway and power grid might not be back up by Monday and having every fact to hand: there is space for 75,000 people in the evacuation centres, only 1,400 are there now; 80% of people in NYC evacuation zones have left already (over a million people have evacuated the Jersey shore); we can expect to lose power in areas but water should be unaffected. He even repeated the key points in Spanish, rather than relying on a translator, in a genuine appeal to the Spanish communities in NYC.
The balconies and gardens around me are cleared of all movable items. Windows are taped up, shops boarded and shuttered up and the streets a lot quieter than I’m used to on a Saturday afternoon. I’m still not worried — in the worst realistic case I don’t expect anything worse than a power outage, but I do now have a respect for hurricanes beyond being an occasional tragic event that happens to someone else, somewhere else.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hurricane party playlist to prepare.