On Sandy: Historic Weather

Hey everyone (including new followers!)–an update from Queens, New York here–I obviously still have power (it flickered ominously for a good two hours, but held on; I’m hearing that we could still lose it) and internet (a miracle, considering our cable tends to go out during a regular windy day, never mind a hurricane). We’ve had a tree fall in front of our house (not hitting our house, thank goodness, though we jumped when we heard the snap) and we live inland and on a hill, so no worries of flooding here. Our main concern ’round these parts is the wind and the trees. But we in central Queens are lucky.

I’m sure, by now, that those of you outside of New York have seen the images of Battery Park City flooding, the power out in Manhattan, have heard of the thousands and thousands without power. Our subway system is flooding, there are explosions and fires, a hospital on the East Side of Manhattan had to evacuate due to lack of power. Breezy Point, in the Rockaways, has all but burned down. Long Island’s roads are impassable. The South Shore of Long Island is flooded. People have died.

As I was watching the coverage during the day and editing my WIP at the same time, several odd thoughts occurred to me, as they do.

1) I hope the trees outside my bedroom don’t fall. (This is probably not so odd, considering).
2) If I make a pillow fort, it’ll totally protect me. Never mind, I’ll just sleep downstairs.
3) Why do we still have power? Shouldn’t it have gone out by now?
4) Where are the Avengers when you need them?
I spent some time continuing to edit my hard copy manuscript, since I was stuck inside, crossing out mistaken references to the wet summer of 1800, when in fact, I later learned that it was dry and then a deluge of a rainstorm fell in August and September, ruining the harvest for a second year in a row for England. So, for my characters, the weather changes their circumstances, as weather does for all humans.

Historic weather. Weather is a significant part of life and history. The Spanish Armada was swept away by a squall on the English Channel. A massive earthquake in 1692 caused Port Royal, Jamaica to slide into the Caribbean Sea. In the days when humans were more dependent on the land and on the weather, even a minute change in climate could be a big deal.

When a volcano erupted in the South Pacific in 1816, the rest of the world experienced a very cold summer. 1816 is called “the year without a summer.” In 1815, a hurricane hit Long Island, separating the Rockaway peninsula from Long Beach. 

Then there is Katrina in 2005 and now Sandy, the hurricane-nor’easter-storm-insanity. I think we’re all still processing all of this. But New Yorkers are tough and we’ll get through it.

Writers like to describe weather. We feel that it’s part of the sensory description we are trying to convey to our readers and when you’re writing about the past, it can become part of the plot. Sandy is one we’ll be talking about for a long time. I’m sure that in the future, people will write about it as well. I’ll just say this: at the moment, it’s pretty unfathomable to process.

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