By Daphne Seah
Daphne Seah, a Singaporean media professional currently based in New York, gives a blow-by-blow account of her and a friend's experience of hurricane Sandy.
FRIDAY (26 October)
16:00 - First heard forecasts of Hurricane Sandy striking America's Northeast coast, which includes the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
20:00 - News reports predict Sandy will land in New York as worst storm in United States's history. Everyone urged to prepare for uncertain effects.
SATURDAY (27 October)
10:00 - Getting ready for superstorm, my housemates move outdoor lawn furniture into basement. Anticipating power outages, we also charge devices, store water, dig out candles and torchlights. Everywhere, people flood supermarkets stocking up on canned food and non-perishables. We start making blocks of ice to keep the freezer cold if we lose power. Past hurricanes showed possible flooding and evacuations so I pack emergency bag with supplies and essential documents.
18:00 - Nearing Halloween, U.S media nicknamed Sandy "Frankenstorm" but revelers still dressed up and parties continued. Calm before the storm?
SUNDAY (28 October)
10:00 - Many church goers like myself swop evening for morning services as the college building we use prepares itself as an evacuation shelter.
12:00 — Despite a pending calamity, New York is calm. My friend Tan Cheng Cheng, 38, a fellow Singaporean living in Manhattan's Lower East Side, says, "The City is well prepared. Everyone shares the same predicament and has to brave the storm together. Lines at the shops were very orderly and supermarkets were pretty well stocked except for a few key items."
17:00 - New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg orders mandatory evacuation for Lower Manhattan area (Wall Street, World Trade Center precinct), coastal neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Buses, subway and train services suspended from 7pm.
A friend's Facebook post states, "Walmart, Target and other supermarkets — food and water wiped out."
MONDAY (29 October)
08:00 - Cloudy skies accompanied only sporadic winds. We joked about Sandy being a hoax for people to spend to stimulate the economy.
13:00 - Winds start brewing, trees begin swaying and outset of drizzles — Sandy arrives.
17:30 - My neighbourhood in Northern New York lost power. Sky turned completely dark, plunging everywhere into blackness. Strong winds wheeze, autumn leaves spill from trees non-stop, branches fall on cars. Across the street, flashlights move frantically within houses while Halloween lawn decorations swing eerily.
20:00 - Sandy slams New York in full force.
Outside, tall trees sway vigorously, winds batter against windows and doors, bright blue sparks from either severed power lines or electricity flash periodically, and police cars and fire engines blaring sirens speed across the streets. Inside, my housemates and I have "romantic" dinners—we actually managed to cook steak (trying to save it from going stale) under flickering candlelight and torches.
Then, a panic-stricken neighbour called for help when a tree fell, crashed his two cars and came in through his window, bringing along the weather.
22:00 — Relating her experience from Manhattan's Lower East Side, Cheng Cheng emails: "Not much rainfall but very strong winds howling outside the windows. Throughout the storm, emergency vehicles ply the streets and we are assured everyone is on high alert to respond to the conditions. Grateful for the medics and first responders who stand guard in the harsh weather conditions to protect the people, at the expense of their own comfort. Even grateful for the doorman and superintendent in my building who were not in the comfort of their own home but nevertheless offered their help over the intercom. Social media also helped as friends from different parts of the world poured in their encouragement."
TUESDAY (30 October)
00:00 — Not knowing much about the situation out there, we tuned in briefly to online radio. At this time, parts of Manhattan were flooded with cars floating around.
10:30 — News of massive destruction pour in. According to news reports, at least 7.5 million Con Edison customers across New York had no power. Mayor Bloomberg's online press conference revealed 23 serious fires occurred across the city; one of the most tragic involved 80 houses torched in Breezy Point, Queens. He called Sandy a "devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced".
12:00 — With felled trees causing road closures, shops closed, neighbourhoods and subway stations underwater, New York looks like the city that finally sleeps.
Taking the effects in her stride, Cheng Cheng says, "Fortunately, no downed trees, power cables or flood debris in my area that need cleaning up. Some of my New Jersey clients cancelled pre-scheduled calls as their area was subject to massive destruction. Our firm had excellent emergency communication arrangements. By 4pm, like each day starting from Sunday, we get voicemails and also email advisories providing guidance for work plans (work from home and avoid travel) and also statuses of nearby functional offices that still had power so we can go in to charge phones or computers."
13:00 — With President Obama signing emergency declarations for the tri-state area, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, the media exhorted people to help each other.
Not lost on New Yorkers, Cheng Cheng says neighbors rallied together and she even visited their apartment for the first time to chat and encourage each other amidst the down time everyone had without electricity. She adds, "Missed the morning papers and wanted to get a copy but there was no delivery. Few shops were open but the deli next to my apartment did. Everyone was so eager to go in and get coffee so kudos to the staff who came in so shortly after the storm. Got a cuppa for my doorman and super!"
17:00 - Already suffering from a huge economic squall and a looming political storm with pending elections scheduled for next week, these billions of dollars worth of damages brought by a physical Hurricane seem to overthrow the city — the world's epitome of success and ingenuity.
Echoing Mayor Bloomberg's evening press conference, Cheng Cheng says, "It is important to realise we are vulnerable to bigger things in life and tempting as it is to depend on our own strength and wisdom, events like a storm of such magnitude are beyond human manipulation. Although the Hurricane and its aftermath demonstrated the city's resilience, it is also very humbling."
20:00 — Thanks to friends with power in surrounding neighbourhoods, I get to share this with Singaporeans back home. Also feeling we need to give back generously, Cheng Cheng says, "Massive repairs need to be undertaken and although some New Yorkers are affluent, there are very needy families everywhere in areas who may need help rebuilding. This is a time for all that can share their resources to lend a hand to help, and give hope to those that need. We can only give what we are given, but we should not underestimate what each of us can give!"