By Simone Tharkur.
On August 28, 2011, New Yorkers held their breath in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. “All the media build up of the storm made it unnerving,” says Stephen Spagnoli, an employee of CCNY’s athletic department. From his Staten Island window, Spagnoli watched boulevards sink, calling the scene “surreal.”
“A week before the hurricane we had an earthquake, and the fact that things like that could happen in New York is really scary,” he adds.
As Irene ceased, New Yorkers could breathe again, but the effects lingered. The CCNY community continues to discuss the storm.
The Monday following the storm, New York’s mass transit stood still. Subways and buses didn’t run, and suburbs outside the city faced greater problems. The Metro-North Railroad completely shut down and commuter service into New York from the New Jersey Transit stopped. The Long Island Railroad severely limited it service as Amtrak also threw in the towel. Commuters hit dead end after dead end.
Some New Yorkers listened to evacuation warnings and fled their homes. Tai-Danae Bradley, a junior at CCNY, left her Long Island home a day before the storm hit. “I didn’t want to get stranded out there,” says Bradley. “I ended up staying with a friend for five days because of the trains being out of service and having no power at home. That was the biggest inconvenience.”
Braver residents decided to tough it out. “We had to drain the entrance to the back of my house every two hours and Con Edison cut off our electricity,” says Israel Vickers, a math major at CCNY. “A couple of blocks down, close to Rockaway, a pole snapped in half, and the water was knee deep,” the Queens resident added. Despite the flooding and shortages, Vickers felt well prepared, believing the storm “wasn’t that bad.”
In the Bronx, other problems stirred. Radoslav Boyukliev, a CCNY architecture major, feared for the safety of his family during the storm. “The rain started coming in little by little and then began to seep through the frame of my parent’s bedroom window,” says Boyukliev. “Within hours the drops grew and the cement outside the window started to deteriorate,” he adds.
For the remainder of the storm, the Boyukliev family continuously drained buckets of water that leaked through the window. As the water poured in, its color went from clear to brown. Boyukliev “knew something was wrong.” The apartment’s carbon monoxide alarm sounded and they realized they had a new problem; asbestos. The Bronx family of five crammed into their living room and awaited relief from the poisonous toxin. “We ended up having to wait a week until the landlord came to fix the problem,” says Boyukliev.
For others, the perception of the storm grew bigger than its reality. “In this world of hypermedia, we make more out of these events then the reality of it. We’ve become so super-sensitive that it causes hysteria,” says Ed Keller, an MCA professor at CCNY who lives in Westchester. “I don’t want to minimize the importance of these events, but because of competition in the media, information is being blown out of proportion and creates unnecessary fear.”
Just before Hurricane Irene hit New York, weather analyst downgraded it to a tropical storm. Although New Yorkers feared the impact of the storm, many, like Keller, felt disappointed that Irene’s splash was “smaller than anticipated.”