Social Media, Superstorm Sandy and I

As a still pretty recent transplant to the Bay Area, Facebook and Twitter kept me informed (and entertained) as a hurricane ravaged the mid-Atlantic.

Hope no one noticed, but I was a little distracted yesterday.

Superstorm Sandy barreled into New York City—my city—on Monday and brought a record-breaking surge not seen since 1821.

During the storm's peak at high tide about 8:35 p.m. local time, cars floated like boats in the Lower East Side and the Con Edison 14th Street substation caught fire. This caused a massive power outage upward to 39th Street, outside of the utility's original plan to confine outages to the very southern tip of Manhattan.

There was a devastating and overwhelming six-alarm fire that destroyed more than 80 homes in Breezy Point, Queens.

On the northern tip of Manhattan—where there was still light—my brother posted on Facebook at about 9 p.m.:

Chris Cruz: My building was built in 1903 or so...It totally was swaying at a point. #Sandy is such a bully!

Okay. I grew more worried.

Across the East River and near the Long Island Sound in Queens, my friend, photographer Michelle Kawka - who lives in Whitestone (near Bayside Patch) - started to chronicle her evening on Facebook:

  • 7 p.m. This wind is loud. It's like a roaring train.
  • 7 p.m. Lights are flickering.
  • 8 p.m. Cable went out.
  • 10 p.m. Cable is back, listening to Bloomberg murder the Spanish language again.

After morning breaks, she posted an update and the news was sobering:

  • 7 a.m. We are Ok in Queens, the Hamptons, not so much. uh oh... Don't know yet, but my mother was crying so not good, not good at all.

The damage assessment of her family's Hampton cottage:

Michelle Kawka: Aluminum siding ripped off the front, all decks on the property gone, the outdoor shower is gone, and water got into the cottage. However, the cottage still stands thanks to the hurricane bands that my parents put during the renovation 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, one of the deceased in Queens from the storm—Tony Laino—had attended Michelle's high school, Saint Francis Prep, and graduated in 2000. He died when a tree hit his house.

Throughout the emergency, Mayor Michael Bloomberg kept everyone informed, but had it not been for my friends I would have missed the REAL news:

Tate Carrera: Forgive me, but is anyone else finding that Bloomberg's signer is really entertaining?

Then, a few minutes later:

Tanya Amaro: Yo, the sign language lady is HYSTERICAL for those of us who do not understand WTF she's saying! I read: while at home in this storm, smack it up, flip it, RUB it down O NOOO ... lmao ... she's killing me ... i mean, she is really into it! she could've been nominated for a sign language Tony ... lol

"The Sign Language Lady," is Lydia Callis and she quickly became a phenom on Tumbler. NY Magazine featured a video of her.

On Twitter (correct spelling of her names is Callis):

@pickering_mp RT @BradThor: Hurricane Sandy’s Breakout Star: Mayor Bloomberg’s Sign Language Interpreter nymag.com/daily/intel/20… h/t @mfme

And as New Yorkers we cherish our first responders because we know—and they've shown us—that they'll put their lives on the line for us.

@joshgreenman Thank you a million times to the NYPD, the FDNY and all the other, less heralded responders.

Another demonstration of the true spirit of New Yorkers; the 1010WINS AM radio transmitter went dead because of the storm—NYC's version of KCBS— and 92.3 WNOW loaned its FM radio transmitter for broadcast. That's how I stayed informed on Internet radio.

Overall many friends just felt grateful that at least, in their neck of the woods, things weren't as bad as they could have been.

Francis Lora: There is a lot of rebuilding to do now in NYC after Hurricane Sandy... beginning with New Yorker confidence and the City's psyche ... Time to rebuild from the inside out! Time to do what we do best during these times - time for us all to come together and help.

He lives with his family in Inwood, my old neighborhood. A few miles south in Washington Heights:

Marlene Rijo: Humbled and immensely grateful. That pretty much sums up how I feel today. Praying for all those who lost their homes, family, etc. during this craze. #sandy

Sandy was crazy and while we won't forget, we can rebuild and heal.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl.

-Claudia Cruz


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Ellen Wheeler October 31, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Thanks for sharing this "you were there" perspective. This made for fascinating reading.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Thanks Ellen. My thoughts and prayers continue with my loved ones in the East, but I'm also focused on my new relationship here too. Definitely gut-wrenching not to be there. There are friends who still aren't online (just found out about those after I posted.)
Mitchell Murtoff October 31, 2012 at 01:59 PM
This is an excellent article Claudia. I agree with Ellen. The perspective in this article makes it stand out compared to other coverage by the media.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Thanks Mitch! I think what really stands out now is the SILENCE from those friends who still have no power. My roommate (who's also a NYer and was a former co-worker) spoke to a mutual friend yesterday. This friend lives in Howard Beach, Queens—so you can imagine if the word beach is in your name, your neighborhood didn't do very well. So this friend's basement and their cars were flooded. Plus all around their neighborhood boats are now on streets. Still so very sad. :-(
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 06:58 PM
This is from my cousin on Facebook: Omar Carvajal: Amazing the damage in NYC! Amazing! Toured some areas and man, I have never seen it this bad here in this area. Thank God this was just a Category 1 at landfall. I have been through Cat. 2 and 3 hurricanes and if this would have been a 2 or 3, I don't even want to think how much worse it would be. God bless all those affected, A LOT of people won't have anything for a loooong time. Time for us to get to work and help our fellow humans. Unfortunately something bad needs to happen for people to get into "helping and caring" mode so everything has a purpose but wow! My only advice to those who were spared is, PREPARE! As this is a small taste of things to come in the future. Peace to all!
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Today from a former co-worker: Suzette Lorenzana: Friends and family, we are well and currently still in Long Beach. Very spotty cell service and still no power. Leaving town today. Thank you for thoughts and well wishes. Life is precious. Never take it for granted. Photos and details will follow.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Trying to keep entertained if stuck indoors in their neighborhood, my college friend posts: Leevert Holmes: O'kay my Cabin Fever Audiophiles Crate Diggers. What songs do you think are appropriate for this storm? Any suggestions?
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Food trucks resume their importance in NYC foodie culture, and more so when all of lower Manhattan continues without power. Here's an aggregation of Twitter feeds: http://gothamist.com/2012/10/31/food_trucks_return_to_the_powerless.php
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Traffic into Manhattan has prompted Mayor Bloomberg to place HOV restrictions. This is from my friend earlier (QB is the Queensboro Bridge): Marisol Vazquez:I haven't seen this many people cross the QB bridge in ages!
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 09:41 PM
The reconstruction will take years: Kelly Barkley Mane: Heart is breaking for my loved ones so affected by the devastation in Breezy. house is standing but everything in it is destroyed.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Worried about traffic? How about gas? Leda Alvarez Matos: I heard that gas stations in Manhattan are running out of gas ..Oh lord...esto parece de pelicula, pero de terror!
Claudia Cruz (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Not only are people getting desperate, but also the rodent: Indrani Datta: "The well-fed rats will burrow beneath buildings under cover of night to establish new homes, sliding into holes as small as a half inch (1.3 centimeters)—the width of their skulls—even though their bodies can measure up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) long." How can a foot and a half long rat have a skull half an inch wide? Sounds like a snake. Have you NYers seen more pigeons and rats (and bugs) than usual? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121031-hurricane-sandy-new-york-rats-flooded-subway-weather-nation-science/
Claudia Cruz (Editor) November 01, 2012 at 05:52 AM
From a college buddy a little bit of joy after a lot of anguish: Sergio Zenteno: Going to bed so happy that my sister finally made it out of blackouted Westchester and is now at the family homestead. It's just us in the house right now but at least we can take care of one another, and she has warmth and hot food. It was so cool coming home after the "Carpooling Trip from Hell part 2" and having her already home waiting for me with baked ziti.
JL November 04, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I am trying to help get donations for the Laino family who not only lost a son and a brother, but also their home. Please open your heart and donate to this wonderful family going through an awful time http://www.gofundme.com/tonylaino


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