Hurricane Sandy: an Englishman stranded in New York

Expert Opinion

Alan Newton, Global Supply Chain Director – EventCom Grass Roots shares his first-hand experience of Hurricane Sandy.

When a Halloween parade and a major sporting event are cancelled in the US, you know something serious has occurred. With the new winter storm now bringing snow to New York and grounding many more flights, I feel lucky to have returned home.  I was stranded in New York for additional 5-days more than my planned itinerary until finally arriving back at Heathrow on Tuesday 6th November, after what seemed like the longest 12-days in memory. 

Don’t get me wrong, New York is a great destination with plenty to see and do, but the usual humdrum and buzz of the city that never sleeps was brought to a grinding halt by Hurricane Sandy as it swept into town on Sunday 28th October 2012, demonstrating the brutal force of Mother Nature.  As storms go, it wasn’t the strongest to have hit the US mainland, but the combination of a full moon and various other meteorological factors made for a “perfect” storm leaving many areas devastated. 

Fallen trees, as pictured, where a very common sight around Manhattan and the whole Tri-State area.

In the aftermath of the storm, Manhattan was eerily quiet, with very few people walking the streets, only the odd taxi speeding along the streets and avenues, and an occasional Deli open for business.

The picture illustrates a lone figure crossing Madison Avenue at midday on the Tuesday following the storm, usually bustling with people and traffic.

Much of lower Manhattan was flooded due to the storm surge, with power outages across most neighbourhoods south of 37th Street.

Mobile communications were problematic as the networks experienced disruption, and internet connectivity was obviously also widely affected. Therefore, it was difficult for people to communicate and to retrieve vital news. Fortunately, I was located in a hotel in midtown east and despite mobile and internet disruptions, had power and news. This was to be my base for three working days as my colleagues, located throughout Connecticut, New Jersey, Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and Upper Manhattan, were unable to access the office due to transportation difficulties.

However, as only three of the team lost power, we were able to operate as usual remotely helping clients with cancelled meetings and assisting with the re-scheduling process. By Thursday, over 90 per cent of the team were able to struggle into the office, with one showing true spirit and determination enduring a three-hour journey from Brooklyn, despite her usual commute only being 20 minutes, such was the scale of disruption.   

One of the key tasks for the Thursday was relocating clients from their homes to hotel rooms as they were to remain without power during the Friday and over the weekend of the Marathon, which was belatedly cancelled. It was pretty much business as usual by Thursday afternoon and I was able to re-schedule my client meeting for the Friday, which was a great way to end a difficult week.

Some Marathon runners from Japan were not to be deterred by the cancellation to the marathon – donning fancy dress and taking an alternative route across 5th Avenue, and seen running around various parts of Manhattan

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