Hurricane Sandy Journey in Hoboken
The following is a recount of the challenging times a resident experienced during and after Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken. Those who didn’t get trapped or flooded will feel the pain from his tale. Very well done!
Hoboken Tale: Escape from Hurricane Sandy
By Matt Flachsenhaar
Storm water, runoff from the Hudson, raw sewage and oil and gas from submerged vehicles. Eight blocks of this thick, waist-high concoction lay between freedom and me. I stood on my stoop in my waders made of garbage bags and duct tape, and decided it was time.
In actuality, I didn’t make the decision. A previous night of electrical fires on my block the fire department was unable to access because of the storm, the crescendo of cars being totaled around me, managing 15 separate leaks in my walls and ceiling from between 1am and 4am, no power, a non-perishable food supply that contained only almond butter and potato chips, and a fledgling phone battery made the decision for me. An hour before curfew at 5pm on October 30th, I realized I couldn’t make it through another night of this.
I went into Bear Grylls mode. This was about survival. My car was on Washington Street – once I got there I could assess its damage.
I turned right out of my apartment and went down Madison Street to First Street with caution. My mind screamed, “turn back you idiot,” or maybe that was the guy in the window above me.
When I turned onto First Street I saw about 15 residents making the same journey as me. It looked like an army of swamp people descending on downtown Hoboken. I decided to follow the group – if one of them got electrocuted from a downed, live wire ahead of me, I’d turn back.
The first few blocks of the journey went… swimmingly. I talked to a couple residents on their stoops, fellow travelers, and even a few people who were out in the murky substance for “fun.” Growing up as a child in the 90’s, it felt a lot like the old PC game “‘Oregon Trail” (I hear there’s was a better life yonder Washington way). There was no caulking the wagon and floating it now, though – it was time to forge ahead.
Douchebag drivers are trouble in Hoboken
Around Grand Street is when trouble struck. A civilian SUV with four “bros” who looked more like pond scum than what I was walking in barreled down First Street at about 20 mph!
“Run for Cover!” I heard someone yell from the other side of the street. I made it a few steps up a stoop but others who ducked behind columns weren’t so lucky. As the truck, windows down and Hot 97 blasting, passed it left a wake, splashing up against walls, windows, and unfortunately, people.
With the unspeakable substance on their faces, my comrades decided to press on as I intentionally put a few more feet between us. I was walking as slowly as I could the entire time – who knew what was in the water to trip on and the LAST thing I could afford was to fall into THIS.
A block away from Garden Street, where the water had stopped, my homemade waders gave in. The water was knee-high at this point, and nothing stood between the concoction and my leg than a now-soaked layer of jean.
I emerged on the corner of Garden Street – safe and smelly. A nicely dressed man behind police barricades took my picture – I must have looked like a reject NAVY Seal. I sat on a bench to cut through my defunct waders and made it to my car.
My 1999 Chrysler Cyrus. The vehicle of over 150,000 miles, unlimited dings and a broken AC. The old bird started up perfectly, unlike the lot of half-submerged Audi’s and BMW’s I passed surely would.
Hoboken lessons from Hurricane Sandy
As I drove, I noticed Hoboken looked like a post-apocalyptic town. People walking around like normal, but the streets were dark, stores were boarded up, and nothing was open (save the 20 patron long line outside the only open liquor store).
The experience taught me two things: First, playing Fallout 3 has prepared me for the future. Second, the Southwest corner of Hoboken in particular is less prepared for an extreme storm than we all thought. We knew it was going to flood – we didn’t know it was going to turn into Venice.
As the frequency and severity of these storms increases, it’s clearer we all need to prepare better. We as citizens need to heed to all the warnings sent our way, and Hoboken as a city needs to figure out a way to drain the city more effectively – or at least pump it out once we’re submerged.
The shots of charging stations the next day were truly heartwarming. I love when a city acts like a neighborhood. We’re all in this together.
I think full-body rubber waders are going to be on my Christmas list, and I never intend to fish in them.