The Hurricane That Never Came

We spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Hermine, which had battered Florida’s West Coast and was now pummeling the Carolinas.  It was not going to make a direct hit on Long Island, but there was a significant risk of flooding and high winds, so the Long Beach Animal Shelter, having learned the lessons of Sandy, essentially emptied out the shelter, sending the dogs and cats to temporary housing until the threat passed.

The reaction of Long Beach residents to Superstorm Sandy – or, rather, the lack of reaction – was in part based on what had happened the summer before, with Hurricane Irene.  This was the perfect illustration of the risk of over-preparation.  Some folks were decidedly affected by Irene.  My neighbor John, who lives in a basement apartment, was flooded and displaced for nearly a year, and by the time he was finally able to enjoy his brand new couch in his renovated living room, he was watching the weather reports saying Sandy was going to be the “storm of the century”.  For John, Irene was devastating, but for most of the rest of us, Irene was a whimper, a waste of good storm preparedness.  Darian and I evacuated at the recommendation of the City of Long Beach, despite not wanting to, and went to stay with my sister, who lives more toward the middle of Long Island.  Well, we lost power at my sister’s house (the outage lasted nearly two days), but when we returned to Long Beach the afternoon following the storm, the clocks on the microwave and cable boxes were steady and unblinking.  The power had not gone off at all, and not a drop of water had entered the house.

So when the doom-and-gloom predictions for Sandy came over the airwaves, I suspect that people didn’t take them all that seriously, given the sputtering storm that Irene turned out to be for most of us.  This may have explained why they didn’t evacuate the Long Beach Animal Shelter (which was not being managed by Posh Pets at the time), despite the shelter being located mere yards from the unprotected shore of the Reynolds Channel.  As a result, when the waters were rising at a shocking rate, the shelter manager and his son had to scramble for their lives and the lives of the animals under their care, getting everybody up to higher ground on shelves and cabinets until help could come the following morning, when the survivors were finally moved to a temporary shelter just over the bridge in Island Park, where they stayed for over six months.  Miraculously, only two animals – an elderly dog and a semi-feral elderly cat – were lost.  But the traumatic experience served as a valuable lesson to the current managers of the shelter (as well as some of us volunteers who have been around since then), so we cleared the facility.  My ex, who is now also volunteering there (it’s a family affair!), was down at the beach, taxing his back to fill sandbags to be placed at the back doors.  All but a few cats and dogs were parceled out to shelter employees, friends and fosters, and the director and one of the employees planned on staying the night on site.  I took one of the cats, Jordan, home with me.

Poor Jordan did not have a great couple of days, spending most of his time under my couch.  The first night, I could hear him making his way around the dark apartment, wailing.  I kept saying, “Shhh, Jordan!” (as if a cat understands what “shhh” means!), just waiting for the downstairs neighbor lady to start banging on her ceiling.  On Monday night he quit the mewling, but I did hear a single cat battle, even though, for the most part, the cats had largely ignored him the entire time.  (Only Gizmo had any interest at all, following Jordan around with his tail metronoming, like “Who’s this now?”, more curious than aggressive, but it put Jordan off, understandably).


Jordan is the terrorized black-and-white tuxedo in the middle, Munchie photo-bombing bottom right.

This morning, it took a bit of maneuvering to get him out from under the couch and into the carrier but I finally managed, and back to the shelter he went.  If I had been in my house, with the extra room where I could close him off from everyone else, I probably would have continued to foster him and allow him to get acclimated to the resident beasts gradually.  But there are just too many animals in too small a space for me to consider it right now.  Fostering again is one of the things I’m really looking forward to once we’re back home.

As it turned out, Hermine did not have the predicted effect.  Long Island residents were in prep mode from Saturday to Monday, and Labor Day weekend turned out sunny and beautiful, with very little breeze, although the seas were rougher than usual.  Experienced surfers – and there were MANY – were permitted to enter the churning waves, and the boardwalk was packed with lookie-loos as the beach itself was off-limits.  It was only today that the wind picked up and the skies turned gray, and we were expecting some evening showers.  But there was little, if any, damage from Hurricane Hermine, which is currently petering out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The water line never came up to the shelter, so they were spared without even needing the sandbags.  But the staff used the time of vacancy to give the place a seriously overdue scrubbing (which is impossible to do when it’s full of creatures), and it certainly served as kind of a drill for the NEXT TIME we get a serious storm warning – and we WILL, because, as I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before, PEOPLE SHOULD NOT LIVE ON BARRIER ISLANDS.  There was measured and well-planned activity as the staff and volunteers cleared the shelter, and not one ounce of panic.

But I worry that NEXT TIME may fall victim to the same mistrust of the officials (and don’t get me started on those meteorologists!) and doubt that affected the populace after Irene before Sandy rolled around:  “Well, we got all prepared for Hermine and it turned out to be nothing.  Maybe we could get away with not doing so much for this storm.”  As much as I tend to avoid thinking about disasters, having a plan is never a bad thing.  And now we all know what needs to be done with a few days’ notice and many hands making quick work of a potentially stressful situation.


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