Thursday, November 01, 2012

My Sandy Experience

Hurricane Sandy / Image credit: NASA GOES Project
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey around 8 pm on October 29. Up until that point, things had been going as well as could be expected, with a lot of rain and wind, but not much damage. Around the time Sandy made landfall, trouble started with the electricity. First the lights started flickering, and then there were two or three momentary power drops — the lights would go off, my desk fan (to cool my laptop) would stop, and I'd lose my internet connection. Each time, the power was restored after about a minute. Then around 8:30 pm, the power went off for good. It was off until about 6 pm last night. A lot of nearby towns are still without power.

The good news is that I survived the storm with no injuries. So did my parents and sisters and everyone else I know that I've been able to contact so far. My house is still intact, and the water never got cut off. It also isn't 90°F, so life without electricity was a lot more bearable. I am so glad that the stove and hot water heater are both powered by natural gas and not electricity. There was surprisingly little flooding for a storm of this magnitude, at least in Central New Jersey. Low-lying areas were wet, and a few roads were flooded, but the main roads seemed to be open. The flooding was nothing like that during Irene and Floyd.

While there was little flooding, the wind was ferocious on October 29. It was the worst wind storm I can remember. Many trees and branches are down. I saw at least one car with a Silver Maple on top of it. Bradford Pears were massacred. One Gingko had its top ripped off and tossed on the ground beside it. Other trees took power lines with them, and some crashed through houses. Many trees in my birding patch were uprooted. The Norway Maples along the back fence of my yard lost a lot of limbs, including a big one that crushed the fence.

I feel very lucky because this could easily have been a lot worse, and there are still a lot of people that have no power or water or even homes in some cases.

I did a little bit of post-hurricane birding on Tuesday morning, once I had an idea of what the storm had caused. There was nothing rare at Donaldson Park, my one stop. The Chipping Sparrows I had seen on October 28 were still there, though reduced in number. There were hundreds of gulls, including 119 Laughing Gulls. These are almost certainly storm-blown birds since they rarely visit the site except during unusual weather patterns. I also saw a Peregrine Falcon and a Northern Harrier. The latter might be a storm-displaced bird, though it is hard to be certain. I have only seen one other harrier at the site as far as I can remember, and that was several years ago. The Peregrine, of course, is a local breeder.