Source: Sherman Publications

Tales from Hurricane Irene
Former residents now living on East Coast endure storm

by Susan Bromley

August 31, 2011

The view from Beth Owen Canavan’s 14th floor Manhattan co-op, great to begin with, is even better after Hurricane Irene came through a week ago.

“All of the buildings and all the windows have been powerwashed, so the view out has never been so good,” she laughed Monday.

Canavan was feeling fortunate to have escaped unscathed less than two days after the storm pounded through New York City. Hurricane Irene made landfall Aug. 27 near Atlantic Beach, N.C. and tore a path up the East Coast, killing more than 30 people and causing millions of dollars’ worth of property damage.

“Thankfully, the outcome of the storm here was not as bad as predicted,” said the 1972 Brandon High School graduate, who has been a New York City resident for the past 27 years. “There are trees down, but it could have been so much worse, if the winds had been as strong as first predicted. There could have been tremendous devastation in this city that is so densely populated.” Canavan believes authorities did the right thing by exercising extreme caution. At noon last Saturday, the entire transportation system was shut down and businesses were forced to close, so people stayed out of the city, exactly what she believes should have happened. She described New York on Saturday as “quiet.”

The executive vice-president of Tiffany & Co., Canavan made the decision to close two Manhattan stores for the weekend, and Tiffany’s corporate offices were also closed.

At home in her high-rise, she taped the windows, closed the shades and drapes, and was up and down all night, looking out and watching the news.

“We were being pummeled,” said Canavan, who was not evacuated, unlike the financial district of lower Manhattan. “There were frightening winds and rains all Saturday night.”

Canavan and her husband also own a home in the Hamptons, on Long Island, which they were more anxious about, but neighbors have checked there and all is well.

On Monday, New York was back to business as usual.

“This morning, it’s a bright, beautiful, sunny day, and everything is open and we are moving forward,” she said. “All the bridges, tunnels, everything is open on time and running smoothly.”

Christine Fiedler, a 2008 Goodrich High School graduate who is a senior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., endured not only the hurricane, but also the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck four days prior on Aug. 23. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Richmond, Va., less than 70 miles from Fiedler.

“The earthquake was kind of funny... there was a lot of construction on campus and I thought maybe the construction was the reason for the building shaking,” she said, noting the tremor lasted for about 30 seconds. “I made a joke that maybe it was an earthquake and everyone laughed and then someone told us 20 minutes later it was.”

The next day, she and the other students started receiving the first of many warnings about the hurricane. She found one particular warning amusing.

“The university sent an e-mail titled ‘hurricane/earthquake,’ so it was sort of apocalyptic,” she said. “It had information about preparing for the hurricane and damage reports from the earthquake... It kind of seems a bit surreal for both to be happening at the same time.”

Being farther inland, she was not evacuated. On Saturday, she watched as what she described as ominous clouds rolled in.

“There was nothing until 2 p.m., then you could tell it was very severe weather— a ton of rain and really strong winds,” Fiedler said.

At the height of the storm in Baltimore, around 9 p.m., Fiedler went outside for a brief time.

“There were rivers in the streets, very poor drainage, lots of downed trees and branches,” she said. “The rain was almost vertical. A lot of people say it was overhyped, because they are from Florida or North Carolina, and they deal with it a lot more, but I think it was good that it was overhyped, to allow people to be prepared,” she said Monday. “It could have been more deadly, it’s good there was so much publicity and coverage. There’s no point in risking lives. There are still a few downed trees, and a lot of flooding in New England. Several students have to fly in, today is the first day of classes, and a lot of flights are delayed. A few professors are even stranded. It’s an unfortunate way to start the school year, but I’m sure they will be understanding.”