Manhattan resident with local roots weathers the storm
It's Tuesday afternoon, and as Rachele Armstrong peered out the window from her fourth floor apartment in the upper west side of Manhattan, the sun eerily shone through the clouds, casting down light on empty streets. What would normally be a bustling day in the city of New York, with people walking and taxicabs visible on every corner, was now quiet, with only gusts of wind evident of Sandy's lingering effects.
Armstrong, who was raised in Sayre, Pa. and then Nichols, N.Y., relocated to the city several years ago following her graduation from Notre Dame high school in 2002 and then Ithaca College in 2006. Armstrong, like many other young residents in the city, resides in a modest apartment near Columbia with two other roommates, and her cat Frida.
And with residents affected over a span of nearly 1,000 miles in the northeast region, none was impacted more than the city of New York, and neighboring coastal areas of New Jersey and Maryland. But according to Armstrong, many knew how to prepare, since Hurricane Irene hit just last year. But in spite of this, Armstrong stated in an interview on Tuesday, this storm was much worse.
According to Armstrong, New York City's Mayor was reporting locally that half a million remained without power as a result of the storm, and much of the city's transit systems remained at a standstill on Tuesday.
In fact, when word hit that Hurricane Sandy was arriving to the northeast, Armstrong was in Philadelphia, Pa. visiting a friend. "I heard the subway was going to shut down on Sunday," said Armstrong, "so I hopped on an Amtrak and got back as soon as I could."
"It was madness in Philadelphia," Armstrong described, "everyone was trying to leave."
That was on Sunday, as threat of Sandy's arrival became imminent. But in spite of this, Armstrong stated that the subway commute from Penn Station to Manhattan was just like any other day. After that, she added, it was just a waiting game.
Ordered to remain indoors, Armstrong and one of her roommates, who teaches at New York University, hunkered down and began to weather the storm. Their third roommate found travel back to New York too difficult, and decided to remain in Albany.
Still, it was the waiting that created the unknowns in this storm. By Monday, the only news that was breaking, according to Armstrong, was that of a large crane that had flipped over and was dangling from a building approximately three miles from her apartment, and directly across from the building that Armstrong used to work in at Carnegie Hall, the place where she is still employed.
She recalled watching that story unfold, and described how many of the buildings surrounding the dangling crane needed to be evacuated to include the Parker Meridian, an exclusive Hotel located in Manhattan.
Armstrong explained that engineers were expected to arrive on Tuesday to attempt the retrieval of the crane, and that wind was hampering those efforts in previous days.
But on Monday evening, and following the news about the crane, the bad stuff, according to Armstrong, hit.
She recalled seeing some of the apartment windows taped securely in her building. Her street is quiet, she described, with only a few smaller trees. But it was the wind, that was deafening.
"It was more that we could hear it when it arrived," said Armstrong of Sandy. "We thought we heard windows break, but we're not sure," she added.
The wind was loud, she continued, and what used to be the sounds of vehicles and people walking was drowned out by the howling and whipping of the wind just outside her window. In fact, the only vehicles Armstrong could hear in the night were emergency vehicles.
Reports she heard compared these sounds, and the now stillness in the streets, to the response that occurred following 9-11. More specifically, the shutdown of tunnels and transportation.
"It is like a snow day without the snow," said Armstrong of the eerie stillness in the streets.
But on Tuesday, Armstrong was preparing to head out into the streets for the first time since she was ordered to remain in her apartment. But she won't be able to go far, she noted, as the transit systems were still shut down.
And then there was the concern, that followed, for her friends in the lower part of the city. One of her friends lived near Battery Park when the storm arrived, an area classified as an evacuation zone A, and hard hit with flooding.
According to Armstrong, her friend's fiancé will be staying at her physical therapy office, and her friend will be staying in Harlem. They are currently looking for a place to house their dog, Ellie, until they are able to return home.
And now, with her second hurricane under her belt, Irene and then Sandy, Armstrong ponders the events that have taken place over the last couple days in the city she calls home.
During both Irene, and then Sandy, Armstrong never lost power - but the storm still left its effects on her. "The mood here is disbelief," said Armstrong.
"Everything seems so surreal."
To assist where she can, Armstrong has told everyone she knows, "We have power, and we have tuna."
And for her, it is still a waiting game. Armstrong was scheduled to run in her first New York City Marathon this weekend. The marathon was scheduled to attract thousands for the 26.2 mile run from Staten Island to Central Park.
"It's my first one," she added, "so I'm just waiting."