Sierra Club
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

My First Evacuation

I lived in Rockaway Park NY for twelve years, and worked there for twenty two. The hospital I worked in was located 11/2 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, and several blocks from Jamaica Bay. locals would talk about a hurricane Donna in the ‘60’s, and how the Ocean met the bay, flooding the peninsula. It was the only time in recent memory.

Then, in 1991, there was a nor’easter. The water came up to the front doors of the hospital. There was no rain, just a surge. They were evacuating the people housed around the hospital in rafts. a few hours later it subsided, making for an interesting story, some list vehicles, but little else.

2011, Hurricane Irene. I have a large golden retriever, two cats, and live I block from the ocean, and one block from the bay. Yes, the peninsula is only three blocks wide. After carefully watching the Weather Channel, I decide to ride out the storm, though the mayor has called for a mandatory evacuation. The only one in my immediate area to do so. That should have been my second clue. the storm hit it’s full strength around two AM. As the windows rattled and the house shook, I feared I had made a desperate mistake, but of course it was too late. My animals and I made it through the scariest night of our lives.

2012, Hurricane Sandy. After my experience with Hurricane Irene, I decided to heed the warnings and evacuate my home. The locals once again thought nothing terrible would happen, as did I. I honestly felt that I was being alarmist , and that I would be home the next day. I went to my sister’s with the dog, left the cat because I didn’t think anything would really happen, and I didn’t want to carry a cat carrier, litter box, litter, and everything that goes with a cat. The storm hits. It is the storm of a century. we venture back two days later, to total devastation. All is lost in my first floor apartment, the water line is three feet up, the refrigerator is overturned, the large heavy couch moved across the living room. Shoe box from my bedroom was slung up against the very front of the house, three rooms away. We yell for the cat, no answer. I am devastated, as I have lost everything. When my cat was afraid, he used to crawl under the quilt on the bed, creating a lump, dead center in the middle of the bed. As my sister and I try to salvage any little bit we can, I turn and see the familiar lump in the bed. He had survived! There, in all this devastation was my cat, clean as a whistle, exept for his feet. A miracle.

The town will take years to come back. So many homes destroyed, businesses gutted. We ‘ve made many trips back with supplies in the last two weeks. Still no power, streets impassable, filled with sand, sections of boardwalk, cars floated into other cars. I am homeless and unemployed after working since the age of sixteen. I also broke my ankle in the aftermath. I am being shuttled to my sister’s house in Buffalo to heal, until I can get back on my feet literally and figuratively. If this is only the beginning of climate change, I can’t imagine what we’re in for.

"Beach 92nd St" by Dakine Kane