Hurricane advice for a friend in Staten Island
August 27, 2011 1:57 AM   Subscribe

With Hurricane Irene approaching, what's the best course of action for someone still on the Staten Island shore?

I was chatting with a New Yorker I know who turns out to be quite out of the loop when it comes to the ongoing hurricane hysteria. Problem: they're currently on Staten Island, a block from the coast. They're in a three-story building (the bottom floor's a garage) described as "one of those houses that look like every other house within 4 blocks that people built just to make money out of cardboard." There's a row of houses separating them from the beach. They're actually in the mandatory evacuation zone, which apparently isn't all that mandatory...

It's currently just before 5:00 a.m. local time -- what should they be doing now? I understand Irene is currently weakening, and will be either a Category 1 or a strong tropical storm when it hits. But the storm surge will still be a problem that close to the water, right? Should they stock up on food, water, and other supplies now, or should they leave the area entirely? (Keep in mind -- they have a cat). What about last-minute storm preparation -- are broken windows or a damaged roof likely? And how quickly should they go about all this?

Any advice welcome, preferably ASAP.
posted by Rhaomi to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
See: Evacuation Zone Finder

Considering the hospital has been closed and evacuated for the first time in 150 years, I'd be planning to get out. I'd board windows, bring in all furniture, tie down anything that can become an outdoor projectile, and go, with the cat, to a friend or motel at a safe distance. (It is very easy to hide a cat in a motel, FWIW.)

In fact, I thought SI evacuation was mandatory; has that changed?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:45 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take the car(s), if any, to high ground so they aren't totaled by getting flooded. And stay with them. A "cardboard" house one block from the beach is not the place to be when the storm shovels 6 ... 8 ... 12 feet of water down to that end of the bay. I would guess that getting plywood for boarding the windows is not an option at this point (it usually sells out in a hurricane panic), so they should probably just gather a few of their key possessions and get well out of the 100 year flood plain--the sooner the better to arrange other accommodations and avoid traffic.

Maybe Irene turns out to be just a strong breeze, but you know, I am ...
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:29 AM on August 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Evacuation is mandatory but they don't have the resources to enforce it. Get out now. Transit stops at noon today.
posted by availablelight at 3:30 AM on August 27, 2011

The problem with 'mandatory' evacuations is that they don't actually go door-to-door and order everyone out of the area: they can and do TELL you to get the heck out, but they can't force you. Unfortunately, what this means is that those who stay are ON THEIR OWN: if a stayer has a heart attack or there's a fire or something? Sorry, there won't be any emergency personnel sent in to the rescue. As far as stocking up: aw c'mon, it's kinda late to be thinking of that! Stores will be either out of stuff from people stocking up over the last few days, and/or they'll be closed up entirely because the employees needed to secure the building & then evacuate themselves.

This thing is a monster --- yeah, it slowed a little, but that's pretty meaningless: Staten Island is gonna get hit, and probably hit BAD. Grab the cat, get in the car NOW and get the hell OUT of there! Do NOT delay another minute. (Are they aware that all NYC public transportation is shutting down soon? Did they think all those historic evacuation notices the last couple days were for fun or something?!? For God's sake, in Newport News they've moved an AIRCRAFT CARRIER out of the way --- do your friends think their near-sea-level 'cardboard' house is stronger and could handle a hurricane better than an entire humongeous aircraft carrier?!?)

Grab the cat and get out of there NOW!
posted by easily confused at 3:51 AM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Evacuate. NOW
posted by zia at 3:54 AM on August 27, 2011

Pets are welcome at NYC hurricane shelters. Evacuate now.
posted by decathecting at 4:47 AM on August 27, 2011

If, god forbid, your friend chooses to stay at home, then when the storm comes, she should find a room that's safe from flying glass. And she should move her car out from under that 150 y.o. oak tree that has been so patiently waiting for an excuse.

I might be going against the grain here to recommend that if your friend stays at home and hasn't been crushed to death or drowned when the storm hits, she do the following: wait until the eye of the storm passes overhead (looks like staten island might take a direct hit), then go outside. It will be AMAZING. One moment it will sound like the roof is trying to launch into outer-space, the next it will be utterly still. The atmospheric pressure will have dropped precipitously. The air will smell sweeter and more alive than it ever has before, yet there will be no people or other sounds of life. No car sounds, no singing birds, no barking dogs, nothing. No movement, not even a shimmy from the leaves that litter the street. Even colors will be different--everything will be bathed in a kind of eery greenish hue. For a number of minutes, it will seem like the neighborhood is in a complete vacuum.

Then, just as suddenly, the wind will pick up again, and with it the bending trees, bulging windows, and general tumult. Your friend's instinct will be to go back indoors. But she should stay outside as long as she can brave it, playing around in the wind, trying to stay upright (and taking care for flying debris).

I can recommend this from experience. As a teenager I went outside in the eye of a category 2/3 hurricane. It was So. Much. Fun.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 5:03 AM on August 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm in S.I. (born, raised, yada yada,) and have been in hurricanes and big storms here. Water will rise past Hylan Blvd. all along the South Shore. Your friend should get out.
posted by jara1953 at 5:30 AM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, get out. Move before ten or 11 -- the whole transit system shuts down at noon, and the last-minute rush will be RIDICULOUS.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 AM on August 27, 2011

I forgot to add: part of the reason they should leave is that ground-floor garage you mentioned. If it faces towards the ocean: the water will surge in, pounding the rear and side walls, and the whole house may collapse. If it faces away from the ocean: it'll catch the pullback from a surge, again pounding the rear and side walls, and again risking collapse. And no, closing the garage door will not make any difference, except perhaps to delay the inevitable a tiny bit.

Please ignore L'oeuvre Child's advice to stay. Staten Island will probably flood badly, and there won't BE any safe ground to stand on and play in the hurricane. (I speak as one who has gone through about a dozen of the things, and learned very early that a hurricane isn't some kind of game.)
posted by easily confused at 6:40 AM on August 27, 2011

Oh, jeez, the friend should leave the flood zone, no question about that. Hopefully she's already made arrangements.

But I still stand by my (conditional) statement, and would add that if the friend meets any grocers on her way out of town, she should deal sharply. If it were me I'd stock up on steak and ice cream.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 7:01 AM on August 27, 2011

Bit late to this, but Rhaomi, does your friend have the means to get out (sounds like he/she does)? If so, definitely evacuate! But if not, then yeah at the very least, get supplies in case of power outages.

If you think of it, Rhaomi, post an update. If your friend stays, it would be good to hear if he or she is okay (and what it's like during a hurricane, a block off the water on SI).
posted by torticat at 8:25 AM on August 27, 2011

She should leave now. Even if it is down graded to a Cat1, the storm surge is estimated to be equivalent to a Cat2 or 3. A block from the beach is NOT a good place to be.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2011

Nothing the thing about moving the car to high ground. Oh, yes!


posted by jbenben at 10:28 AM on August 27, 2011

The mayor said that while the evacuation of certain areas was mandatory, they weren't going to enforce the $500/90 days in jail penalty because honestly the police have more important things to do. So your friend can stay in the flood zone and drown if they want to. A row of houses from the beach is on the beach as far as either a Cat 1 or Cat 2 hurricane. Your friend is a suicidal fool.
posted by Splunge at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2011

People need to calm down. There will be flooding. There will be downed trees. There may be power and water outages. But houses are not going to be exploding. At this point, with the storm weakening, we've weathered stronger nor'easters - and without this complete hysteria. The best reason to leave is the likely lack of power and EMS.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:49 AM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ditto that she plan on trees falling. A 90-foot tree fell in my friend's yard in a hurricane (far inland, I'd add). Luckily it fell away from the house.
posted by salvia at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2011

Response by poster: Update: Despite the concerns, NY friend will be staying put for now, albeit with battened hatches, plenty of canned food, and a tolerance for sitting in the dark. The storm surge still sounds worrisome, even with the weakening of the hurricane, but I don't think it will be bad enough to knock down houses at this point. Thanks for all the advice, though -- here's hoping most of it turns out to be overblown.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:22 PM on August 27, 2011

"Overblown." Nice one!
posted by salvia at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2011

Believe me, I hope as much as anyone that all the precautions, all the evacuations and water-hoarding and grocery-stockpiling and flashlight & battery acquisitions, all turn out to be unnecessary. The problem is, when you get to the point that you KNOW a precaution would be useful, it's too late to do anything about it --- you're either ready, or you're not. If you did all the above and end up not needing to, that's fine: you'll be wanting groceries in the future anyway, and it's always good to have flashlights on hand.

I hope everything turns out well for your friend, and I hope the hurricane-related weather on Staten Island (and everywhere else!) IS 'overblown'!
posted by easily confused at 4:16 PM on August 27, 2011

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