Boy it’s hot!! As I wrote this it was a steamy 96 degrees in New York City. The humidity made it feel like 105 according to the meteorologists. It sure felt like it. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking to yourself; ‘It’s summer in the city, deal with it!” But as a Brit who moved to NYC a few years ago and who is used to gentler cooler summers in England, the heat of summer in the US takes a lot of getting used to. I’ve been here for eight years now and I still can’t get used to summers like this. That’s not to say it can’t get hot in Merry Old England. It can get over a hundred degrees over there, but such heat is rare and usually short term.
Us Brits have a funny reputation for always complaining about the weather. (But when it rains as much as it does over there, can you blame us?) Weather is usually pretty dull in England. It rains. It shines. It gets overcast. Every now and then there’s a thunderstorm. In the winter you might get one or two inches of snow. (Which is usually enough to bring traffic to a standstill. God only knows what would happen if they ever got two feet of snow, which I’ve experienced in New York more than once.) But that’s about it.
Here in the US, you have to contend with hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, blizzards, Nor’easters, heatwaves, arctic outbreaks, severe thunderstorms. Every type of weather you can imagine. Did I leave anything out?
Just a year or two ago the Weatber Channel ran a show called It Could Happen Tomorrow about a hurricane running straight down New York Harbor. Well, last year it DID happen. Hurricane Sandy. A storm I will never forget. I live on Staten Island. Just three blocks from the water. I remember in the hours leading up to Sandy hitting land watching the water in the harbor get higher and higher. The night of the storm, that water came over the top, flooding all way the way up to the block I live on. I live in a road parallel to the water. The road that led up to my block was flooded. The water actually came up past my block. The only thing that saved our little road was a steep bump on the corner of the block. The water didn’t manage to crest that. All the streets around us were flooded for weeks. They also lost power for weeks. We only lost our power for one week and had no water damage. We were the lucky ones.
Throughout the storm I kept going out to check the water level. I got a huge shock when I saw a small yacht floating up the road, coming to a rest on the corner of our block. Not something I’ve ever seen before.
I got an even bigger shock when I went out the next morning for a walk around to see what the damage in the neighbourhood was. As I walked down the road leading to Mansion Avenue, the road that runs parallel right by the harbor’s edge, two boats were neatly lined up in the garden of a house. Initially I thought they were left there to protect them from the storm. I later learned they had floated there during the storm surge and ended up parked neatly in the garden, miraculously without damaging the property. Then I reached Mansion Avenue itself. The road was littered with hundreds of yachts all piled up all over the place, like toys that had been tossed around by a child having a temper tantrum. It’s impossible to excaggerate the scale of the destruction. Boats in driveways of houses, pressing against the walls. A store had a boat embedded in its window. A yacht laid across the hood of a car, Boats piled up on top of each other. Just boats everywhere you looked. A huge yacht was neatly pinned between a utility pole and the side of a popular restaurant. The devastation was mindboggling. It took months to straighten the mess out. The biggest tragedy is these scenes of destruction were repeated all along the northeast coast. Jersey Shore was hit hard. Large parts of Atlantic City was underwater. Parts of Queens were devastated. As were the coastal sections of Staten Island. It was the storm of a (hopefully) lifetime.
Right now we’re sweltering in a steambath of a heatwave. But I’m all too conscious that we are heading into another hurricane season. With Sandy last year and Irene the year before that, I’m hoping the east coast will be spared a direct hit this season. I hope the whole of the United States stays safe. Because you never know what’s waiting around the corner.
Us Brits may have a reputation for moaning about the weather, but you Americans have far greater reason to complain.