My trip back from Grand Cayman managed to fly me right over hurricane Sandy, leap-frogging the said storm and getting back to the UK safe and sound. I simply could not believe the news the following days as images of the impact of Sandy started to filter through the media. Many of the places I have worked or played from Delaware to the Jersey Shore and up to New York City, all were heavily impacted by this severe storm.
This past week I have been back in the USA, working in Philadelphia (at the University of Pennsylvania) and also in New York City (at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)), as these are both close research/field partners for my team and I. Philadelphia seems to have gotten through the wrath of Sandy relatively unscathed, but as I travelled north to New York...it was clear they had faired much worse. It seems that the media had not exaggerated the impact, as some might suggest they have with past storms. Last year I sat through hurricane Irene, when still working in Philadelphia, and other than very heavy rain, high winds and some local flooding, the storm (thankfully) did not live-up to the media-hype...Sandy however, was different.
Sat on my Amtrak train from 30th Street in Philly to Penn Station (NYC) the effects of the hurricane become more and more apparent as I traveled north into New Jersey. Entering Newark, I could clearly see vast roofs torn from the tops of skyscrapers, closer to ground many buildings offered a hagard look with doors hanging from their hinges, streets strewn with debris... the tell-tale signs of water damage and high winds. Many who had been without power for a week were now suffering a cold blast courtesy of an unforgiving Norwester. The East coast is more than used to such inclement winter storms, but not immediately following a hurricane. This was another cruel blow to the region.
As I walked toward the familier environs of the AMNH, torn-up tree-roots, felled branches and small drifts of snow made me realize how gentle the UK maritime climate is when compared to the USA. It is a sobering thought that geography plays a crucial role in the climatological hand that we might be dealt. Even the hallowed halls of the AMNH had taken a 'gentle' punch from Sandy. One of the curators had his window blown-in and his office walled 'gently' shunted outward...nothing moved in the office...just the window and the wall. When you see the thick, solid stone walls of the AMNH...it makes you think about the power of such storms. I just hope the meteorological deck has played its worst hand for some time and that the folks of the Eastern Seaboard get a chance to rebuild their homes and lives.