With the hurricane looming we were afraid Saturday would be a mass NYC exodus. We decided to leave for Woodstock late on Friday night to beat traffic. We got here at about 3 in the morning. When we woke we bought some basic groceries, and moved our emergency supplies from the garage on our property to our fancy rental house. A couple of V’s friends from the city asked to shelter with us as well. The rains began that evening, but it was generally very quiet.
Sunday morning around 4am power went out, causing the home security system to beep constantly. Unable to locate the code, we left a message for the owner, wrapped the box in make shift sound proofing and went back to bed. Before sunrise, the alarm added a new beep to let us know the phone lines were out as well.
At dawn I was able to walk to the edge of the property and receive a text from the owner with the alarm code. A little silence sure feels wonderful. It was still raining heavily and had been all night, but there was no wind.
The walk around the yard revealed a couple potential hazards. The small creek that runs beside the house was very close to overflowing. If the creek over flows, the driveway washes out. The creek normally passes into a culvert above the driveway, then waterfalls down a small ledge below the driveway, then disappears into second culvert and exits at the bottom of the lower yard. Now the creek was swelling almost over at the top, and under the driveway is was blasting out with such force it was missing the lower culvert altogether and flooding straight onto the lower yard.
Also, the rain gutters over the barn/art studio were blocked and a waterfall had formed directly in front of the door, causing water to hit hard and shoot under the door onto the nice hardwood flooring. The river that borders the property is normal a few inched shallow, mostly rocky outcroppings and stretches of sand. Its the kind you can hop across at the narrow parts without getting wet. Now it was a ragging orange, a hundred feet wide and carrying entire 100 year old trees in its torrent. On a normal day this might seem traumatic, but we were in the middle of a hurricane. I unclogged drains and stacked some rocks, and thought were doing quite well.
However, when Veronica woke she was insistent that we belonged back in NYC. The sense of coming catastrophe had brought up a lot of stuff for V, she was very emotionally volatile. (Remember we lost our house and everything in it back in April.) She had been unsettled and unhappy since Friday night, and had a “bad feeling” about being here. V’s bad feelings are hard to argue with.
At 1pm the rain just stopped. The air was suddenly still and the clouds began to break up. We heard that the city was mostly fine, but had no real details. We knew the roads were very bad. I felt it was better to stay and wait for solid news. V was still intent on leaving. I sent here to get more info while the rest of us started making food.
V went to the fire department. The fire department was in a frenzy, trees were down all over town, roads were getting blocked, and emergency lines were overloaded. They told her to stay at home, or go to the Olive town fire station nearby which had set up a flood shelter. But they said, “if you are going to leave, you needed to go right now.” Though the rains had stopped here, the valleys above were still spilling with storm water, the river was about to take the road, and when it did any exit would be impossible. They were preparing to evacuate the fire station.
So V returned to the house and we decided to do the least reasonable thing… leave our house (which was safely above the flood plain), head away from the Olive flood shelter, and drive instead to NYC 120 miles away. I killed all the breakers, sealed the windows and I left my generator running to pump out water collecting in the basement. We packed the two vehicles with 4 people, 3 dogs, and sandwiches, and we pulled onto Watson Hollow Road while the radio man announced a state of emergency, and relayed pleas from local authorities to stay off the roads.
It was becoming a beautiful day, the sun came out, and though the ground was soaked the air was light and dry. Trees were jammed on the riverbank like piled tinker toys, and the boiling orange water as feet from the road, but this road was passable. However, 28A was blocked… In both directions. So we tried County 3, then County 2, then smaller roads. In all of my life I have not seen more fallen trees, snapped power lines, and flooded roads, as I did that drive.
For 7 and a half hours, we wandered down, up, over and back, each road a hope and disappointment. All these roads were strangers, miles from our usual route, many too small to have names, most un-passable. Some were blocked by barricades or police. Most were open to test on our own, till bravery or fear made the final call. We slipped under trees, drove over power cables, wadded roads on foot before risking a vehicle. We passed lakes that had been farms, a hundred trees held only in place the power lines they leaned against. We saw cars that had attempted water too deep and now sat like glossy islands in the waterways.
We were almost to Pennsylvania when we reached New Jersey. We were exhausted when we reached New York City. The city was bone dry. It was only fashion envy that made the hipsters on our block long for V’s knee high galoshes. There wasn’t even water in the gutters.
We staggered upstairs and passed out. We were beat tired and felt foolish for attempting the drive, but at least we knew everything was safe, here and upstate. In the morning Chris called. He owns the house we rent in Woodstock. A neighbor called, heavy winds had hit after the rains. A big tree had dropped on the house.
And so we packed a new set of sandwiches and headed north. Much easier going this time. Most of 87 was open headed north, and we were the only people who wanted to head that way, traffic was a breeze. (see the picture of V and Niney)
The wind storms must have sounded like the end of days. Dozens of trees came down on the property. The lower yard is a sideways forest on top of a bog. The pool has been buried by birch trees. It was the largest white pine on the property that crushed the roof of the main house and most of the garden.
The interior of the house was remarkably untouched, nothing of ours was damaged. There is however a single 6″ hole in the living room ceiling. When the pine fell, a 6 foot long branch, about 5 inches in diameter, speared straight through the roof. It passed through the roof shingles, one layer of plywood, layers of baton, then one sheet of drywall, and came straight down, point first onto the couch.
If you and 3 friends were holed up with no power, no water, and no road, waiting out a heavy storm by candle light, where would you be sitting?