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Hurricane Sandy: A Text-Message Conversation From The Heart Of The Action

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HURRICANE SANDY NEW JERSEY FLOODING
A member of the press takes a photo of a flooded street ahead of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie’s emergency declaration is shutting down the city’s casinos and 30,000 residents were ordered to evacuate. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) | Getty Images

This is a more or less complete transcript of the text-message conversation between me and my brother last night, as the Frankenstorm made landfall in New Jersey.

My brother, Tom, lives in Harrison, New Jersey, directly across the Passaic River from Newark. From his apartment, he has a view of the Newark skyline and the PATH train station that connects the area with New York City. Newark saw a major storm surge last night, with the Passaic overflowing into city streets. The PATH train network sustained major flooding. Here's my brother's eyewitness account, as he recounted it to me by smartphone, as I watched the storm unfold on TV in my apartment in Toronto.

7:19 p.m.

Tom: Lost power.

Me: How does it look out there? Send me a pic. Got an alternate way of recharging phone battery?

Tom: I have a car charger. Too dark for picture but it doesn't look that bad. Windy and I hear lots of sirens.

Me: Hmm, ok. I'll send you news updates as I get them.

Tom: Ok great.

Tom: Well I figure I just need to ride the rest of the night out. Tomorrow will be rain but storm should be heading upstate.

Me: Yeah. CNN reporting live from Battery Park. Water levels now at street level and not high tide yet. Lower Manhattan will flood. They still have power there. Surpsised you lost yours already. F**king New Jersey.

Tom: No surprise.

8:03 p.m.

Me: 2.2. million without power in 11 states. Massive flooding in Atlantic City - 9 foot surge. Battery Park now flooded.

Tom: Newark still has power. I can see across the river.

Me: Yeah I guess most people still have power. Eye of the storm just made landfall in southern NJ.

Tom: I hope they restore power soon.

Me: Apparently NJ has been losing power throughout the day, you weren't among the first.

Tom: They don't bury wires in NJ. NYC is all buried.

8:39 p.m.

Me: Hoboken mayor on phone on CNN. Says they've got live wires down in the water in four places in the city.

Tom: yeah my friend in Hoboken texted me they don't have power.

9:38 p.m.

Me: Not much new to report. 2.8 mln without power including 350k in NYC. 3 feet of snow in WV. How are you holding up?

Tom: Looks like Newark lost power.

Tom: 350k out of 8 million

Tom: Not bad

Me: Yeah. So far. What's the heating situation in your apartment?

Tom: It's not cold.

Tom: Can't cook or anything.

Me: 3 feet water on the NYSE floor. They just showed a still shot of a wall of water tearing through a PATH station. Didn't say which one.

Tom: It's hard to tell but it looks like the lot next to my building is flooded.

Me: Good thing you're on the third floor. But you may not be able to get to your car to recharge phone battery.

Tom: I think problem with lot is it has no storm sewers. Guess I'll see damage tomorrow.

10:19 p.m.

Tom: I think Hurricane Sandy is just the latest Obama stimulus measure. Jobs through reconstruction.

Me: Look on the bright side. You've almost certainly got the day off.

Tom: For sure. My office lost power and will be closed Tuesday.

10:43 p.m.

Tom: Somerset is flooded. First floor of parking garage is flooded.

Me: Wow. Looks like you're in the thick of it.

Me: What about people on the first floor of your building?

Tom: It's OK most of the water is going down Frank Rodgers Blvd.

Me: You might wake up tomorrow and find yourself living in a different county.

Me: Let's hope you're still close to a PATH station.

Tom: We'll see

Tom: I just went out

Tom: We are totally flooded.

Me: Is your car above the water?

Tom: it's on second floor so it's OK.

11:00 p.m.

Tom: I can't imagine the water going up to second floor

Me: Highly unlikely. It must already be pretty high to have gotten to you from the river.

Tom: It's crazy

Me: What's going on?

Tom: Basically all streets are flooded

Tom: I'm trapped

Tom: I did not expect this here.

Me: Nothing to do but ride it out. Obviously don't go anywhere. You've got food and water and you're in a brand new building so you're in as good shape as can be under the circumstances.

11:21 p.m.

Tom: There's burning smell in the air

Tom: I think the electric transformers blew out

Tom: Nearby

Me: There's footage of transformers blowing up in Manhattan. Pretty big fires.

Me: Sounds like maybe they should have given an evacuation order for your area.

Tom: Couple hours ago I got a call from the town informing which streets should be evacuated. Somerset wasn't on the list.

Me: Let's hope they know what they're doing.

Tom: Me too.

11:45 p.m.

Tom: There's probably 6 feet of water under the PATH train bridge.

Me: Holy s**t.

Me: You're going to be living in devastation for a while.

Tom: Wow a car just floated by.

Tom: I just have to make it to Saturday. Then I'm going to Berlin for a conference.

Me: I have not seen that anywhere -- cars floating by -- on the news. You are seeing some of the wildest stuff out there.

Tom: Just one

Tom: Well it looks like a car

Tom: Maybe it's a trailer

Tom: It's very dark

Me: Battery Park had close to a 14 foot surge tonight. That's probably on the scale of what you're seeing.

Tom: There will be a lot of lost cars in this town.

Me: Manhattan dark from 39th down.

Me: Insurers are about to have a bad quarter.

Me: 10 fatalities is the latest number I heard.

Me: 1 dead in Toronto. Woman got hit by flying sign. It's just rainy and cold here, with gusting wind. Worst is yet to come.

Tom: Yeah it's heading your way.

Me: No way will I get it as bad as you.

Me: Con Ed reports all time record outages for a single storm in NYC.

12:04 a.m.

Tom: Is the surge over? has Sandy passed NYC area?

Me: Worst of it is over on Long Island, CNN says. But prob not yet for NJ.

Tom: I thought maybe the Passaic would overflow. But I didn't expect Frank Rodgers Blvd. to become a tributary of it.

Me: Water receding in Atlantic City, says CNN jackass who's been standing in 2 feet of water for the past 6 hours.

Me: Something to tell your grandchildren. 'And that, kids, is the only time Newark was ever clean.'

Tom: Ha ha yeah.

Me: Center of storm now 10 mi southeast of Philly. So yeah the worst should have passed you.

12:15 a.m.

Me: Wonder how Alina and Chris are doing [relatives in Philadelphia].

Tom: Me too.

Me: They've got footage of Hoboken. It looks like Venice if Vencie was ugly.

Tom: OK water looks like it's receding.

Me: OK good.

12:34 a.m.

Tom: OK enough excitement for me.

Me: No doubt. Me too. I'm headed for bed. Stay safe.

Tom: U too. G'night.

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