Sunday, December 15, 2013
Manhattan Megastorm, Part 1: A Science Fiction Story
My name is Troy and I'm 12. Let me tell you about my experience when the super-hurricane hit New York City back in September, 2072.
My family first heard about the big hurricane on September 12. Some guy on TV said that a very large hurricane was heading north in the Atlantic Ocean, close to the eastern coast of the United States. Nobody knew where it would hit the land: maybe North Carolina, maybe Maryland, maybe even farther north.
On September 13 there were all kinds of “special reports” on TV. People were saying there was a fair chance the hurricane would hit New York City or Long Island. “Hey, it looks like I might get a 3-day weekend out of this – not bad,” I joked. But Dad knew too much about hurricanes to think this was funny.
Soon the TV guys started saying that the big storm was a “Category 5” hurricane, which is the biggest, meanest, windiest storm there is. Another guy said that the storm heading for us was a “superhurricane,” and that the earth had been getting more and more of those in recent years, because of global warming.
Dad got some extra food, and he bought a flashlight in case the power went out again. Mom came home early from work, and we sat in our apartment watching the path of the hurricane on TV. The satellite picture showed a gigantic white swirl, about as big as the state of Texas, heading right for our city. It was like this monster storm was thinking, “I love New York.”
Before long it got very rainy and windy outside. On the TV it said the gigantic hurricane was speeding right into New York City like a Metro North train.
Dad was upset. He knew that this could be trouble like this city had never seen before. He began to tell us that the flood walls around the city might be breached. They had built the huge flood walls at three places, one near the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. The flood walls were designed to keep the rising oceans from ever flooding New York City.
Dad was so busy worrying about those flood walls on the edges of the city that he failed to think enough about how to protect us right here in the apartment. He should have got a big thick roll of duct tape, and he should have taped up all our windows. But he didn’t think of that. Of course, it’s always easy to think of these things when you’re thinking about it a long time afterward.
Over the course of a few hours, the wind started howling louder and louder. We watched TV, and saw a bunch of talking heads on TV saying there would be winds of more than 100 miles an hour in New York City. They also said that the wind would be a lot worse the more floors up you were.
I thought it was kind of cool when I looked out the window, and saw a piece of paper floating by our window, being blown by the heavy winds. We were 6 stories high. A piece of paper could only get up to our apartment if the wind was blowing real hard.
Before long, more and more stuff started to float by our window: trash, paper, leaves, and lots of different things. The windows started to sway back and forth, as if an invisible giant was pushing them with his hand.
Foolishly we stood there by the window, watching the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of all the stuff swirling around outside our window. This was just plain dumb. We should have thrown everything out of the closet, and squeezed everyone in there. It would have been very boring, but it would have been safe.
Suddenly something hit the window very hard. I don’t know what it was. It happened too fast. But it smashed the glass in the window real hard. There was glass all over the floor of our apartment.
Dad asked, “Is everyone okay?” Quickly I said, “I’m okay.” But then I looked at my arm, and saw that I wasn’t okay. Several pieces of glass from the window had lodged in my arm. My arm was bleeding.
“Oh, no! You’re bleeding!” said Mom. She ran to get the first aid kit.
“This is too serious for us to handle ourselves,” Dad said. "We’ve got to get him to a hospital.”
“You can’t take him outside now!” screamed Mom. “It’s a hurricane out there.”
“I know it’s a hurricane,“ Dad said. “But he has a pretty serious cut, and his arteries won’t wait for the hurricane to pass. We’ve got to risk it. It’s only a short walk to the subway, and we’ll be safe once we get down there.”
“No, you’ll get hit by all that stuff flying around!” said Mom.
“Dad, I got an idea.” I said. “Why don’t we grab a couple of trash can lids from the trash room. We’ll use them like shields. They’ll protect us from the stuff that the wind is blowing around.”
Mom reluctantly agreed. Dad and I put on our coats, and left the apartment. Mom cried as we left. “Go inside the closet, you’ll be safe there,” Dad said to Mom as he left.
She was worried, and she would have been much more worried if she had known what was happening at this time in other parts of the city. That’s because at about the time that we left the apartment, the flood walls were bursting in several places around Manhattan. The flood walls had crumbled like a sand castle in a rising tide, just like Dad said they would. The storm surge had raised the sea level much higher, and the sea water was now pouring into the city, over and through the broken walls. A billion gallons of trouble started to race down the narrow streets of lower Manhattan.
Dad and I took the stairs down to the first floor, and grabbed some garbage can lids to protect us. We opened the glass doors, and started running outside. “Come on, it’s only a few blocks to the subway,” Dad said. We put the garbage can lids in front of our faces, to shield them from flying objects. It was hard to walk that way, because you couldn’t see straight in front of you.
We had to just look down at our feet to see where our next few steps were taking us. The wind was blowing all kinds of stuff all around us. It was the strongest wind I had ever felt.
At one point I felt myself being pulled away by the wind, but Dad grabbed my clothes, and pulled me back real hard. A few times I felt something banging real hard against the trash can lid I was using to shield my face.
We struggled onward, pushing against the howling winds. We reached the street where the subway entrance was. We thought all we had to do was push on for another 20 feet, and we would be safe.
“There’s the subway entrance,” Dad said. “Come on, just a little way further.”
We pushed forward, but with the howling wind it was like trying to walk ahead when a football linebacker is blocking you.
Then my Dad looked down the street, and saw the most terrifying thing he had ever seen.
It was a gigantic wall of water, racing down the narrow street we were on. We were about to be buried by a million gallons of water!
It was as if some hose the size of the Holland Tunnel had suddenly been turned on full blast. The water was rushing between the buildings on our right and left, and heading straight for us as fast as a car.
Dad had only an instant to act. He could either try to save himself, or try to save me. There was no time to save both of us. He chose to save me.
Looking to his left, he saw the building next to us had an awning. An awning is one of those metal things hanging above the front door of a building, which protects you from the rain if you stand right outside of the front door. Dad grabbed my hand, and yanked me toward the awning. He put his foot up on a big stone thing below the awning. Then, pushing with all his might, he lifted me up and threw me to the edge of the awning. “GET UP THERE!” he bellowed as loud as he could. I landed on the edge of the awning, but was able to scoot myself to a secure spot on top of it. The awning was held up by 2 metal chains, and I grabbed on to one of them.
Then I saw the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my life. I saw a million gallons of water smash into my father, and carry him away.
“Dad!” I screamed as the flood waters carried him away.
I watched in horror as the water dragged Dad down the stairs of the subway entrance we had almost reached. He disappeared from sight.
I stood there on the awning of the building, terrified. The water was slowly getting higher and higher. I hollered for help at the top of my lungs.
If Dad had wanted to save himself, he could have done it by climbing up to the awning himself, and leaving me behind. But he hadn’t thought about his safety. He put my life above his, and threw me up on the awning, even though he knew that it might cost him his life. That’s something I will always remember.
I later learned exactly what had happened to Dad. The flood waters had pushed him down the stairs of the subway entrance we had almost reached. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, he was near the little glass room where they sell the subway cards you need to get into the subway. The man in this fare booth had ran away when all the water poured down the stairs, and had left the door to the little room open. Trying to save himself, Dad had rushed into the booth and closed the door. But this wasn’t such a great idea. The flood waters quickly rose up, trapping Dad inside the little room. The subway station was completely submerged under water, and my Dad was trapped down there, in a little pocket of air inside the ticket booth.
Will young Troy be able to survive the Manhattan Megastorm? Will his father survive? See tomorrow's blog post to find out.