Belfast Telegraph

Big Apple displays its blitz spirit in the face of ferocity

By Billy Weir in New York

New York prides itself on being the city that never sleeps and it is getting none now as Hurricane Sandy hammers the Big Apple and entire US east coast.

As howling winds in the region of 85mph and lashing rains battered the windows of my hotel room, I joined millions of New Yorkers wondering just what Hurricane Sandy will bring before it is finished.

The streets 25 storeys below were all but deserted, but I am one of the lucky ones. My hotel is far enough uptown to shelter it from the lower end of Manhattan where thousands have been evacuated, while others were forced to brave things out with no electricity.

It was a similar story in other areas of this vast conurbation and in the neighbouring states that bore the early brunt of the storm but, just as this city showed during the horrors of 9/11, New Yorkers have a hardy resolve and the will to ensure that life goes on.

This is my first trip to NYC and having heard stories about the 100mph pace of life and the bumping and pushing on the streets and avenues, the truth was much stranger than the fiction.

The imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy meant that the hustle and bustle on the street was all but gone; the gaggles of tourists restricted to a bewildered trickle wondering just what to do and where to do it, and shops and restaurants either closed or making preparations to pull down the shutters.

Televisions in the Amsterdam Ale House off Manhattan's 76th Street, a stone's throw from where my other half and I are staying, were, unusually, not locked on sport —the weather was the main topic of conversation.

We arrived on Saturday evening when Hurricane Sandy was still something of a joke.

The subway, New York's underground train service, was stopped at 7pm on Sunday evening. NYPD officers stood in front of the doors sealed up with police ‘Do Not Cross' tape. Thousands of workers were told to stay at home, schools and colleges shut and all Broadway shows cancelled.

Those living in the lower levels of the city were being asked to evacuate to shelters and Mayor Michael Bloomberg was advising people to “stay hunkered in your home and have a sandwich”.

That was easier said than done.

The Fairways Market just across from our hotel on 74th Street was bunged to the gills and full of people panic buying and getting more and more frustrated.

While frustrations were simmering just beneath the surface, there was something akin to a ‘blitz spirit' among shoppers.

Confined to our hotel room, the only sounds from outside were the intermittent thump of wind on glass and the occasional haunting wail of a siren on empty streets.

Just what will be on those streets today no-one knows. For now, all we can do is hope.

Belfast Telegraph


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