Friday, August 10, 2007

Tornado Hits Brooklyn

It touched down in Bay Ridge then bounced through Sunset Park and then Kensington, taking out trees on street after street as it made its way to die in Flatbush (where the Dodgers once played and many tornadoes seem to have died).

It seemed like the storm's path drew a line between me and Manhattan and I did not cross that line. It seemed like nobody within two miles of either side of the line was able to do much of anything.

We had been awoken by the sounds of the storm, and the sounds were magnificent, but I had misjudged its fury and wrath. I decided to go to work, because there seemed no reason to do otherwise. It was a Wednesday and I go to work on Wednesdays.

The air was particularly heavy with humidity, but the cloud cover seemed to make a bit of a breeze and the temperature wasn't too oppressive.

I greeted about the same number of neighbors that I greet each day on my walk, and the same amount of trash seemed to litter the street. The rain had stopped about an hour earlier and all the streets had drained. I did not know that a couple of blocks away there was havoc where trees had been uprooted, lawn furniture sent flying, and cars dented by swooshing debris. I didn't know that a few hours earlier, people had been wading through waist-deep water, escaping the MTA buses that had been stalled in the middle of their routes. I had no idea that the sounds that awoke us weren't just a thunderstorm.

I climbed the stairs to the platform and took my usual spot. There were a lot of people on the platform, indicating that a train hadn't arrived in quite some time. I waited. The others waited. More people arrived. It got more crowded.

A Fourth Avenue train, which does not run on this track, arrived on the opposite platform, making its way to South Brooklyn. This was not a good sign, and I assumed the Fourth Avenue subway had been flooded or lost signals or the such.

More people arrived. There had to be a thousand people on the platform with me.

I sent messages to work and home via blackberry, and I waited. My boss wrote back that she was walking the forty blocks from her home to the office. In a suit.

The sun came out and it was hot. I though about my boss walking down Third Avenue in a suit.

People on cell phones were sounding more frantic and angry. One woman nearby was talking in a worried and pleading tone to someone at her office. "But there are no trains coming," I heard her say. I wondered if she would lose her job because of this delay. She looked as though she could ill-afford to lose her job.

I answered all my emails. My wife wrote that the news was reporting major delays, and that she could not even get onto the MTA website. She wrote that there may have been a tornado. I thought that was a bit extreme. I wrote back that trains were traveling empty along the express track (which is inaccessible at my stop).

More people arrived on the platform.

Eventually a train arrived and opened its doors. I was right in front of the door when it opened. It was packed with people and it would be a real chore to get on. I let the panicky woman get on, then a man with a full beard and long hair dressed in a heavy black topcoat and a too-tight fedora, shoved his way towards the door. He grunted and whined as he pushed through the doors. He looked panicky and he helped make my decision to avoid this potential disaster. First, I did not want to be shoved in like a sardine, and second, he smelled and I did not want to be pushed against him. Another man in the same costume, looking mentally challenged and frightened began to push through the doors, too. There was simply no room for him. He parked himself right in front of me as he surrendered to the notion that he would not get on the train. He smelled, too.

The sun got hotter and the air got thicker.

People began to back-up away from the train doors and eventually they closed.

More people arrived.

Another empty train travelled along the express track.

I was on the platform for an hour and a half, before it became clear (as the sun got hotter) that insufficient subway cars would be available to transport the thousand people at my station to their destinations North of here.

A different man with a full beard, heavy black topcoat and fedora was yelling a anybody who would listen. Nobody paid him any mind. I thought, "the guys in these costumes must be really warm."

I read an email from the office explaining that at least three co-workers traveling from other boroughs were also unable to make any progress.

I wrote back that I would go home and call from there.

I was completely soaked in sweat. My clothes were wet.

I went home and watched the story unfold. No real answers were coming. Except that there were no subways.

I worked from home.

I am a fan of weather. I prefer it elsewhere.

Storm wallops NYC, crippling transit system

Brooklyn becomes Tornado Alley!

Tornado Hits Brooklyn; Subway Back in Service

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