Hurricane Michael just made landfall in New York. I’ll keep this short because the news is still unfolding, but I have to post something.
Michael officially made landfall over an hour ago. They were expecting a serious storm, so a lot of people made preparations, including emergency responders, National Guard, and so on. But they weren’t expecting a storm like this.
The intensity of the storm increased dramatically in the final hours before it made landfall. It also changed course, making a sharp turn to slam right into New York Harbor. They’ve taken many short-term and long-term measures to prepare for such storms, but there’s simply no preparing for something like this.
The results of the course change and intensification were disastrous. Michael hit just about the worst possible spot with maximum intensity. Grid power is out in much if not most of the city. There’s dramatic flooding radiating out from the harbor and running along the coasts. Subways, tunnels, and streets have been flooded, bringing everything to a hault.
When I started writing this, it was just me and Jess watching it all together on Jess’ tablet. But then she ran up and down the hall knocking on doors and telling everyone about the news. Now there are about a dozen people and growing in our apartment, all of us crowded around a single tablet. Ermete is setting up a small projector so that we can all watch it on a wall together. There’s a lot of discussion, but most of it is quiet and tense, talking in hushed tones and sharing moments of silence as we pore over live video and text feeds for the latest information. It will take days and weeks for the details to emerge, but we know that we’re witnessing something historic, something catastrophic, something that resonates with us so strongly that there are no words to express it.
New York City is underwater.
It won’t be permanent. The ground under New York City is very different than the pourous limestone under South Florida. They also have much better elevation in New York and have spent the past ten or fifteen years building walls, elevated parks, berms, flood barriers, and other protective features. Honestly, all of that may have saved the city. But nothing could spare it entirely from a direct hit by a Category 5 hurricane. Many people have died and many more have been displaced. It’s going to take months and probably even years for the city to recover.
But I worry about the recovery. The phrase “new normal” comes to mind. When I was growing up, they used that phrase all the time in discussions about global warming. Climate patterns are shifting dramatically due to human actions. It’s not just about the heat we’ve added to the atmosphere and water, as bad as that is. So many other complex changes have taken place as a result of that. Melting ice, sea level rise, acidic oceans, and major shifts in the once-stable circulation of air and water around the globe. It would take a climatology degree to explain the nuances, but the broad strokes picture is clear to everyone who’s not bought off by the fossil fuel industry. All of that disruption adds up to a climate that is fundamentally different than the one we evolved in. We’re still struggling to understand the finer points of this new climate. What used to be considered an extreme weather event a few years ago is now considered the “new normal”, a predictable part of our new climate patterns. And as I watch what’s happening in New York City right now, I can’t get that phrase out of my head.
New normal, new normal, new normal. Is this the new normal?
I need some fresh air now. I’m going to go up on the roof and stare out at the ocean for a while. I’ll write again soon.