How to Prepare for a Hurricane in New York City: A Semi-Official Guide


Well, that earthquake yesterday kind of took us by surprise. Though, in retrospect, we wouldn’t have done it much differently, particularly as it only lasted about 10 seconds. Maybe we would have enjoyed it more, knowing what we do now, being something of an “earthquake expert.” (Shut it, California.) Maybe we would have been funnier. But there is a new thing to fear and anticipate mocking snarkily quite literally on the horizon, and that is…a possible hurricane. Hurricane Irene. How best to prepare for a hurricane in New York City? We will tell you.

First of all, dear New Yorkers, there is, in fact, a “Ready New York: Hurricanes and New York City” brochure available for download on the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s website. It has some important information, like how to develop a hurricane disaster plan and secure your home, and lists NYC hurricane evacuation zones. It is not very long, so we read it for you! Here are some of its highlights:

The Scary Part: In a major hurricane, storm surge could put some parts of New York City under more than 30 feet of water.

The Debatably Soothing Part: The New York City Office of Emergency Management works to ensure the city is prepared for coastal storms and hurricanes.

The Why a Hurricane Would Especially Suck in New York City Part: If you live in a high-rise building outside an evacuation zone, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor. If you live in a high-rise building located in an evacuation zone, heed evacuation orders. Know where you should go. The middle of Queens is lovely this time of year.

The Inevitable Part About the Go-Bag: Yeah, so, if you’re prepared enough to have a go-bag or know what one is you’re probably way ahead of us. But if you want to make one — and it’s suggested that you do, so you don’t run around grabbing things like your computer and an apple and one sock and then running out the door — it’s also suggested that it include things like granola bars, important documents, your keys, money and credit cards, a flashlight, a radio (like you have one of those) and batteries, medicine, stuff for your kids if you have kids, water, and a potato clock. Not really the potato clock, that’s just our suggestion, so you know what time it is.

The Remaining Parts That Feel Like Stuff You Should Know:

• Remember, a Watch is different than a Warning. A Watch means, we’re watching for it, but it’s not happening yet, a/k/a, there is a threat. A Warning means, holy hell, it’s coming. Quick, get your apple and your favorite sock!

• “Hurricane conditions” mean winds of 74 mph or higher and/or dangerously high tides or waves. Irene right now is a category 3, as it heads to the Carolinas. It may be “the most powerful hurricane to strike the East Coast of the United States in years.” Eeek! It’s expected to reach New York as something between a category 2 and a category 1 over the weekend. That means it will have winds between 100 and 80 miles per hour. Weather will be terrible.

• What’s an evacuation zone? This means, you should evacuate. How do you know if you’re in one? Check, or call 311, or download the map here. This is where waterfront property, especially in Manhattan, and, say, the Hamptons, becomes something of a detriment. See also: Middle of Queens. Who’s laughing at whom, now?

What the Guide Doesn’t Tell You, Exactly:

• Weather’s going to start getting crappy tomorrow night.

Stock up on your favorite booze(s), a supply of cash in case ATMs don’t work, or you can’t get to them, plus cash is just good to have, says Mom, and at least one yellow rain slicker so you can wear it while raising your fist to the sky in the driving rain and shouting, “Come and get me, mother fucker, I dare you!” (If you feel up to it.)

• Charge your cell phone. But it probably won’t work in an emergency, as we learned yesterday, mostly because everyone will be calling everyone. Invite your friends over and get drunk instead. Unless you live in a high-rise building above the 10th floor. Find some friends downstairs.

• Take a moment to employ the tagline from the 1979 movie Hurricane, “There is only one safe place… in each other’s arms.”

• Back up your computer. Why? Because we’ve been being told to do this for years and in a hurricane you might actually have time to do it.

Get some canned goods, and maybe some milk and bread. We’re not really sure why, but this seems to be what you’re supposed to eat in a hurricane.

• Take your weathervane off the roof. And your pool chairs or whatever, if you’re a jerk with a pool. Bring stuff inside, and weigh down stuff that you can’t bring inside so it doesn’t fly away and/or hit somebody in the head.

• Play “Come on Eileen,” over and over again, until someone points out — rudely, we might add — that the hurricane is named Irene. Semantics!

• Have your hurricane factoids handy!

Since 1851, there have only been 5 hurricanes that passed within 75 miles of New York City.

The last hurricane to do that was Hurricane Gloria, 26 years ago.

In the 1800s, hurricanes weren’t even given names!

Why do we name hurricanes, anyway?

A hurricane is also a drink! And a man! And a Bob Dylan song! And a ringtone! And a bong!

• Prepare for the inevitable next (sigh) Internet sensation: Hurricaning.

• While you’re on the Internet, take a moment to “like” The Weather Channel’s Dr. Rick Knabb on Facebook. Dude will tell you what’s up.

Note: Hurricanes are crafty, capricious, and inexplicable. None of this might happen! Some of it could! In any case, the canned goods, booze, and poncho aren’t going to go bad, nor will your newfound friendship with Dr. Rick Knabb (we don’t think?). And your stock of hurricane trivia will be a force to fall back on at cocktail parties long after the threat of a hurricane passes. Trust us.