The current situation in New York: The subways are closed; upon the Hozziner’s request, Zone A has been forced to evacuate; Broadway shows have been cancelled; Bloomberg, Christie, and Cuomo are hosting storm watch conferences; my door keeps slamming by itself, even while locked; and the quieter-than-ever city is no longer open for business. But, on the Internet, a hurricane in the age of social media is like one big collective party, except with the dangling possibility of disaster. And, since a year ago is not that long ago in our cyber-minds, numerous comparisons have been made between Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene.
Remember Irene? That $15 billion cyclone that made landfall just before Labor Day weekend last year? New York was up in arms then, too — it was the first time in history that the entire mass transit system of New York was completely shut down (the second being now
) and the Internet was freaking out then, too. I have a few vague memories from that weekend: near-riot lines at the Key Food on Avenue A, a viewing party of Apocalypse Now
in the darkness, a trip outside onto the streets of New York in the eye of the storm and an oddity in the city — absolute, 100 percent silence.
But, for Manhattanites, the storm was underwhelming. All this hype for what? A ton of rain and mediocre winds? Evacuation seemed silly once the storm was done and headlines that popped up the following days all blamed one thing: overhyping an event. With that in our minds, it’s only natural that we’d remind ourselves
that, since Irene wasn’t that bad, Sandy won’t be that bad. And that’s really silly. Here’s why:
1. Outside of Manhattan, Irene was pretty bad. Although Manhattanites love to think that the world past the Hudson and East Rivers is nonexistent, that close-mindedness detracts from reality. As mentioned before, Hurricane Irene landed the Eastern seaboard with $15 billion worth in damages. Places that got hit really bad: Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, the Bronx, Connecticut, New Jersey, upstate New York — basically everywhere that’s not Manhattan. I understand the idea that conducting a cost-benefit analysis of yourself is how one interprets the world and all that jazz, but just because you guys didn’t get hit as bad doesn’t mean you can act as if Irene didn’t happen at all.
2. Having one example to use as an argument doesn’t make any logical sense. In the field of comparative studies, one must keep in mind this truth: Every situation is different than the next. History repeats itself, apples and oranges, learn from your mistakes, etc. — comparison works well when you use it to make a educated conclusion about what happened and what could happen but still keep in mind the wide range of possibilities at hand. Except, to do this, you need more than two sets of evidence to work with. In other words, it seems nonsensical to say that, just because Irene didn’t play out according to our projections that one time, we can use that situation to make ultimatums about Sandy. They’re different storms — we know this because one’s named Sandy, and the other one was named Irene.
4. The authorities agree with me.
Even the people who tell us the weather are yelling: “GUYS! THIS ISN’T A JOKE!
” Here are a couple of key phrases being tossed around: “devastating and historic,” “once-in-a-lifetime storm,” “severity,” “Jesus Christ! Save us!” and “intensity we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century.” Shots have been fired. But, then again, what’s our credibility gap with meteorologists these days?
5. There’s a full moon out.
When Irene made landfall, there was a new moon
. The two extremes of the cycle have direct correlations with tides. Does this really mean anything? Probably. But let us not forget that it’s Halloween (or close to it). Drama factor? Check.
6. Why risk it? With all these aforementioned reasons, what we’re really trying to get at here is asking one main question to our readers: Why risk it? Are we so tied to hating hype and following trends that we will refuse to believe a storm (scratch that, three storms in one) will live up to Irene? Think of it as time well-spent with your thoughts. You’ll be holed up in your apartment for at least 36 hours (the subways are closed; you’re not going anywhere, buddy), so create some DIY projects for yourself if you really can’t handle hibernation. Those windows need boarding. Become MacGyver for a day.
Also, like we said, in the social media age, a hurricane is one big collective party. So for our tech-savvy readers, live-tweet the whole thing or follow Hurricane Sandy on Twitter. Or make a Sandy live-blog. Or Instagram the storm from your window (actually, don’t do that). Or just watch Apocalypse Now. Yes, do that.
Except, of course, the dangling possibility of disaster. So we cannot stress this again: Please, please be careful, readers. Sandy means business.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.