Woburn story comes face to face with Sandy, not SanDeE*

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Hurricane, Sandy, Storm, Woburn

A DPW horse was knocked over by wind at the Woburn Police Station during Hurricane Sandy. (DANIELLE MASTERSON, WOBURN PATCH)

In one of my favourite movies, L.A. Story, Steve Martin’s weatherman character Harris Telemacher goes on a date with a very young, pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker.

During this date, our protagonist remarks how refreshing it is to meet someone with a normal name, until she tells him that it’s spelled “SanDeE*”, not “Sandy”.

In a way, this little clip is relevant to the craziness of what happened to us.

Many people thought we were in some sort of mutant SanDeE*-type storm that ensured our deaths. The reality was that Hurricane Sandy, to us, in modest Woburn, Massachusetts, was not much more than just severe windy and wet weather, and the damage was relatively minimal in our area. Most of the damage was further south, in NYC, New Jersey, Philadelphia and so on. Boston and its environs escaped the worst of it.

Many also thought we in little Woburn – just north of Boston – were right smack in the eye of the storm. We weren’t. We did get a nasty flick from several of Sandy’s eyelashes through most of the afternoon and evening last night, however. One particular highlight took place while we were watching a movie in late afternoon, and we heard a CRRRRREAK outside across the street, and looked outside just in time to see a tree splinter in half as it blew over. This tree was easily a foot in diameter. We appreciated the power of the elements right then, and then went back to our movie.

This (former) tree was right across the street from us. People were lucky this thing didn’t fall on their house. (KEITH MACKENZIE PHOTO)

Most of Woburn, however, survived without too much hassle.

This Tuesday morning, there are a few streets blocked off because of downed trees and electrical wires, and one school remains closed. About two dozen trees in all came down, some larger, some smaller. No one hurt, no one dead, thank goodness for that.

Just one of the two dozen trees that came down in Woburn last night. This is a couple blocks from home. (KEITH MACKENZIE PHOTO)

When driving my wife to work this morning, I also noted that much of the brilliantly colourful fall foliage has now been reduced to spiny, bare trees and the streets now lined heavily with soggy autumn leaves.

It’s a ridiculously small price to pay, considering that in New York City, subways are flooded, and in New Jersey, entire towns are underwater. On the coast of New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, a nuclear plant waits anxiously for updates on its cooling system which is in danger of being drowned – worst-case scenario would see another Fukushima. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

And more than 7.5 million people were without power yesterday. Seventeen people lost their lives. It could be a week before power is restored to most residents. Depending on what afterlife awaits us, it’s debatable how long it’ll be before the fallen meet their loved ones again.

U.S. President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney have suspended their campaigns. Obama has declared a state of emergency in several U.S. states, including Massachusetts.

Many family members and friends have asked us via Facebook and email what it was like to be in the midst of Sandy’s wrath. All I can say is this: We are not the ideal witnesses. It did get pretty nasty out there, and at times, it did feel a little scary. But really, we only saw the edge of the storm.

I’ve been through several storms in my time in Vancouver. One was in December 2006, when winds ripped apart Stanley Park and took down a few cherished old trees. Another was when I was much younger; the rainfall was so dense, so heavy, that I took a coffee cup and held it outside in the rain to see how quickly it would fill up. It was full within seconds.

But I had never been through a storm like this one. In fact, I can probably say that I still haven’t been through a storm like this one. This YouTube clip will show you what it was like outside our window – it never really got much worse than this – not for us, anyway. We were pretty lucky.

Instead, let me close out with this little anecdote: The daily drive to my wife’s work takes us over a bridge that spans the massive, eight-lane Interstate 95. That bridge has chain-link fences along both sides lined with dozens of American flags.

And this morning, post-storm, I couldn’t help but notice with irony that all the flags were still there.

UPDATE: I’ve just learned the death toll from the hurricane is now at 38, and 8.2 million without power.

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