Start Spreadin' The News, She's Heading This Way

Irene preparations 
No, Irene hasn't already passed through, just thousands of scared Americans.

An edited version of this article ran in Adelaide's Sunday Mail, Sunday, August 27. 

An earthquake and a hurricane hit New York City in the same week.

It sounds like the cheesy plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. But this was the very real storyline, of a very strange week, in the Big Apple.

Coverage of Irene, a dark force, rolling slowly towards the east coast of the US and promising untold devastation, began in earnest on Thursday afternoon.

It was, if reports were to be believed, a ticking time-bomb, packed with terrifying winds and as much as 8in (20 cm) of rain.

Tuesday’s earthquake was a Truman Show-style non-event, real only because we saw the TV coverage and read the papers the next day.  Would Irene be a fizzer, too? Nobody could say.

Authorities told people to get busy preparing. New Yorkers should prepare a “Go Bag” with important documents, non-perishable food items, water, a battery-powered radio, a “flashlight”. 

They also issued evacuation warnings to residents in low-lying coastal areas and “hurricane zones”.

According to the map, my 8th floor Manhattan apartment appeared not to be in the danger zone. Flooding was unlikely.  But maybe I should heed the warnings, just in case?
A colleague told me she planned to stock up food in case she was stuck inside the whole weekend. A good idea. 

After work, I headed to the nearest supermarket, where already there were scenes of ordered chaos.

The checkout lines were long, looping around the store as New Yorkers filled their baskets with bread, beans, tea, fruit and water. One guy grabbed a six pack of cheap beer. 

I liked his thinking. When all else fails, get drunk.

“The supermarket owners must be rubbing their hands together”, I thought. I felt somewhat silly about the whole thing, too.

Yet there I was, reaching for a couple of extra chewy bars as I stood waiting in line. 

The streets were heaving with people carrying bags of groceries as they headed home to gird themselves for Impending Doom.

By the end of my shopping trip, Irene had already exacted $80. Food $30. Torch $20. Radio $21. Batteries $5. Let’s leave the cost at that, ok, Irene?

On Friday morning I filled the bath with water and left for work.

The weather was glorious and warm. A hurricane? Really? The calm before the storm. By 1pm the air outside work would look brown and smoky.

I was watching the girl at the cafe make my morning coffee.

“Like, I really don’t feel prepared,” she said, scrunching up her nose before returning to the Dire Straits song she was singing.

“You hurricane proofed?” I asked as colleague and fellow Aussie Shannon rolled in to work.

“Well, I haven’t done anything, yet,” she said, clearly unperturbed. “I’ve got to take the BBQ off the balcony. I should probably get some DVDs. It will be such an anti-climax if it’s just… a rainstorm.”

Rose, at the next desk thought, the whole thing was a media circus.

“I think they’re, like, overdoing it, they’re scaring everybody,” she said, in her thick Noo Yawk accent. “It is what it is,” which wasn’t to say nothing at all, she stressed.
“New York City, I’m telling you, it’s gonna be a mess on Monday.”