People are writing me in distress asking how to find out if their relatives in Brooklyn are OK.
So, here are some thoughts if you have loved ones in Brooklyn and wish they'd call or email already.
- The chances are that your Brooklyn people are OK (even if their property isn't). Why? Well, most New Yorkers are. That's because NYC undertook an enormous evacuation process to get people out of risky situations.For instance, electricity was turned off in very expensive high rise apartment buildings in Williamsburg, as well as public housing developments in Coney Island, to "encourage" people to get off their duffs and out of the flood zone. There was a shut down of all transit before and during the storm, and if you didn't get the message to stay inside, then you'd have to have been deaf. Also, the weather was just terrible; nobody would really choose to venture out in that wind.
- Mobile communications are jammed, maybe: It would appear to be the case that mobile phone service into Brooklyn and possibly other parts of NYC has been affected by the storm. As of Tuesday evening, I can attest to the fact that people who have tried to reach my mobile aren't getting through, even though it is charged and umbilically attached to me.
- If you haven't heard from someone in Brooklyn, there's a good chance it's related to the temporary fact that they have no electricity (slightly under 10% of Brooklyn households are out of power), or that the aforementioned mobile phone service isn't functioning.
- Not only is power out in some sections, but the places where you'd go to plug in a dead phone or lap top were closed before, during and after the storm, too. For instance, public libraries are closed. So are campuses. Stores and cafes just began opening this afternoon. It's hard to get anywhere; some streets are closed off, it's not safe to bike, mass transit didn't start again till midday (and then just buses).
- If your Brooklyn person was evacuated, then they might have gone to a "hub" shelter, only to be relocated to one of the "spokes" of that hub. So they might have told you they were going, say, to a huge public school, but then end up in a satellite location. They're all about the same level of (dis)comfort. There are not a lot of public phones and no WiFi in these places; if you don't have a functioning phone it might be hard to make a call or send an email.
- Brooklyn residents who were hardest hit might have a lot on their plate: lost homes, cars, not be able to get to work. If they weren't ready for the storm, and live in a "Zone A" flood area (high risk for flooding) then they probably have a lot of things to do to begin to rebuild their lives. So give them time.
- Liquor stores in some neighborhoods were doing a darn brisk business before Hurricane Sandy hit, and some folks were having "hurricane parties." Maybe your Brooklyn person was partying hard.
- If something still seems fishy to you about not having heard from your Brooklyn contact, then call "311" which is New York City's all-purpose switchboard. Don't call 911 unless its an emergency. Tell the 311 operator what your concern is. If your Brooklyn person is 85, lives alone and has Alzheimers, they might refer you to an emergency number. If your Brooklyn person is 25, college educated and isn't always so good about calling home anyway, they might direct you otherwise.
- Above all, avoid the media hysteria and be patient. We love the media. But it can make you nuts. People from all over the world have seen horrific images of flooded highways, airports, tunnels and so on. I myself have heard from people in three or four countries in the past 12 hours, friends I haven't talked to in 6 months, all wanting to touch base. But this is not like September 11, 2001, when citizens raced to help; Hurricane Sandy has been dealt with by professionals: cops, firefighters, engineers, and so on. The media is essential in letting us know what's happening, but they also pick the most alarming and extreme photos to shoot around the globe. So your Brooklyn person, who's here and dealing with the actual day to day of things, might not be operating at the same level of whipped up intensity as, say, Wolf Blitzer.
In the event that your Brooklyn person has been affected: lost their home, car, job, or have a crisis (like a tree crashing on the car or roof), they'll need your support. So, keep trying, call a friend or someone else who might know them, and wait to hear from them.
Which reminds me, I haven't talked to my dear, dottering old father in law since this morning....