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Weathering Sandy: Former Review reporter rides out storm in New York City

Winds, rain cause havoc in Big Apple


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Editor’s note: With the aftermath of superstorm Sandy continuing to pound the eastern portion of the United States, we caught up with former reporter Claire Oliver who is now attending graduate school in New York City. While more than 8 million people were without electricity across the region, the city was eerily quiet with virtually no car, train, subway or air transportation occuring. The death toll reached 62 by mid-day Wednesday. Here’s a report from New York city filed by Oliver.

When I started grad school at New York University this fall, I expected to have a lot of new experiences. Weathering “Frankenstorm” wasn’t one of them. Claire Oliver

Truthfully, I was pretty insulated from the worst of Hurricane Sandy. I live in a basement apartment of a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, about two blocks from the East River just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. All of the AP photos of a dark lower Manhattan were taken from the promenade at the end of my street. Our apartment wasn’t in a flood zone, but because of this proximity I decided to stay with a friend at her apartment near the NYU campus in Greenwich Village. 

For the past two days we’ve just been huddled inside, waiting to see what would happen. (Monday) night, when the storm made landfall, we were sheltered from the strongest gusts of wind.

Last night I could hear a bit (of the wind), but I kept expecting it to be worse. We were in a courtyard, so the wind was not as powerful as elsewhere.

We watched online as the crane dangled above midtown, as the building front collapsed on Eighth Avenue and as the water began to rise. Our power went out at 8:30 p.m., so we didn’t hear about the Con Edison plant explosion, the fires in Queens or the river of water on Wall Street until (Tuesday) morning. 

by: CLAIRE OLIVER - A closed-off Washington Square Park, the emptiest most people have seen it. We’ve woken up to no power, no water, no Internet and no cellphone service. When we walked outside, we didn’t know what we would find. There are branches down, flags are torn and Washington Square Park is closed, but we’ve been spared the worst of the damage.by: CLAIRE OLIVER - A downed tree takes a street sign with it in Washington Square Park.

Luckily, NYU’s student center has a generator, so we’ve been able to get free food, free WiFi and functioning bathrooms. There are rumors that the power in this area won’t be turned on for a week, and so I’m planning to make my way back to Brooklyn, although I’m not sure what I’ll find. Students here are all scrambling to find places to stay so I’m feeling a sense of urgency and, above all, extremely unsettled.

Honestly, I’m feeling more stress now that Hurricane Sandy is over. How will I complete my assignments? How will I make it to a job training on Friday? How will I get to school?

Of course these questions are unimportant in the long run, especially when I see the damaged homes lining the coast and the announcements that people have died. I’m thankful my experience has been more hassle-filled than dramatic.

With the subways down for the rest of the week, I’m sure the city will be at an odd standstill. I’ve only been here two and a half months, but I’ve already come to rely on its constant movement and accessibility. I don’t think anyone I know truly anticipated this damage. I’m thinking of everyone worse off in this city I’ve already come to love, and those all along the East Coast.

It’s an experience I definitely won’t forget.

This just in: Oliver made it back to her Brooklyn apartment later in the day Tuesday. She noted: “Everything is functional although the lights just flickered. It was eerie driving down Broadway through lower Manhattan, very empty.”

Claire Oliver was a reporter with the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings for several years before leaving this summer to attend graduate school at New York University in New York City.

Heading toward Sandy

A Lake Oswego resident is shutting down her local business for a time to participate in federal communication efforts following superstorm Sandy.

Etta Foster, a freelance graphic artist who operates Spot Design in Lake Oswego, is leaving her husband and two children behind today as she flies to New Jersey as a reservist with FEMA. Foster is part of a temporary workforce with FEMA, and this is her first-ever assignment.

Specifics on what she will be doing were not spelled out Tuesday prior to her departure. She knew that she would be flying today from PDX to Newark, N.J. From there, she will be driven to her assignment location somewhere inland — somewhere “high and dry” — from the New Jersey coast.

“It’s always sad to see things happen to people,” Foster said. “I am pleased that I am able to go and offer my services to help. It’s good for the soul to go help people and do what I can to help.”

Foster, a strategy and messaging specialist, said she would be working from a field office with a team of FEMA recruits creating materials for use following the superstorm.

“I’m not sure what job they will have me doing,” she said.

While recruits often end up living in tents, Foster has been told she will be assigned to a hotel that the government has contracted with for this group. The length of her deployment remains uncertain although she was told it could last “potentially” as long as a month.

“They need a broad swath of folks who do lots of different things,” she said about her upcoming journey.

Foster said she is hopeful for good weather on her Newark flight and landing and is looking forward to the work.

“FEMA is under the Homeland Security umbrella,” she said, so there are some aspects of her work that she felt unable to discuss. She does plan to stay in contact with her family in Lake Oswego through social media.



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