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November 16, 2012     Post 34
Storm winds

Sandy, not quite Lake Ontario's Perfect Storm-this time

The forecast for October 29 was unsettling to say the least. Storm warning in effect from 5 pm until Tuesday morning- north winds increasing to gales to forty knots. Waves building to 12 feet. Then, said the forecast, we would see storm force winds to 50 knots with possible gusts to 65 knots and waves building 16 to 21 feet. And, the National Weather Service warned, the unusual north to northeast direction could topple an unusual number of trees thanks to soggy soil and root structures adapted to prevailing westerlies. Localized flooding from a mini storm surge along the lake was possible, too.

Wow. Hang on to your hats. For sure the power will be out for a week we figured as we topped off the stash of one gallon jugs from the tap and hurried out to fill the gas can so we could run the generator. As we looked at Sandy's projected path it appeared that the storm center would pass almost directly over Wolcott. We decided to strip the winter covers off the boats lest they shred and flog and damage our boats or neighboring vessels. This thing really sounded bad. Especially if we got five inches of rain with it. The NY Canal system thought it sounded bad too. They officially closed the canal and drew the water down to protect the locks from the kind of horrendous flooding that caused so much damage during Irene last year.

As dusk settled Monday, the wind roared outside and the crash of a big ash tree going down across the driveway prompted nervous jokes about sleeping under the kitchen table. The lights went out as expected and about the time we were eating dinner, over on the other side of the lake in Toronto the wind ripped a Staples sign loose that slammed into and killed a woman walking near by. Down on the coast “Sara B's” old stamping grounds on the Nautical Mile were getting clobbered. A thirteen foot storm surge washed away most of Jones Beach's beach. I have to think that bar we heard about where the high tide routinely flooded the floor has to be gone now. The news said one bar down there burned. If “Sara B” had still resided in Freeport I imagine she might well have ended up sitting on someone's front porch Tues am. Or maybe even on a second floor balcony! Plenty of other boats ended up in yards. BOAT US reported over 65,000 boats damaged or destroyed as a preliminary estimate

It was bad on the coast- 8000 flights canceled, no bus train or subway service, power outages for millions, then during the worst of it, a fire broke out in the Rockaway area and burned a hundred houses. It must have seemed like Apocalypse Now that night. We, however, lucked out. Sandy didn't come in quite as strong or stay as long as expected. Hurricane Hazel back in October 1954 merged with a cold front and got a boost from that just as Sandy did. When it passed over Toronto it was with 90 plus mph winds and it dumped eight inches of rain on some of the already soggy metropolitan area. A gust recorded from Hazel in NYC exceeded 110 mph. Sandy killed one Toronto resident. Hazel killed more than 80 and flooded 4000 people out of their homes.

So we were lucky this time. Our lake was at a near record low level when the north winds came on strong, so there was almost no flooding and little erosion on the south shore. The winds weren't as strong as predicted either. Another 10 or 15 mph might have been a different story. After Hazel, A number of low lying flood plains in the Toronto area were declared off limits for re-development. Much of it was sensibly converted to park area. Thinking of the sea of houses and impermeable surfaces that covered the one time salt marsh where “Sara B” resided before we bought her one wonders what if any changes will be made in land use in the NY-NJ area. My guess is that the U.S. real estate industry is too powerful to be reined in. They'll rebuild down there until the next 100 year storm comes along. Wonder when that will be. Five more years? Meantime, unless things change it seems all but certain our own Perfect Storm is yet to come.

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