After Sandy: A Slow Return to Normalcy
Airports Open, Some Power Restored, Subways and Buses Running
For some, a sense of normalcy has begun to return to the Northeast. The cleanup continues, more people have power, and operations are starting resume at both John F. Kennedy International Airport as well as at LaGuardia.
The two airports were literally underwater after Hurricane Sandy struck earlier in the week. New York Governor Cuomo had previously gone on record saying that LaGuardia Airport would be closed indefinitely. While almost 20,000 flights had been cancelled since the weekend, and 2,899 flights had been cancelled just yesterday, only 572 flights had been reported as cancelled on Thursday as of 9 a.m.
In the early hours of Thursday, I arrived at JFK for a flight to Los Angeles on Delta expecting mass chaos. I had been unable to print my boarding pass at home so I expected lines out the door both at the check-in desks, kiosks, and security checkpoints. What I found as I entered the former Pan Am Worldport was a calm, almost serene scene. There was no one on line at the business-class check-in desk and the agent, who told me she still didn’t have power at home, was nonetheless cheerful.
With a boarding pass in hand, I wished the agent well and headed to the security checkpoint. There was one person in line and no wait time. The TSA agents were cheerful and friendly and greeting passengers, asking about how they had fared.
My flight was departing from Terminal 2 so I headed to the walkway and towards the Delta SkyClub near my gate. Two agents were on duty as I entered and one whom I recognized welcomed me and checked me in. She told me she hadn’t had power since the storm but she was doing all right and she clearly was happy to be at work instead of at home without power.
The club was quiet. On previous early morning flights, I’ve found it packed, but today there was just a sprinkling of travelers enjoying a bagel or muffin. Everyone seemed in a good mood to be travelling, based on what I overheard.
At the gate, my flight, which was oversold, had started to board. Everything was calm and orderly despite a full flight. Incredibly enough, we pushed back on time at 7 a.m. and there were only a few aircraft ahead of us for takeoff.
My experience, however, contrasts greatly with what my colleague Cody Burke reported after riding his bicycle through Red Hook in Brooklyn yesterday evening. Red Hook is one of the most impacted areas in New York City. The blocks were lined with shoulder high piles of trash, soggy mattresses, ruined clothing, and building debris. On one corner, a group of people stood around a campfire lit in an old oil drum. The hum of water pumps was everywhere, and huge hoses emerging from the front doors of the houses were spilling flood water out into the street.
In addition, traffic in Manhattan yesterday was pretty much gridlocked at every turn and, as contributing editor Henry Feintuch reported after driving in, there was simply no place to park. After 90 minutes of looking for a parking spot, he turned around and drove back to Westchester.
Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where an administrator described third-world like conditions following the failure of its backup power, was evacuated as was NYU Medical Center the day before for the same reason.