The summer holidays are about to end, and apparently this year's summer holidays are not among those holidays that prefer to end silently, fading into the last sunset of the last Sunday. No Sir! These holidays are about to end with a bang. Two bangs actually. An earthquake and a hurricane. And in the middle of New York City too!
It has been raining regularly for the last couple of weeks, and I have been enjoying it because I miss the Indian monsoon here. In fact, as I have noted here before, these thunderstorms are my favourite weather phenomenon here in the US because even with the double-paned windows of my climate-controlled room closed, thunder and lightning can make me sit up and take notice like nothing else can. I even went out in a thunderstorm one evening and took a picture of the Manhattan skyline. But even I was not prepared for a hurricane in the middle of New York City.
First there was the earthquake. I had just stuffed myself with free food from the international student orientation at the school and had settled down for an afternoon siesta in my lab chair when I felt dizzy. Before I could understand anything it was over, but then Facebook came alive with "Earthquake?" status updates. Later I learnt that people had run out of tall office buildings in Manhattan when the Richter Scale 5.9 earthquake hit.
But scary as it may sound, the earthquake was no match for what was in store for the weekend. Hurricane Irene is hitting New York City and the New Jersey coastline right now as I type this. For the first time in history, a partial evacuation of New York City has been ordered and the city that never sleeps may turn off its power. All airports of the city are closed. Public transit has been shut down in New York City and New Jersey, and parts of Maryland, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and Connecticut are affected as well. In fact the whole of north-eastern USA from South Carolina to Maine are under threat from Irene.
After repeated warnings from various sources regarding emergency-preparedness, I went to the supermarket to buy some ready-to-eat canned food this morning. The supermarket was crowded beyond what I had ever seen, and everybody was buying those canned foods. The most shocking sight was the bottled water isle - it was empty.
So here I am, sitting at home surrounded by candles and canned food, waiting for Irene to arrive. The situation can only be described as "Haate hurricane," a Bengali phrase which is so impossible to translate that I wrote a complete Bengali blog post on it. Now I better publish this before the storm hits and the internet goes away, although I have a real strong gut feeling that nothing worth mentioning will happen. Firstly, because the weather office is seldom right, and secondly, from what I have seen in these last three years, the Americans overreact to everything!