It's the first day of the worst storm to hit the northeast in over 70 years. This may, in fact, be worse than the Long Island Express of 1938 in that it will last for days, with all the concomitant flooding and wind damage that implies.
Up until just a moment ago, the wind hadn't been too bad. In fact, I waked out to to a bag of trash ahead of garbage pickup...yes, the Sanitation Department is on the job today, more on that later...and if I had no radar, no television, no weather service, I'd still know we were in for a spell of bad weather.
The few leaves left on the trees sizzle as the wind whips them around on their stems. The air is wet, a spray of sea and rain water. It hasn't started in full force, the rain, but you can sense there's a lot more to come.
The city has taken a really bizarre approach here: schools are closed, mass transit is shut down, and the bridges will be shut shortly (I think the threshold is sustained winds of 55 mph). Yet, Mayor Bloomberg (skewered so beautifully on Twitter by El Bloombito) has insisted that the city is open for business and the city workers should report to work.
Clearly, he refuses to make the same mistake Mayor Giuliani made when he closed the city for a storm and the workers were all "Hey! Paid day off?" and the mayor was all like, "Oops." I gues he figured he could charge it to their time banks but the unions fought him hard on this and so he backed down.
During the night, I could hear the few remaining freight trains make runs over the Hellgate Bridge. It's hard not to hear them. They sound like moaning wind gusts until they get right to the street I live on, and then I can hear the clickety tracks. When you're lying awake listening to the storm, your mind focuses.
The bridges are still open. I can hear empty trucks flying over them, trying to reposition on the mainland...Jersey or Connecticut...so they can earn a few bucks hauling loads away from the area. Or just trying to get someplace so they can make a quick get-away after the storm leaves.
I've grown up in city hurricanes going all the way back to Hazel, so I'm not scared. I know this won't be the worst storm to hit the city in terms of wind and rain intensity (Gloria in 1985 might get that honor) but the ancillary effects of the storm surge and the prolonged, nearly endless winds is something I've never experienced.
I walked out just at the tail end of Irene last year and took a small camera with me. I hope to do this today at some point. I'll wear a ski mask and helmet and double down on clothes. There's stories to be told in the weather.