Stephen Foley: I was hoping for worse from Irene


To gauge the seriousness with which New Yorkers took the threat from Hurricane Irene, you need only look in the fridge.

This is, as you know, the city that never sleeps, which means you can normally be sure of getting a burger or a burrito at any time of the day or night. So it was rather unusual to be in the supermarket with a basket of food, assembling the building blocks for a few days of proper meals, with a crowd of similarly-startled Manhattanites, and with the city visibly shutting down around us. There is nothing like closing the subway system to paralyse the city, forcing restaurants and shops to shut their doors. Swaths of the city were deserted; we are social animals, New Yorkers. We are not meant to stay indoors. It was eerie out there.

Our fridge, typically containing little more than beer and wine and perhaps a block of cheese, is now teeming - and frankly, it is a little disappointing to find we won't need to hunker here for days after all.

The weather-beaten folks of the southern United States, living under the threat of hurricanes for five or six months every year, have watched us all with disgust, I would bet. Certainly, a lot of my friends decided that the best preparation for a big storm is to buy a case of wine and a week's worth of crisps and dips. You couldn't buy a torch for love nor money by the end of Friday, as we all discovered at the same moment that we were woefully unprepared for the power outages the authorities were telling us would be a near-certainty when Irene arrived.

Suddenly, it seemed we had chosen the wrong moment to move into a 12th floor corner apartment in the Financial District. The nice big windows seemed more of a curse, as the mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on television yet again to order residents to bring in all their outdoor furniture and construction site managers to tie down building materials. The good folks of the apartment opposite had lain down their outdoor heater and tucked their chairs under the patio table, but to my mind, and from my window, it was like looking out on a battery of Scud missiles.

More worrying, because it was more likely, was the threat of having the power cut. A storm surge in the East River or the Hudson could easily flood important electricity cables, and ConEd, the utility company, appeared trigger happy to shut off power as a precaution. The prospect of losing access to Facebook and Twitter is simply too horrifying to imagine, but it turns out that there are important things you can do to mitigate the awfulness. Saturday night, I got a jigsaw down from the shelf, and we discussed a hypothetical game of Monopoly. Darrell ground some coffee beans, deciding that stale coffee is preferable to his being completely uncaffeinated in the morning. I vouched for that judgment.

And then we filled the bath. In many Manhattan high-rises, the water supply relies on being pumped to the upper floors, so with the power down, we might need that bathful for drinking, washing and flushing.

After that, it was just a matter of retiring and waiting. The mayor, our daddy substitute for the past few days, had repeatedly urged us to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We certainly prepared for the worst - but I was hoping for something a little worse than the best. Too many cynics had predicted Irene would peter out or wander off to sea, leaving us with "drizzlepocalypse" or "Hurrilame Irene". I am not a veteran of the 2003 blackout, which cut power to the city, but my New Yorker friends speak so fondly of the camaraderie of that event, that I wanted a moment of my own. I'm still smarting from discovering we were in Zone C, just two blocks but a full two notches of danger away from the Zone A evacuation area of Lower Manhattan. "What zone are you?" was the first question anyone asked during Friday night's pre-apocalypse drinks, and I remain rather jealous of those who had the excuse to decamp for a fun sleepover with friends.

I'm happy the windows are intact, I'll grant you that, but it is with some sadness that I must now go and drain the bath. And put the dinner on.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Front Of House Team Member

£16500 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific