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Hurricanes and Jewels Don’t Mix

Posted by Yvonne Raley on


With much of Jersey City still without power 5 days after Sandy, the Holland Tunnel closed to regular traffic and NJ-NY Subway still draining, I have time to catch you up on the events.
By last Friday, it was pretty clear this storm would be a biggie.  Dutifully, I filled up my gas tank, my fridge, even my wallet, and loaded up on candles and batteries. But there still had to be time for jewels!  So on Sunday I chanced a trip to the JA show, one of the largest New York jewelry and gem shows before the holidays.  Armed with my check book two packages that had to be mailed, I reached the Javitt’s just when the show opened.  Reduced to one day because of the weather, the line was long, the mood rushed.  There was no indoor mailbox anywhere and outdoor ones struck me as risky, so I shoved the packages back into my purse and headed for gems. 
I had to get my shopping done quickly because the subway system was ordered to a halt by 7 p.m. and although I had brought my car, I anticipated traffic.  Selecting gems, on the other hand, takes time.  I only made it to three vendors, all from NY, and all of them concerned.  The JA show is very expensive to vend at; armored trucks transport the jewels to and from their location, setup takes hours.  One day is barely enough for vendors to break even, and there are no refunds for cancelled shows.  Worse yet, by 2 p.m. police and guards started walking the aisles, quietly announcing an early closing at 3 (so no panic would break out I assume).  I left at 2:30, but got stuck in traffic at the Holland Tunnel.  Clearly, enough Zone A evacuees were taking the situation seriously.
Back in NJ, I circled the blocks to find a street parking away from trees and power lines (there aren’t many, I discovered).  With my college closed due to the weather, I hunkered down and sorted through my new treasures.
Then emails about local evacuation started going around.  Everyone living on the waterfront in first or ground floor apartments had to be out by 7.a.m.  I live about half a mile inland, and on the 4th floor, but our street is at best 4 feet higher than the waterfront, so that meant a good chance the street could see flooding.  A driving ban was issued for the whole town, and a walking curfew put in place for the at risk areas.
By 5 p.m. Monday, boardwalk was already flooded.  By 8 p.m., water was pouring into the basements of the highrises behind it.  The evacuation pickup point for residents without cars - a McDonalds at the mall about 1/8 mile from here – flooded as well.  The wind was pounding.  My huge skylight no longer seemed very secure to me, not to mention the wooden roof deck right above ….
Newport Promenade Monday Late Afternoon (Lower Manhattan in the Background)
At 9:30 p.m., power went out.  Artificially calmed by 2 glasses of Montepulciano filled to the brim, I decided I might as well go to bed.  I lay awake a little while, hearing the wind howling through the trees.  The leak in my roof (some tiny hole I can’t seem to find), slowly dripped into the catch basin I set up in my living room.
I woke up at 7 a.m. to a slower drizzle of rain and slightly lighter winds.  Things looked ok outside, there was no flooding in the street.  The water was working, but electricity was still out.  So no tea, and no news from outside.  I texted family and friends that everything was fine.  The streets remained deserted through the morning.
By the early afternoon, I decided it was safe enough to poke around outside.  My car was still there and in good shape, though some others had been broken into during the night.  This is typical in my neighborhood even when the lights are on, and even though I live on a nice block.  Around the corner, the French wine store was open, sort of.   Candles were lit inside and coffee was brewing in the French Press.  The owners have a nearby restaurant, also without power, but they owned some gas powered camping cookers for outdoor parties.  So they made free crepes for anyone who came by: the eggs and milk will spoil, she said.  When I looked in on them again later on, there was a small crowd and people texted friends about the hot coffee.
After charging my phone in the car, I went on a walking tour.  On the waterfront, the boardwalk was ripped up and pushed into the grass.  Tourists from nearby hotels were taking photos, trampling down the police tape.  Police was busy elsewhere anyway.  There was lots of exchanging news about who got flooded, who didn’t.  The local Shoprite was running on generator power, with lines all the way out the door.  Free power strips inside had people charging up in crowds.  The rest of the town was totally dark. 
Parts of The Pavonia Promenade After the Storm
I made it over to the “Paulus Hook” area, from which you can see straight south to the Statue of Liberty.  Much of that area seemed intact though generators were running pumps everywhere.  But the apartments further west were hit badly, many flooded almost to street level.  My friend’s bakery, scheduled to open in November, in total shambles.  Furniture from basement apartments was sitting the street.  Two pizza places running on generators were open, again with long lines, as were two Halal stores, cash only, stores dark inside but selling down on what they had until sundown.
We were still in the dark Tuesday night, and my neighbor came upstairs; he couldn’t reach anyone in lower Manhattan because his cell (and their cell) wasn’t working.  AT&T cell towers were without power, and are still only working intermittently.  He used my Verizon phone, found out his office was closed, and we downed more red wine. 
At 2 a.m. I was woken up by bright lights in my bedroom.  I’d forgotten to turn those off when the power went out.  All must be back to normal in Jersey City, I thought, and went back to sleep.
Not so.  Today, Friday, the power is still out in much of Jersey City.  The mall is open, but many stores are closed.  Yesterday, only three restaurants in the food court had anything to serve, and again the lines were long.  The Shoprite is still chugging along, and my neighborhood store served coffee, tea and sandwiches all day Thursday until they ran out.  There won’t be any more deliveries until Saturday. 
On Wednesday I tried to get to a post office.  The main JC post office was closed due to lack of power, as was the one in the Heights.  So I drove all the way to Secaucus, which is a 15 minute drive if there’s no traffic.   This turned out to be a bad idea.  Most of the street lights were dead and the busy intersections directed only by brave cops, or no one at all.  You had to drive very carefully and traffic was bad.  At least the post office was open.  But I found out that the local sorting facility in Kearny was closed due to flooding in the area, so who knows where my packages are going.  Meanwhile, mail delivery in my area did not resume until Thursday.
On Wednesday there was a very limited farmer’s market in my local park.  One farmer came from South Jersey.  They had no power down there, but vegetables don't care about that sort of thing.  Then there were 3 local vendors with food, which got gobbled up quickly.  The farmer sold out of most of his goods.  And there were tons of kids trick or treating.  Word must have spread all around that this was the one and only place to get candy.  The adults were exchanging stories.  The back area of JC was getting restless, I heard from some residents.  That’s our poor part of town, and many residents there don’t have the money to prepare well.  Hoboken, which is a 20 minute walk away from me, is getting lots of well deserved attention, but we didn’t make the news.  Too much else going on I guess.
Meanwhile, getting to NY is a near impossibility.  Not that anything is going on at 47thStreet anyway.  I texted my setter who lives by the GW Bridge – my home phone is working but the lines are constantly overloaded, so you can’t get through.  Avo, the setter, had power but decided it was too much of a hassle to try to get to work.  The engraver made it in on foot (he emailed me), but he said not all exchanges were open.  My friend D., a gemstone dealer, made it from Long Island Thursday for the first.  It took him 4 hrs.  And there were no customers.  He stayed home today.
On Wednesday, I peeked into the windows of the now closed PATH train station, my local subway to NY.  It looked like it must have been a fish tank during the storm.  They were still pumping the water out as of Thursday.  So no way that will be working anytime soon.  The website has no information.  The Ferry port seemed deserted, with people milling about and just an old sign with times that might now be wrong.  There was an ad for a ferry app, but with most people without power, that’s not helpful.
For now, we’re all just sticking it out by staying local.  The driving ban remains in place at night.  I have everything I need – lucky me – all my immediate neighbors seem ok, and the friends I could reach are ok too but I’m worried about some that live further back, still without power.  We will see what next week will bring.  I will attempt a trip to NY on Tuesday.  The buses from JC Heights are working, though they are crowded.  So the trip will be cumbersome, but I have custom orders and my friends on 47th need work.  The jeweler who resizes my rings has nothing do.  My setter, the polisher, and D., none of them made any money this week, and few of them have any money set aside.  The economy in the last few years hasn’t allowed it.  They all work independently and without health or other insurance.  My Etsy shop has brought them a little bit of luck, and I don’t want it to run out.

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