By Ochereome Nnanna reporting from London
I arrived New York City at exactly 9.30pm local time on Friday, October 26th 2012, and one of the exciting events waiting to unfold – quite apart from the presidential election of November 6th 2012 – is the impending arrival of powerful storm Sandy, a Category One hurricane.
It is an exciting experience for me because I have only seen such natural disasters as hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, earthquakes and the like on television.
Sandy has been building up for weeks, but I never really knew I was going to experience it personally. I thought it would have blown out before my arrival, but I was wrong.
By the time you are reading this story, we are likely to be cooped up indoors, here in Jamaica, New York City, where a friend of mine, Abbott, has a very lovely condo. His family lives here.
The hurricane warnings are being taken seriously by most people here in New York, much more than they did when Hurricane Irene was on its way in 2010.
Another friend, Leonard Ibeka, who works with the City Council as an investigator, will be moving in with his family as a precaution because they live in a flood-prone, low-lying area.
Even though Sandy is a Category One reinforced tropical storm, its severity is going to be boosted by a mid-latitude trough (a winter storm coming in from the West Coast) and an additional burst of arctic air moving in from Canada.
These will energise the hot air from the tropics and experts say the damage could be far more severe than Irene’s, which cost over $15 billion.
To add to all this is the presence of a full moon, which will exacerbate flooding in low-lying coastal areas in America’s North East.
Many states have since declared a state of emergency. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, has warned residents to stock up on food as from Sunday and keep out of open spaces and parks. Construction activities have been suspended.
On Saturday evening there was a great traffic nightmare on major roads around the city because of closure of tunnels, bridges and roads under construction.
It dampened the spirits of many young people who were in the middle of Halloween, one of America’s traditional festivals.
The oncoming Sandy has also affected both air and rail travel, as airlines have encouraged their customers who have booked flights to travel between Sunday and Tuesday to reschedule, while Amtrak, the most prominent train services provider in the northeast, has cancelled services.
I am hoping the coast will be clear by next weekend because part of my itinerary is to travel down to Washington DC by train and observe the election proper in the nation’s capital.
The federal government has mobilised more than 60,000 troops of the National Guard to assist in emergency services to the nine states that are lying in the path of the hurricane.
Americans are usually very stubborn when it comes to complying with government orders to evacuate voluntarily in the face of oncoming disasters, but since the devastating experiences of powerful hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Irene, few need persuading to take necessary precautions as we wait for Sandy to hit.