When I thought I might have to leave my house, I put on fishing waders over full-body, ninja-style long johns.
Early on, Sandy felt like just another adventure. I walked around most of the day taking pictures. I saw families filling sand bags on the beach. I saw a surfer/jet ski duo towing into waves that were double overhead. Then I went home, and that’s when Sandy punched me in the mouth.
The scariest thing was her speed. It had been windy and rainy all day on Oct. 29, but it felt manageable until just after 6. I took notes on what time things happened. I started getting text messages about people losing power in New Jersey and inland parts of New York at 5:40, so I decided to cook dinner before the lights went out. I started making food at 6:10. I live about 80 yards from the bay, so I went out and checked on it before I ate. At 6:20 the water was getting rowdy, but hadn’t breached the banks. I ate and went back outside, and by 6:27 the flood was over my front steps. In seven minutes the bay had advanced 240 feet and at least 10 inches in depth.
I knew the tide wasn’t going to recede until after 9, so I ran and moved my truck to the highest ground I could find — a sidewalk in front of a plumber’s shop. It nonetheless succumbed to saltwater poisoning five days later.
At no point during the storm did I think I was going to die. But as I returned from moving my truck, through rushing water now deeper than my waist, it occurred to me that I might have to spend the night on my roof, or floating somewhere over Lido Boulevard, my dog perched on the nose of my surfboard as I paddled furiously to stay local. That seemed like an extremely un-enticing way to pass an evening.
Since that moment, Sandy hasn’t stopped for me. The flood never gushed full on into my house, but she came right up to my doorstep. The water, just before the tide abated, was level with my living room floor, perhaps a little higher. If my world had been a cup of coffee at high tide, you would have taken a sip before lifting it off a table.