On Monday in lower Manhattan the weather is hovering at the “annoying” level of severity—as in, it is annoying to walk to Duane Reade while getting t-boned by wind tunnels. Police cars are lined up outside the evacuation center near my apartment, which is located inside a high school. A sign taped to the door says TAI CHI WILL BE POSTPONED UNTIL NEXT SUNDAY.
People have reacted differently to the impending Hurricane Sandy. Some are skeptical, citing the false alarm of Irene (the NYCHA buildings I can see from my house seem pretty well occupied). Some are skittish, filling bathtubs with water. Some are wearily apocalyptic. There are many emotional states with which to face a hurricane.
From a native West Coast perspective, this is all very weird. The signature West Coast calamity, after all, is the major earthquake, which everybody reacts to in exactly the same way (shock) because no one sees it coming. There’s zero opportunity for preemptive naysaying or performative readiness or even panic. There’s just the quake itself and then, immediately, the aftermath.
This second kind of disaster is obviously easier to bear. For one thing, dry disasters are less jarring than wet disasters. For another thing, earthquake scenarios are not conducive to finger-pointing in quite the same way that forecasted disasters (like hurricanes) are. You can’t accuse earthquake victims of negligent ill-preparedness or smug underestimating. As far as Man vs. Nature battles go, earthquakes have a pretty high degree of moral clarity about them. (We all know which team we’re on.)