City at the Water's Edge: A Natural History of New York

By Betsy McCully | Go to book overview

10
Weathering

When the northeaster of 1992 hit, powerful winds pushed the waters of Lower New York Bay into the cul-de-sac created by western Long Island and New Jersey, forcing them to back up and flood shoreline communities. It was December 11, a night of astronomical significance as the earth, moon, sun, and planets lined up in a phenomenon known as Syzygy. Just two nights before, I had witnessed a spectacular lunar eclipse while crossing Sheepshead Bay on the wooden footbridge: the huge orb of the moon hung low in a clear black sky, the shadow of the earth projected on it, slowly swallowing the moon. On the day of December 10, the weather shifted, bringing rain and warm temperatures and high winds. That night, the wind grew so fierce it shook our house and tore off pieces of siding, which crashed down to our driveway with a loud metallic crackling, rousing my family out of bed. Still, we dismissed it as just another winter storm. The next morning, when we stepped outside, we were flabbergasted to see the ocean pouring over the esplanade wall, tossing huge boulders onto the street like beach balls, and coursing down the street like a river. It was white and wild and seething. It roared and hissed, pounding away at the sea wall. Water was pouring in everywhere: it sloshed over the Sheepshead Bay footbridge and overflowed into adjacent streets; it poured over sidewalks and lawns, and slithered down sloping driveways; and as the tide rose, the flood waters rose—one, two, three, four feet—stranding cars and pedestrians, inundating basements and garages. Homeowners stood on their stoops unable to go farther because water was lapping over their front steps. The sands of Brighton Beach and Coney Island disappeared under the waves that frothed and foamed under the boardwalk. The winds howled, ripping off roofs and branches, conspiring with the sea to pound the shore and bring piers and houses crashing down. Seawalls began to crumble and give way before the ocean's onslaught.

Several high tides came and went before the storm abated. Our house was spared but many others were flooded, wherever the water gathered and pooled. The seawall that protected our community held, but huge chunks

-146-

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City at the Water's Edge: A Natural History of New York
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction - Coming Home ix
  • 1: Bedrock New York 1
  • 2: The Teeming Shore 16
  • 3: At the Glacier's Edge 32
  • 4: Land of the Lenapes 45
  • 5: Staking Claim 62
  • 6: Muddied Waters 76
  • 7: Footprints 96
  • 8: Forests for Trees 111
  • 9: Urban Flyway 127
  • 10: Weathering 146
  • Notes 161
  • Index 177
  • About the Author 186
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