For some New York families who defied the mandatory order to evacuate for Hurricane Sandy, staying behind posed few problems for them though one did get a front-row seat on the storm as it touched down in the city.
Two families profiled by NBC News ahead of Sandy’s arrival in New York on Monday night said they had power and water throughout the storm and afterward.
“If we hadn’t been looking out the windows or paying attention to news we never would have known anything had happened frankly,” said Nicholas Rennie, a 45-year-old literature professor who hunkered down with his wife, Claire Wladis, 34, and their 21-month-old-daughter, Iliana, in their 15th floor flat in lower Manhattan.
For others, the impact of the storm was without parallel in the densely populated tristate region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with its destructive winds, heavy flooding and raging fires. Farther afield, powerful gusts felled trees and knocked out power for up to 8.2 million residents across the eastern United States, while heavy snow made travel treacherous at higher elevations. Nationwide, at least 46 were confirmed dead of storm-related causes.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had ordered some 375,000 people living in low-lying areas to evacuate, though it was clear that many residents, like the Rennie-Wladis family, decided to stay put and take their chances.
Miranda Leitsinger / NBC News
Claire Wladis, 34, and her husband Nicholas Rennie, 45, look across the Hudson River to New Jersey on Monday
The family watched the surge of water creep up to their building, but from the east not the nearby Hudson River just to their west. It “looked like a pretty fast river moving north,” Rennie said late Tuesday, adding that the water eventually receded.
They also saw the storm moving across New Jersey. The only major inconvenience was their building turning off the elevators pre-emptively.
“We never imagined it would be for us such a non-event. We thought it would be much more dramatic,” he said, noting they were saddened by the misfortune of others who were more impacted by the storm.
Warning from politicians
Some politicians had taken a harsh tone in criticizing those who stayed behind. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday called residents who did not follow evacuation orders in his state “both stupid and selfish.” Bloomberg took a milder tack on Sunday, asking city dwellers to leave if ordered to do so as not to endanger rescue workers.
“We thought hard about the risks and the various disadvantages” of staying, Rennie said. “But I think, you know, there are cases where you also have to evaluate the risks of the alternatives and … prepare and so we did try to do that.”
One other effect of the storm is the couple is now housing Wladis’ sister, who did lose power in her lower east side Manhattan neighborhood. “She’s here with us and everybody’s fine,” he said. “We’re all packed in here.”
For the other couple, Annie Chambliss and Laz Benitez, one of the few inconveniences they reported was losing phone connectivity. Getting a clear phone signal in some parts of the tristate has been difficult after the storm.
“We never lost power and are shocked we got away virtually unscathed,” Benitez, 41, who works in public relations, wrote in an email. “We took a walk today (Tuesday) to the east side and looks a lot worse there. But we lucked out with the whole power thing. Just amazing.”
Rennie said his family was “very lucky.”
“I don’t want to convey any sense of satisfaction about this except just relief on our own behalf,” he said, adding that their “hearts really go out to” the storm victims.
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