Well, I have live-blogged election nights, WikiLeaks (for six months), MurdochGate and numerous other serious topics, so why not one of the most serious of all (for me, at this moment, if briefly), the approaching and fearsome Hurricane Irene? Man, you’d think that after a month of writing about nuclear issues related to my new Atomic Cover-Up book, that would have been enough doom and gloom for a while. But Mom Nature had other ideas.

I’ll do it here at least until the lights (inevitably) go out, with latest items added at the top with a time stamp (ET). This is meant to be one man’s saga, not a newsy blog with links. For the record: I live just outside a small village right on the Hudson, just a few miles north of New York City. The latest “tracking” of Irene’s path takes the center—I kid you not—directly over my town (see red line above). My home is on a hillside so the river does not threaten us the way it does many friends in the “river towns” below, but we get plenty of water coming down the hill and many tall and old trees overhead promise to do us harm. Also, the ground in the Northeast is already soaking from heavy rains. And the lights often go out here on my hillside even in casual rain and wind events.

So, away we go (but not literally, I hope). As Dylan put it, “Here comes the story of the hurricane…”


11:00 am Okay, the morning report. Up most of night, power still on, no water yet in basement, wind not too bad, sandbagging working. Slept from 4:30 to 7. Up to find still dry, wind not terrible, power on. Hour later water starts appearing in basement and keeps coming as rain continues. Get out the large wet/dry vac, only because power still on. Doesn’t work very well. Wife finds manual revealing we had let the filter in for dry use! Removed, now working well. Rain stopped completely right now, though large band could still swing around on the backside.

About 9 am when weather service announced that NYC got hit with only tropical storm not hurricane, as it had been downgraded just minutes before, a Weather Channel co-host actually said he felt a little let down, as now history would not note that NYC met hurricane.

No trees down that I can see but power out at least three towns in area, so maybe we got lucky (for once). Sigh of relief, although a tree could still knock out power any time. More later if that does not happen.

12:05 am Rain really picking up, wind not too bad twenty miles north of NYC. My son went out to help a friend sandbag. Cat loves all the new obstacles and arrangements downstairs. Jack and Coke on hand. Geraldo covering storm on Fox, and Ray Nagin guesting on MSNBC. What more could you want? See my song selection videos for the storm below.


9:00 The proverbial calm before the storm, at least chore-wise. Finished the sandbagging, but who knows, may have just directed water from most vulnerable spot on side of house to trouble spot #2. Then take out pizza for dinner. Taping up basement windows where water might sneak in. Surround furnace. Get some more stuff off the floor. Charge phone and Kindle. Took a well-deserved break and watched Friday Night Lights with wife. Now back to some final things, but not much to do now but hope. Could be up all night ready to bail. Expect power to go out but if no other wind damage will feel lucky. Flood in house another matter. See you soon, maybe.

5:00 Friend of son helping out, created a few more sandbags out of dirt and garbage bags, now getting some plywood. Already gave him in return a vinyl copy of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust that he wanted.

Lost track of latest projected path of storm—had hoped it would veer strongly east or west. Not liikely.

3:05 Just back from a quick trip for more sandbags (they had sand but no bags), a bottle of red wine, couple big packs of paper towels (for cleanup, though pathethic). Surprised that Home Depot parking lot not filled but inside discovered why: old guy at door greeted everyone with “no batteries, no generators, no sand, no bags,” etc. etc.) Did score a plastic window guard for basement window and couple pieces of plexiglass to cover those windows. Home for the home stretch….

1:00 And now the greatest storm music ever, the “storm” section of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony, from 1808 but decades ahead of its time.

12:50 Moved stuff off deck. Started putting stuff around the furnace to maybe protect it. Getting things off the floor in my office. Wifve made final trip to market and score the last flashlight in the country at a convenience store. Ordered a book for Kindle. Net sandbagging one side of house.

12:30 Obama at FEMA hdqtrs now. Bush, at start of Katrina, still playing air guitar in California.

11:20 Ha, fun line from Twitterer @agoodcuppa, observing that what I am doing is “Me, Myself and Irene.” Carrey on!

11:15 Wife calls around, still no flashlights to be had at half a dozen nearby stories includings giants Home Depot, BJs, Lowe’s. TV last night showed people waiting for hours for promised shipment of generators. Well, at least this time I have remembered to grind coffee beans, so I not suffer the way I did last time we lost power for five days.

11:10 For apt musical picks see below, more to come.

11:00 Sorry for late start! Fitful night sleep and then overslept—surely last time for awhile. Awoke to the expected scenes of CNN and Weather Channel reporters hip deep in water and battered by winds revealing “it looks bad here.” No kidding. The bad news: 11 am update has the hurricane remaining one all the way to New England, not weakening to tropical storm as some predicted. So I better get moving. Sand bags await.

12:27 am To close it out for tonight, this tweet from Andy Borowitz: “ ‘Prepare for the worst,’ President Obama said, adding, ‘I’m talking about Rick Perry.’ ” As for me, it’ll be Sandbagging Saturday.


11:10 Final musical pick for the night, “Good Night Irene,” a massive hit (thirteen weeks at #1) for Pete Seeger and the Weavers, with a testimonial for the author, the great Leadbelly.

11:05 Watching Weather Channel when the 11 pm “advisory” comes out. First, the good news (for me): new likely track for storm shifts a bit to the east of me, (and NYC), now a bit out on Long Island, so possibly less wind. The bad news: the left side of storm produces the most rain and we will get pounded.

10:45 Continuing our musical prelude, Jackson Browne way back in the day, “Before the Deluge.” Let the music keep our spirits high. Let our buildings keep our children dry.

10:40 Dreading news that District 9 has been evacuated.

10:25 Who’d thunk? Weather Channel humor. Video starring musclebound lead reporter Jim Cantore.

10:15 All NYC airports now closing at noon tomorrow. Jets-Giants game, already moved forward to Sat afternoon, pushed back to Monday. My town still in bullseye of storm track.

9:10 Another tune, Mr. Dylan’s tribute to Charlie Patton, “High Water.” Everywhere.

8:20 The first wall to collapse in the storm—the NYT pay wall. Times says it will leave wide open for all its extensive storm coverage…

7:20 In case you were wondering about nuke plants in the path of the storm (and I know you were), here is a full report, with my local favorite, Indian Point, making the list.

7:00 Recalling driving from Jersey to my hometown Niagara Falls with Sprignsteen in 1973 and hearing one of my teen faves, “Rhythm of the Rain,” on the all-night radio—and Brucie playing it that night as an encore at Niagara U.

6:30 Jeff Masters of Weather Underground fame (no, not that Weather Underground) with a new blog post that goes further than others in claiming weakening of storm—but if anything he raises higher alarm about coastal storm surge.

6:25 Most apt baseball nickname for today: one-year wonder Bob “Hurricane” Hazle.

6:20 Grilling on the deck final stress-free meal for awhile, roast chicken and corn. After this, as they say, the deluge.

5:10 Just got my first e-mail announcing an Irene Sale. Batteries? Generators? Cases of Pop-Tarts? No, it’s crappy furniture on Long Island, with the come-on: “Hurricane Irene Furniture Sale—Save Extra 10% For 48 Hours—Our Low Prices Will Blow You Away!”

5:00 Greatest hurricane song ever has to be Neil Young’s, of course. “I wanna love you / But I’m getting blown away.”

4:55 Weather Channel with some good news. A little more dry air getting into the curl of the hurricane (or whatever it is called) lending some hope that the “core” (still heading my way) will be less intense. Meanwhile, everyone in the Atlantic Coast and Northeast lives in a place called Cape Fear.

Enjoy the Weather Channel remotes from Asbury Park. Hopefully, everyone there really was born to run.

4:05 With chagrin we realize we have left a bag of groceries at the market with (among other things) batteries and peanut butter (impossible to do without if power goes out). At least Irene is remaining as a Category 2, giving us some hope that only two trees will fall over, not four.

Thinking of songs with “flood” in title, from Bruce’s “Lost in the Flood” to Dylan’s “Down in the Flood.” No, Bob, it’s not gonna be my fault.

3:35 Breaking: New season of Jersey Shore will be set in Jersey Shore, PA. Meanwhile, with any luck, warehouse holding Cheney’s books will be flooded and copies pulled out to sea….

3:30 Mike Smith, top meteorologist and author, just reported record traffic for his very useful blog, check it out.

3:20 Obama returning to D.C. early, by midnight tonight. If he flies over hurricane damage on Monday, hope he lands and does not just look, like Bushie. And not counting on Arabian horse guy to do a “heckuva job.”

3:05 A bit rueful, we discover that while we have plenty of batteries we are a bit short on flashlights. Calls to all the local hardware stores produce the expected result: not a single one left (perhaps in the entire tri-state area).

Weather Channel showing crowds tourists happily standing in line for the Statue of Liberty and no doubt dozens of other attractions, perhaps unaware that (1) the subways are being shut down at noon tomorrow, and (2) flights from all airports will probably cease a few hours later. A bit mystified by the noon subway closing, since the storm really not hitting until many hours later. Ought to be quite a crowd for the Mets at CitiField with no No. 7 train and the wind picking up…

2:20 pm Just back from a second round of acquiring sandbags. This is a first for me. I wasn’t even aware how heavy they were. Also, as my Google search showed, they seem to be most used (away from flood zones) as part of exercise and lifting programs now. So I got my workout for the day just piling them in wagon.

This morning I scored about fourteen filled bags from our town’s public works department (though the limit was twelve), and just got another fourteen from the village PW guys. Now we will have an attractive two-tone wall of sand: half green and half white. The village workers were still shoveling the sand (more like dirt) into the bags as I took some away. When I told them they could probably look forward to record overtime pay in the week ahead they agreed, with enthusiasm. That’s what tough economic times will do for you!

1:30 Back from a second supermarket run, this time with the wife and not the son. Can’t forget cat litter—not just for the cat, but a couple bags to use for extra sandbagging. Like everywhere, the D batteries are history in this county, though you can still score some Cs (for all the good it may do you). We did pick up some more AAAs for the emergency radio that my wife had the foresight to buy awhile back. It’s even Red Cross–approved, and if the batteries run down, there are solar panels and even a hand crank! All for forty bucks, I am told.

Note: We are preparing for the near-worst, meaning even if little damage, no power for a week. So picked up some packaged soy milk for coffee that does not require refrigeration. Also, about ten cans of soup and other canned good—fortunately, we have a gas stove, which we think we can light. Just in case: got another big bag of charcoal for the grill! Yesterday at the market three people were filling shopping carts with hundreds of cans of soup, perhaps for a community center, hospice or food bank.

It’s a misleadingly sunny day, and my son is off shooting a music video. The cliché about the calm before the storm never seem so apt.

Greg Mitchell’s latest book is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshime & Nagasaki and The Greatest Movie Never Made.