Hurricane Sandy Power Outage in NYC

On Friday morning I took a walk through parts of lower Manhattan to document a bit of the downtown area, where power has been out for several days. Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast coast of the US, creating a massive storm surge that flooded much of the New Jersey coast, Staten Island, parts of Brooklyn and Queens, Hoboken and Jersey City, and lower Manhattan. What a mess. This was the scene at 26th and Broadway, a few blocks up from the Flatiron building. There was a definite division between the part of Manhattan with power and the part without. Even in daylight, the buildings looked dark. You can see a policeman stationed at the intersection to facilitate cars and pedestrians crossing: all the streetlights below 26th Street were out.

 This was a common scene at the edge of the power outage – a crowd gathers around a 7-Eleven store at 26th St. and 5th Avenue to charge up their cell phones, i-pads, etc. Many businesses put out power strips for people to use. My father-in-law Bernie was with me while I was drawing this, and he wanted to know why everyone was wearing black? It made me laugh, “just the style downtown” I told him. Some things never change.


There were many buildings with signs like this: BUILDING CLOSED. Try to look into the lobbies, and the dark starts at about two feet from the glass door. It’s a very strange sight to see the bustling downtown area locked down and deserted on a Friday morning. Usually you have to keep your wits about you just to avoid being hit by a car, bus, bicycle, or pedestrian texting and walking at the same time.

I know that many areas of our city – Breezy Point and Staten Island come to mind – were hit much more severely by Hurricane Sandy, but it is so strange to see the effect she had on Manhattan. Manhattanites are so used to think of their island as an impenetrable fortress – this belief cracked in half on September 11, 2001, and now Hurricane Sandy has swept any remaining remnants of that thought out to sea.

Still, New Yorkers are a tough breed and will bounce back with their determination, humor, and fiercely proud cynical spirit!

To the right, below,  is the corner shop window of Fish’s Eddy, on 19th St. and Broadway.

New Yorkers have written notes on post-its which are tacked up all over the windows.

Some of the ones I jotted down:

FDNY rocks!

Sandy you broke our hearts – Staten Island

Sandy – thank you for not touching Bushwick

Sandy – you’re a complicated bitch

At least George Bush isn’t President

Hey! You came to the wrong place

And my personal favorite: dear Sandy, take the rats with you!

Oh yeah, New Yorkers will fight this one, like every other obstacle they’ve had to face. Of course, we can’t ever overcome these kinds of things without help from the rest of the country, and we do appreciate that help! Below is the scene at Union Square, near the headquarters of Con Edison, our utility company. You can see utility trucks from all over the country: Virginia, Chicago, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, etc., etc., waiting to help. Thank you!

You can see the Con Edison building at the top left of the drawing above. The people of Con Ed (my husband included) have been working 12+ hour shifts, trying to restore service to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are still without power as of Sunday, Nov 4. (Most of Manhattan has been restored at the time of this writing.) THANK YOU CON ED! Keep up the great work we all appreciate it.

The crew from Pittsburgh is shown above, in the midst of staging the operations…after Bernie and I spoke with the crew for  a while, we decided to go over to the Con Edison headquarter lobby, to get warm and maybe say hi to my husband Neil for a minute. Have hardly seen him this week!

The lobby was full of people from the surrounding neighborhood, getting warm, and powering up their phones and computer tablets. Con Edison had set up long power strips for everyone. While we were there we heard an announcement that there were free hot waffles to be had on 14th Street – Bernie and I saw the truck as we took the 14th St. bus east.

The scene at the corner of Avenue D and 11th Street, where the bus dropped us off, looked a little like a refugee camp. People from the neighborhood were lined up to receive free food and blankets. The national guard was there, watching everything and keeping order.

There was a line around the block for a hot meal, and boxes and boxes of diapers were being distributed. Can’t imagine trying to care for an infant without heat or hot water. The park where this was going on was right across the street from the Jacob Riis houses, which my father-in-law told me was one of the oldest housing projects in New York. People living in public housing fared worse during the power outage, as most of them did not have friends or relatives living uptown to stay with. The NY Times reported stories of muggings in dark stairwells and people posing as Con Edison workers or police to get into people’s apartments and rob them.

Another view of the park set up. You can see the line in the back, stretching down the block.

Many of the people were from the housing projects, but not all. There were some hipster couples from the east village as well. Everyone was feeling the pressure of life without basic amenities.

To the left is one of the members of the National Guard, bringing in bottles of water.

Below is a hipster couple eating         

their hot meal.


The water supply from the National Guard was not enough,

many of the fire hydrants in the neighborhood had been opened up,

and I saw people filling buckets and carts full of empty bottles with

water. Water to drink, wash in, and heat up for baths.

The lady at left was walking over to a hydrant right

near the park at Avenue D and 11th Street, buckets in hand.

There was also a “NYC Water” fountain set up – I had seen them

in Union Square park in the summer, offering drinks of water

to people hanging out for the day; now their offer of water was much more serious and necessary. So glad they were there for everyone!

Some drawings from that scene below: people were lined up to fill their water buckets and wash vegetables for the family dinner. It was getting pretty cold, I can’t imagine how these people would spend the night again without heat. Very glad that Manhattan mostly got their power back by Friday night, but so many people are still without, and a cold front and possible snow are coming to NY later this week. Oh no.


As we headed over to 14th Street and back up to 1st Avenue, we saw signs of the storm everywhere. Trees down, cars left abandoned full of leaves and debris, people throwing their destroyed possessions out on the street. Hurricane Sandy seemingly came out of nowhere, but her effects will be felt for quite a while. Please consider donating to the Red Cross or other organizations to help out if you can. Thanks! from New York City.


Comments (15)

  1. Mike Whalley

    Thanks for this wonderful personal view of the events in New York. My best wishes to you and all your fellow citizens.

  2. Liz Berg

    thanks for sharing these sketches along with your comments. I feel as if you have finally given me some “human” information on what is going on…not just from the media perspective. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that your sketches are great! Love your ones from the summer also.

  3. Vicky Porter

    Thank you, Veronica, for posting your excellent sketches and detailed commentary about what you observed. You have put a personal face on the disaster. I especially like the drawings with people. From their posture and their expressions, you are showing how they are dealing with the very trying situation. I knew if anyone could portray this event, it would be you, and you went beyond my expectations. Now I’m going to go make another donation to the Red Cross.

  4. Dino

    Hi Ron, this post makes me feel like I was there. Hope everyone is safe and sound!

  5. isabel

    your sketchings and writing give us a human idea of how New Yorkers are coping with the aftermath of this natural disaster. Thanks for sharing

  6. miguel

    Awesome work, and hard to do, I imagine. So moving. Thank you so much Veronica.

  7. Veronica

    Thank you everyone for your comments.
    Things are getting slowly back to normal, but for some communities the destruction was irreversible.

  8. Tony

    Dear Veronica,
    Thanks for sharing with us on your story with some great sketches. It is great to see that you use just one colour to highlight on the plight of the situation………..
    So moving n powerful one! Hope that everything in New York will slowly returning back to normal. God Bless You all!

  9. Don McNulty

    Hi Veronica, great reportage, drawings and narrative. I love your drawings. I know New Yorkers famous spirit will see them through, all flags flying.

  10. Frank Bettendorf

    Wonderful reportage! Your text reminds me of the fact that those with the least seem to suffer the most in this kind of situation. Amazing too that there are some who will use a disaster to take advantage of others. Your coverage is a terrific example of how the pen or pencil can still function while all the technology shuts down. This work rivals your 9/11 reportage. Glad to hear that all is OK with you.
    Frank B

  11. Nita

    Thanks so much for your reportage drawings! I live in NH. Last Tuesday morning as I drove north out of my town, 35 bucket trucks from Canada were headed south to help. Thanks to Canada for sending so many crews that day!

  12. Veronica

    Thanks everyone. Yes, New York will return to normal, with ‘all flags flying’ as Don put it so well. Appreciate all of your kind thoughts. I’m glad to be able to share what I saw downtown. Best, Veronica

  13. Rodrigo

    I find it great to be able to see things with the eyes of somebody who was really there. Even though journalists keep us informed, I think your drawings were of such richness in making me aware f the situation in NY. Sometimes, we don’t have a clear idea of what is happening in different parts of the world, especially when serious things like this are happening. By the way, I really enjoyed your sketches too! =)

  14. Peggy Gloth

    Veronica, I really appreciate reading this and seeing your sketches. It’s very powerful. I know the weather has been bad tonight. We are thinking of all of you.

  15. Raúl Torres

    very moving and motivating work!

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