Residents living from the Carolinas all the way to the Great Lakes in the United States braved intense winds and heavy rainfall on Monday as Tropical Storm Sandy made its way through the region.
An estimated 60 million people in the U.S. and Canada were affected by Sandy, dubbed “Frankenstorm” and “the storm of the century” for its sheer force.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. death toll climbed to at least 39, mostly from falling trees.
Previously classified as a hurricane and downgraded to a “superstorm” as it made landfall, Sandy hit the region on Monday evening, gaining force from cold winds in the region.
Bernie Rodríguez, a 29-year-old Costa Rican who has lived in Somerville, New Jersey, for 13 years, said he has experienced many storms in his life, but never a storm as powerful as Sandy.
“They began evacuating everyone living along the water in Somerville on Sunday night,” said Rodríguez, who lives in the fourth-highest Tico-populated community in the United States. “We decided to stay, and Monday morning the police came by and informed us that evacuation was mandatory and that we had to leave.”
Rodríguez’s family lives in the nearby town of Denville. There, residents also were told to evacuate due to their proximity to the coast.
Those who waited until Monday to buy non-perishable items, such as batteries and bottles of water, were faced with shortages.
“I had to go to three different stores in order to find batteries, water and chicken,” Rodríguez said.
Alexandra Solano, a 27-year-old Costa Rican woman from Moravia, and her 26-year old husband from the U.S., Willie Rush, live in Bowie, Maryland. They have weathered hurricanes Irene and Isabel, which they said prompted tornadoes and affected the power in the area for two weeks.
This year, the couple said they were better-prepared. They had plenty of first aid gear on hand. Rush cleared leaves and debris from his yard and parked his car close to the house to avoid falling trees.
With temperatures expected to drop into the 30s on Monday night, Solano and Rush stocked up on wood for the fireplace in case they lost electricity. They also had an ice cooler ready to keep perishable items cool.
“All we have to do is put the cooler outside in order to keep the food cold,” Rush said.
For Ticos who made it through the storm, transportation may become an issue in some areas. The nation’s capital, located 20 minutes from Bowie, shut down its public transportation on Monday, but the city planned to reopen services on Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced on their website.
Most airports in the New York City area are still closed as of Tuesday afternoon. Some 16,000 flights were cancelled, and airlines have begun canceling flights scheduled for Wednesday.
Kathryn Kostka de Tanzi, a board member of the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center, was stranded in New York City during the storm. She said that although she did not venture out of her hotel, she witnessed some of the storm’s damage on Monday evening.
“The crane, which was damaged by the strong winds [in New York City], is just around the corner from where I am staying,” Kostka de Tanzi said, referring to a high-rise construction crane that dangled perilously above New York streets.
“There are many travelers stranded in my hotel from South Africa, from Australia, from all over the world,” she added.
Kostka de Tanzi said she made sure to buy food items that would sustain her through the storm, such as water, apples, granola bars and a turkey sandwich. She charged her electronic items to keep her busy through the night.
“I have a New Yorker Magazine and two art books to distract my mind. Art is comforting,” Kostka de Tanzi told The Tico Times as the storm approached.
Emmanuel Rodríguez, a Tico working in King of Prussia, Philadelphia, said that shops in his town closed around 3 p.m. on Monday, in addition to streets near the waterways, which are considered danger zones for residents living in the area.
“After four in the afternoon, the wind gust started to increase heavily, and you could hear it from inside our homes and offices,” Emmanuel Rodríguez said on Monday night. “Trees are moving back and forth and utility poles are shaking very notably. I’m on the seventh floor, and I can see very clearly the movement and the force of the wind.”
In Costa Rica, President Laura Chinchilla instructed National Emergency Commission (CNE) officials to monitor the situation affecting the Northeast region of the U.S., and specifically to tend to any needs that might arise from any Costa Ricans living in that area. As of Tuesday afternoon, no Costa Ricans were reported injured during the storm.
The CNE set up a hotline to answer questions about Costa Ricans caught in the storm. That number is 2210-2841. To communicate with the Costa Rican Embassy in the U.S., email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +(202) 480-2200.
For the Costa Rican Consulate in New York City, call +(212) 509-3066, +(212) 509-3067, or email email@example.com.
For stranded travelers, it now becomes a waiting game while emergency officials work to clear debris, drain floodwater and reestablish infrastructure and public works.
For Costa Ricans visiting the East Coast, Sandy was a storm they’ll never forget.
“This is a storm I will remember all of my life,” Kostka de Tanzi said. “The power of nature is beyond belief. There is so much in our lives that we can control, and so much beyond our control. I am in awe of Sandy’s strength.”
L. Arias contributed to this report.