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The District woke up Tuesday morning and saw Hurricane Sandy, once so freakish it had meteorologists straining for new words to describe it, reduced to just a drizzle. That was all?
Sure, the region had uprooted trees, damaged property, a flooded Rock Creek Park, and thousands of electrical outages. Nevertheless, Sandy’s arrival in D.C. made its new breed of global warming-induced megastorms seem downright cozy. Locals got two days “working” from home, nobody in D.C. died, and even Pepco, our much-lambasted electric company, managed to shake the pariah status that had reached its height amid this summer’s interminable derecho outages. Vince Gray, who’s spent the last year as a premature lame duck, threw on a Nationals cap and a windbreaker and acted like a Great Mayor—and no one bedgrudged him the moment. Coming out of that weird marriage of montony and dread that is hurricane time, everyone got a break.
Hurricane time starts with the preparation, a rare opportunity to be warmed by a sense of community while still trying to get yours. Be extra polite on the last day of Metro service, make small talk with your cashier—but still, shake your fist when you have to settle for the Teriyaki Ranch chips, your choice having been made for you by earlier shoppers.
When the hurricane finally hit, District residents were eager for any morsel of hurricane miscellanea. On any other Monday, a guy running around Bloomingdale in a horse-head mask would’ve looked like an Improv Everywhere reject. On this Monday, though, horse-head guy was cool.
Hurricane time creates a weird sense of interconnectedness, like Cloud Atlas just for weather catastrophes. You’re grateful for the architect, generations ago, who designed your home to withstand a once-in-a-century storm. You trade Netflix recommendations like state secrets, hoping the power and WiFi stay on long enough to use them. Ordering a pizza suddenly seems like a grotesque exercise in class privilege, like paying someone to take your place in the draft.
The downside of hurricane time—the actual hurricane—became clear on Tuesday, when the storm blew over to reveal a soaked, scorched New York, and a ravaged Tri-State coastline a few hours north of here. What if Sandy had made landfall in Virginia instead of New Jersey?
We may get our chance to find out one day. And superstorms aside, the winter snowfall this year is expected to be heavy. But we made it through this hurricane time, and for now, maybe that’s enough.
— Will Sommer