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Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014

Former Monettan weathers out East Coast storm

Thursday, November 8, 2012

(Photo)
Christopher Williams
A 1991 graduate of Monett High School, now a New York resident, weathered superstorm Sandy, which struck the eastern seaboard on Monday, Oct. 29.

"We just moved to Queens from Chelsea, which is in lower Manhattan and without power," said Chris Williams, son of Mary Mael of Monett. "We have underground power and it stayed on throughout the storm."

Williams said he was able to track the storm for several hours before mainstream media outlets released information, due to social networking sites and Internet updates.

(Photo)
Christopher Williams, a former Monett resident, is now living in Queens borough in New York and weathered last the recent superstorm Sandy. Williams is a marathoner and is pictured above where he participated in last year's New York Marathon.
"You learn that the heart of the city is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)," Williams said. "When it's not running, the whole city shuts down."

Williams said it was not safe to be out the first day after the storm.

"At some point you have to get out and go to work," he said. "Wednesday, there was a march and I walked the four miles to my office. It's heartwarming. People are packed shoulder to shoulder on the bridge walking to work, it's amazing the camaraderie that forms between them. New friendships are coming out of this tragedy.

"But there are those in New York that have to travel the equivalent of a trip from Monett to Springfield, and there is no way they could get to work," Williams continued. "Some of my co-workers made a two-and-a-half hour walk to work and then a two-and-a-half hour walk home in the dark. Our work neighborhood is a tourist area, and right now it is sort of a ghost town."

Williams said the National Guard has been deployed to the area and is distributing food and water, but that tempers were getting short in regard to the extended period without power or utilities.

"People in high rise buildings can't use the commodes because there is no power to get the waste pumped to the sewer lines," he said. "They are disposing of waste in plastic bags and some trash compactors are filled to the 18th floor of these high rise buildings. People are standing in line for hours to charge their cell phones."

In the city that is often portrayed as a cold and heartless entity, Williams said the people are pulling together and taking it upon themselves to clear debris and help their neighbors.

"You'll find that New York is a series of small neighborhoods that are all connected," Williams said. "This has had an interesting effect on people. Neighborhoods are bonding together to take care of each other. These neighborhoods are more like families. Everyone is out with a rake, cleaning the street and raking yards."

Massive electrical outages, flooded tunnel systems and a disruption in utilities and services have slowed the pace of the normally-energized city.

"The city just moves quickly," Williams said. "They estimate that most of the power will be restored by Sunday [Nov. 4] and trains will be getting back to normal.

"Look at it," he continued. "On Monday, the storm hit and flooded the subway system. By Thursday, we had partial subway services restored. That's amazing, considering the system is over 100 years old and crumbling infrastructure."

Much of the city's parks system is closed.

"Central Park is a mature forest area," Williams said. "People have been killed in the past by falling limbs. They want to make sure it's safe when they open it back up.

"But the loss of the parks, for most New Yorkers, is huge," Williams continued. "The park is a big part of our lives and when it's taken away, it's very personal."

Williams said this is the worst event to take place in the city since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.

"The MTA said this was the worst tragedy in its 118 years of existence," Williams said. "This has had a huge impact on lower Manhattan."

On the up side, Williams said no murders had been reported in three days, at the time of this phone interview.

"People are coming together during all of this," he said. "Only a handful of people are turning on each other."

Williams said the upcoming presidential election would take place as planned.

"Most people live within walking distance of their polling place," Williams said. "I know there isn't a lot that would keep me from getting to the polls."

Some of the storm damage to the historic buildings will be felt for years to come.

"I have a friend that has an apartment in a historic building that was constructed in the early 1800s," Williams said. "She has a photo of the water damage to her apartment walls that is over her head. This will be a problem for the life of the building."

A portion of W. 57th St. in Manhattan is closed to pedestrians and traffic as construction officials at One 57 figure out how to stabilize the stricken boom of a crane that collapsed during the 90-mile-an-hour winds at the height of the storm. Residents in nearby buildings were evacuated, as were the guests at the Parker Meridien Hotel, located on 56th Street.

"I can see the crane from my office," Williams said.

"Immediately after the storm, hundreds of volunteers started pouring into the city to help the first responders," Williams said. "People are anxious to help.

"All in all, New York will come back," Williams said. "We just ask the people of Monett and the surrounding area to keep New York, New Jersey and the northeast in their thoughts and prayers."



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