Despite its minor impact on the Ithaca area, superstorm Sandy ravaged much of the East Coast and affected some members of the Ithaca College community, including those in the New York City program.
The National Hurricane Center determined Sandy to be the largest hurricane to hit the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. Scientific American compared Sandy to two other extreme storms in recent history, Irene and Katrina, and found that Sandy had the widest diameter at 940 miles — nearly double the diameters of each of the other two storms.
Hersey Egginton, the ICNYC program director, said there were a few students without power, but they live with family members. None of the 14 students involved in the program this semester lived in the areas of the city that were evacuated, Egginton said.
“We’ve been in touch with all of the students, and they are safe,” Egginton said. “A couple of them have actually been able to get back to their internships, but I think for the most part they are hanging out, waiting for transportation to return and for their intern sites to tell them to come back to work.”
The building housing ICNYC on Washington Street near the World Trade Center was directly affected by the hurricane.
“Our headquarters in downtown New York, they were flooded, the hotel where we operate out of is flooded, so we may have to find another location to meet just so people can have an easier time getting there,” Egginton said. “Ultimately [students] need to do a certain number of hours in order to satisfy the requirements for their internship credit, and if this drags on for too many days, there’s a risk they won’t accumulate the hours they need.”
Senior Emily Menez, who is interning at “Saturday Night Live” this semester as part of the ICNYC program, is living in Midtown Manhattan, where she said the power flickered on and off Monday night.
“We’re just experiencing some really strong winds,” Menez said Monday night. “It’s howling outside, and it’s been raining all day. It’s been really creepy.”
Julie Holcomb, Ithaca city clerk, said the Ithaca area received little effect from the storm.
“We fielded about a half a dozen calls for downed limbs in the evening, but we didn’t sustain any damage in the city,” Holcomb said. “Our Emergency Operation Center was deactivated [Tuesday] morning because the area of concern had passed, and we’re not expecting any flooding or anything like that.”
Tanya Saunders, assistant provost for international studies and special projects, said ICNYC students living in New York City are dispersed throughout the neighborhoods, so Egginton contacted each of them to ensure their safety and update them on the program schedule.
“We contacted them on Sunday to find out where they were and then to tell them that classes would be canceled on Monday and Tuesday, since we didn’t know what would happen with the storm,” Saunders said. “And then we contacted them on Monday and again on Tuesday to see how they had all fared in the storm.”
The extent of the damage in the city is still unclear, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg updated city residents on Sandy’s effect on the city in a Tuesday evening press conference.
“I don’t think it’s any secret, but Sandy hit us very hard,” Bloomberg said. “It was a storm of historic intensity. But New Yorkers are resilient, and we have seen an enormous outpouring of support from people eager to volunteer, donate and help out.”
The city experienced 24 deaths as a result of the storm. Bloomberg said 6,400 people remain in the city’s 76 evacuation centers. Estimates of people without power in downstate New York and New Jersey remain in the millions.
“Restoring power and mass transit remain the two biggest challenges in the days ahead,” Bloomberg said. “That recovery is a mammoth job.”
Egginton said many students rely on public transportation to get to their internships and the program’s headquarters. At this time, he said, it’s just a waiting game. He did note that, while unsettling, the experience allows for growth and maturity.
“No one would put this kind of experience in a curriculum description, but on the other hand, living in a major city has its array of perils and opportunities,” Egginton said.