Hurricane Diary: The Sandbagging Snarl

I thought it amusing when I saw the light-up sign offering free sandbags last night.

Not so funny this morning when I learned that the sole distribution area for sandbags for the entire District of Columbia, or judging from the massive traffic tie up, the entire Eastern Seaboard, is right next door to the apartment building I’ve been staying in.

At a moment when I just figured out how to handle the parking situation in a neighborhood dominated by incessant construction and a new baseball field, here comes a snarl in the immediate traffic pattern that a storm couldn’t have made much worse.

Blocks of city streets that are not part of this newfangled route for bag pickup are blocked altogether, and everybody has to find their way through the clogged maze to find out where exactly the end of the line is, or how to get out of the way of the line altogether.

The Navy Yards in Washington’s Southeast has already had its share of traffic surges, what with the Nationals’ recent 10 game home stand. But this was much worse.

The city offer does have its appeal: Free sandbags to residents today and Saturday til midnight. But you only get five bags. Is that going to save your house from flooding if there really is going to be flooding there?  And do these lines and line of people really think their places are threatened?

There’s a guy who marks down your license plate number though I’m not sure he’ll be able to cross reference quickly enough to catch the guy who tries to drive through twice. There is another incentive not to do that, though: The traffic.

Like everything else hurricane watch-related, you’re almost forced to consider picking up your sand allotment, just as you’re forced to think about buying the 12 pack of bottled water that CVS has placed so thoughtfully at its front door (couldn’t you just fill a few containers at home if you’re feeling so worried about losing water? And when exactly is the last time you lost water?).

No harm done if you’re left with a few bottles of water (less easy to figure out what to do with five bags of sand that won’t come in handy: save it for an indoor beach theme party this winter?). I’m generally skeptical the more hype there is and there has been a lot. When people are closing schools and canceling parties three and four days from now, I’m thinking that’s a pretty good indicator nothing will happen (and that, in my twisted way of denial, is how I show my optimism).

Losing electricity and phone may be a more realistic concern, but folks have lived through that before (though I’m not excited about walking up 10 flights of stairs every time I want to go out).

Mostly, I’m thinking Irene will be a lot of rain, some wind and some downed trees. Unless there’s a neglected levee nearby I haven’t heard about.

The way things are going so far, it’s probably located right next door.

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