Hurricanes and trains

The devastation currently being wrought on the people of south Texas is heartbreaking. Hurricane Harvey is said to be the biggest disaster ever to hit the area, dropping over 11 trillion gallons of water on the region before it’s done. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected.

On September 19, 1999, the New York City area was right in the path of Hurricane Floyd. Preparations had been going on for a few days in anticipation of the path of the storm. Mayor Giuliani urged businesses to close between 12 noon and 3 p.m. in order for workers to get home. I left our offices closer to 3, intending on catching the 4:05 out of Hoboken to Port Jervis. They had put on an earlier train, so this one was not that crowded. They also made an announcement that we would be leaving late to wait for more passengers.

This would turn out to be the last train to head toward Port Jervis this day. We finally got underway closer to 6 than 3 p.m., and it was raining pretty hard; but these iron-horses hold up pretty well in the bad weather. At the time I was living in Monroe, NY and only had to take the train to the Harriman Station. New Jersey Transit decided to make this express train a local, and the additional stops made the trip much longer than usual. The additional travel time would seal our fate this night.

There was water on the tracks in some of the lower areas but the train moved right through them. When we arrived at the Suffern Station, we were held there. It seemed they were putting on a couple of men with chainsaws as a precaution against downed trees on the rest of the way. The longer we sat the more it rained. Harriman Station was only three stops away now; it was dark and ominous outside, but the train was warm and dry. We sat for an additional hour when they made an announcement that the Ramapo River had flooded over its banks and they were going to send buses to take us the remainder of the way. The buses never came. The roads were too flooded. Then they gave us a choice to get off the train there and wait for the bus or return with the train back to Hoboken.

Having made it this far, I and a handful of others decided to get off the train and wait for the bus or some other means of transportation out of there. No cabs were available. We offered money to some of the locals in the bar, but they all refused. We tried to walk to Route 17 a couple miles away in hope of getting a hotel room; the roads were too flooded to pass, so we returned to the station.

There are moments when all seems lost, and this was one of them. But then, like an angel from above, a white 4x4 pulls up. It was the wife and daughter of someone who had been delayed, who had driven for over three hours from Chester, with many detours around fallen trees. They were going to Harriman Station and asked us if anyone wanted a ride. We all said “yes” as seven of us piled into the car. On the way there I had an Asian gentleman sitting on my lap in the front seat of the car with his golf clubs. Can’t make this stuff up.

We finally arrived in the Harriman parking lot, and I was greeted with a flat tire on my car. I proceeded to change it in the rain and finally arrived home, soaking wet just after midnight. When my head finally hit the pillow that night I smiled and felt as if I was in heaven and just glad to be home.


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