A massive hurricane is swirling toward the eastern seaboard of the U.S. leaving 29 million people under a Hurricane warning on Friday night. Currently a category 2 storm, Hurricane Irene is forecast to straddle the coast before making landfall near New York City. Here in Southern California we don’t have many hurricane threats but then again it had been a while since the East Coast experienced a strong earthquake before this week. But in 1939 the only tropical storm to make landfall in California killed dozens at sea before coming ashore in Long Beach. 45 deaths were reported as a result of the flooding. And in 1858 a hurricane is said to have nearly made landfall off the San Diego coast, causing the 2011 equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars before turning back out to sea.
But in the 19th and even the 20th centuries we did not have the advanced warning and communications systems that we have today. Without even grazing land, Hurricane Irene is making history — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that today was the first time in the city’s history that mandatory evacuations had been ordered. About a quarter-million residents, primarily on the low-lying edges of Manhattan were urged to abandon their homes. New York’s subway system will be shut down Saturday at noon due to the threat of flooding.
I immediately fell in love with Avon Street when I first ventured to check out the house that I would eventually move into four years ago. The gradual ascent up Echo Park Avenue excited me — I knew I was heading deeper into an urban canyon, 3 miles from downtown, but surrounded by wildlife and Elysian Park. But once I took the right turn onto Ewing and inevitably downshifted to make it around the broken-up corner to Avon, where it keeps going up on a steep angle before arriving at my house, I knew I had found my shangri-la. You know, for a broke grad school student this was clearly paradise.
The surroundings reminded me of lush hillside villages I had visited in the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Peru and Ecuador. Houses and guesthouses were impossibly built into hillsides that — without a car, or at least a horse — seem more or less uninhabitable for any non-self-sustaining non-hermit.
Even the streets — not only are they broken up here, but these are exactly the kind of two-way roads you see in the third world. These are arguably two-lane roads WITHOUT one side being filled with parked cars, which it always is. And you just have to assume that everyone follows the unwritten rule of travelling South to North on the 2000 block of Avon because come hill or corkscrew turn at Baxter, you’re not going to see an oncoming car until it’s in your lap.
So is this hillside coming down? Compare the photo above to this one taken the morning after some rocks came down. Small trees are sticking out into the road mid-tumble. To compare, check out the Google Streetview image of this spot:
Will the city need to shut down this block of Avon completely in order to do any construction or repairs should things get worse? And what of these rumors of a new landowner of the impossible strip of property on the steep hill wanting to build directly on top of this unstable mess? And a pool too?!?
It only feels about 104 degrees warmer in Los Angeles than in Chicago when you factor in the wind chill. Yes I feel like an asshole pointing this out but at least I’m not being as blunt about it as my buddy Adam Rose, who posted a sun-drenched photo essay titled, “28 Things to do in Los Angeles in the Dead of Winter” this afternoon.
So to all of you back in the Chi, once you spend a “winter” in Los Angeles, you’ll never understand how or why many people withstand the endless bitter chill by choice. I always say there are 3 seasons here and 3 in chicago. LA has no winter, only a loooong fall. Chicago’s winter tends to skip spring.
I feel for you all — I remember what it’s like. but I am boiling right now in my office with the A/C on and the fan on high with the setting sun beating on my face. Apparently we topped out at 86 today, but hey — I’ve been in the office all day. You know those 75 and sunny with no humidity days that are so rare in Chicago? Yeah, that happens about 300 days a year here.
It’s been a rough 10 days in the Caribbean with Gustav, Hanna and now Ike packing it in, devastating Haiti, with little room to breathe between each storm. While Hanna tracked north and quickly dissipated on its way up the eastern seaboard, Ike, now a category 4 storm over Cuba looks to follow in Gustav’s tracks…. landfall forecast for late in the week in the Gulf Coast after grazing the Florida Keys. Check Hurricanes08.org for more.