NEW YORK —
The hissing outside was louder than the shrill howl of the wind. A man I'd never seen before was walking around in the storm, heard the leak and smelled the gas. Out of nowhere, a neighbor showed up with a wrench and shut off the main valve. Someone else called National Grid and three minutes later, two workers from the power company turned up to make sure everything was locked down.
I'm still not sure who the first of those guardian angels was, but I promised myself to find out soon. When I do, I'm going to hug him. But there were still more pressing concerns first.
Around 7 p.m., our next-door neighbor, a sweet Italian grandmother named Grace, ran outside crying that the water in her basement was already a few feet high. Ours was still dry. But the water rushing faster and faster up the street now licked at the door of Daria's car in the driveway. I grabbed the keys and drove five blocks, parking it up on a hill. Then I jogged back home, with rain pelting my face, my arms over my head to protect myself from the tree branches swirling around, and moved my car. When I returned the second time, the water was even with the first step of our house. And it kept coming.
Another step, then another. Two more and the water would be level with the first floor. What then?
That reverie was broken the second the alarm system tripped in response to the water bursting through the basement windows. Soon enough, the electrical outlets were submerged and there was no chance to reach the fuse box in the corner and switch off the circuits. We were running out of options, and fast. In a panic, I started reviewing one nightmare scenario after another.