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11 Acts of Kindness in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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SHANNON STAPLETON/Reuters/Landov

Between election bad blood and ongoing hurricane horror stories, there's no shortage of negative news right now. Take heart—good things are happening out there. These stories from 11 Sandy Samaritans are sure to give your spirits a boost. There are many more over at the Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness Facebook page, so stop over if you have one to share, or you just need a lift.

1. One Hundred Cups of Joe, on the House

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Chelsea Cranmer went to the Wawa in Barnegat, New Jersey, to grab a coffee on the way to work. When she went to pay, she was told to put her purse away. “I was a little confused until [the cashier] said a man came in and bought 100 cups.” Coffee addicts know that sometimes a hot cup of caffeine is all it takes to improve your outlook exponentially, so this seemingly small act is incredibly thoughtful.

2. A Generator for the Next Generation

Tim Dubriske took his pregnant fiancée to Pace’s Steak House in Hauppauge, New York, to try to cheer her up. "It’s not easy being pregnant and having no electricity, hot water, or heat,” he said. As they left the restaurant, owner Jimmy Pace chatted with Tim and his fiancée and realized the couple had no power and no generator. Pace insisted that they take his and even followed them home to help set it up. When Dubriske protested, Pace replied, “it's more important that your pregnant fiancée stays warm."

“All this from a business owner to two virtual strangers,” Dubriske wrote. “That's probably the most selfless act I've ever seen.”

3. Good Karma at Kmart

Sophia Parracho Ciesielski was chatting about the storm with Allison, a woman she had just met. She mentioned to Allison that she had been putting five and ten dollar bills into the pockets of sweatshirts and coats before donating them to Sandy victims. Before they parted ways, Allison pressed a bill into Ciesielski’s hand. The bill ended up being $100. Ciesielski used the money to purchase some essentials at Kmart, where two more total strangers overheard her explaining to the cashier that the purchase was going to Sandy victims. The two strangers flagged her down before she left the store and gave her items they had just bought to add to her donation pile.

“It was amazing to me that just in chatting, two complete strangers wanted to help another stranger in helping complete strangers,” Ciesielski said.

4. Good Sports

From Kate Pepper, a volunteer coach for Central Regional field hockey in Bayville, New Jersey: "Our school district covers most of Seaside Park/Seaside Heights/Pelican Island/Ocean Gate and many waterfront homes. We drove out to Moorestown High School to play a state game which we lost,” Pepper explained. “After the game, the Moorestown team called us over and gave us sandwiches to eat on our bus ride home and gift bags with towels/makeup/toiletries/blankets/etc. to take home to keep or give to a family in need. Their kindness will always be remembered by our team. Thank you so much, you made our day.”

5. Sandwich Samaritans

Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness Facebook Page

Sandy Daskawisz-Ogilvie went to a BJ’s Wholesale Club in Levittown, New Jersey, to purchase a mass quantity of bread, peanut butter and jelly to make a quick meal for hurricane victims and volunteers in Seaford Harbor. She asked if any discount for such a large purchase might be available and, according to Ogilvie, the manager replied, “Take as much peanut butter and jelly as you need at no charge.”

6. Finding a House at Pier 1

While Jacqueline Robin was shopping at Pier 1 Imports in Carle Place, New York, she noticed a “done-up” woman with freshly-done hair and nails chatting with a woman wearing a fleece jacket, looking downtrodden and perusing unscented candles. The “done-up” woman was relentlessly asking the second woman about her situation: where she was from, what happened and if she suffered many losses. The second woman was understandably still upset and didn’t want to talk about it.

“I’m sorry,” the first woman said. “I'm sure you don't want to talk about any of this, but to be honest I haven't seen anyone from the south shore up here in Carle Place and I don’t know what to do. I have a house in Lido Beach with heat, water and electricity and I was hoping to lend it to someone in need. Please let me offer this to you, since I am feeling like this is the least I can do. Do you need a house?"

After tears and hugs, the second woman accepted.

7. Front Lawn Film Fest

During a crisis, a little bit of camaraderie—and distraction—goes a long way. That’s what Matthew Andras was thinking when he decided to use his generator to hold a movie night on his front lawn. “I pulled out a TV and my neighbor contributed an old sound system. We had about 30 people come out and everybody brought what they could. We set up grills and tables and put a couple of fire pits out on the lawn. Yes, it killed my grass,” he admitted, “but [for] a worthy cause.”

8. Gratis Glasses

“My husband is the volunteer fire chief in our town and his glasses broke during the storm,” wrote Jillian Augustin Wojtasze from New Jersey. “We had a warranty on the glasses but I was not sure if they were covered. Since my store in Brunswick Square Mall was without power, I had to go to the LensCrafters in Menlo Mall in Edison. When I walked into the store and explained my problem, one gentleman, Keith, took the glasses and started to fix them while talking to me. He was able to take out the lens of the old glasses and place them in brand new frames. I was starting to calculate how much it would be when he handed them back to me, along with a new case, cleaning cloth, and lanyard. I asked how much and he said no charge. He said it was the least he could do for a brave volunteer."

9. Neighborhood Watch

Although New Jersey's Angela Kessler Wilson and her husband had moved to their neighborhood three years earlier, they hadn’t really gotten friendly with any of their neighbors beyond the basic courtesy wave over the fence. “We just had a baby right before Irene last year,” she explained. “Luckily we were okay for that, but this time we had a giant pine fall and narrowly miss the baby's room just as the storm was beginning. We lost power and our neighbor next door looked up our phone number and called to ask what [they could] do. We said no worries, we'll just call a tree company in the morning.

"The next morning the doorbell rang and our neighbor showed up with a chainsaw. As he started taking branches off and cleaning up, neighbor after neighbor came out and helped take the tree apart and put it on our front lawn. None of us had power but my next door neighbor had a generator and ran an extension cord all the way across his property to ours so we could keep the baby's milk cold. We are now on a first-name basis with everyone on our block and we have a Christmas party planned. We never realized what amazing people live right around the corner.”

10. What’s 600 Miles Between Friends?

When a man from Evansville, Indiana, heard about the devastation in New Jersey, he loaded his car up with groceries—many donated from members of his church—and drove 600 miles to help feed a neighborhood. Stan Gregory bought a grill and asked for directions to the hardest-hit area, then got to work grilling and recruiting people, some who hadn’t eaten in three days, to come have a hot meal.

11. Two EMTs with Heart

Jack Vaughn of Easton, New York PA, had been waiting for The Call for months. It came the Monday afternoon Sandy started bearing down on the East Coast: a heart, just the right size and with his blood type, was available for transplant 75 miles away in Philadelphia. The elderly Vaughns couldn’t make the trip themselves, and the Easton PD was too busy preparing for Sandy to send an escort. Enter Tara King and Cory Allen, two EMTs who had already worked 12-hour shifts but wanted to do more to help. Dodging downed trees and street signs and nearly getting blown off the road, they picked up the Vaughns around 6:30 pm on Monday night and were able to get Jack to Philadelphia in plenty of time for his successful heart transplant the next morning.

Note: Some of the original accounts have been edited for clarity.

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science
The Coolest Meteorological Term You'll Learn This Week
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Two tropical cyclones orbiting around each other in the northwestern Pacific Ocean on July 25, 2017.
RAMMB/CIRA

What happens when two hurricanes start to invade each other's personal space? It's easy to picture the two hurricanes merging into one megastorm that tears across the ocean with twice the fury of a normal storm, but what really happens is less dramatic (although it is a beautiful sight to spy on with satellites). Two cyclones that get too close to one another start to feel the pull of a force called the Fujiwhara Effect, a term that's all the rage in weather news these days.

The Fujiwhara Effect occurs when two cyclones track close enough to each other that the storms begin orbiting around one another. The counterclockwise winds spiraling around each cyclone force them to participate in what amounts to the world's largest game of Ring Around the Rosie. The effect is named after Sakuhai Fujiwhara, a meteorologist who studied this phenomenon back in the early 1900s.

The extent to which storms are affected by the Fujiwhara Effect depends on the strength and size of each system. The effect will be more pronounced in storms of equal size and strength; when a large and small storm get too close, the bigger storm takes over and sometimes even absorbs its lesser counterpart. The effect can have a major impact on track forecasts for each cyclone. The future of a storm completely depends on its new track and the environment it suddenly finds itself swirling into once the storms break up and go their separate ways.

We've seen some pretty incredible examples of the Fujiwhara Effect over the years. Hurricane Sandy's unusual track was in large part the result of the Fujiwhara Effect; the hurricane was pulled west into New Jersey by a low-pressure system over the southeastern United States. The process is especially common in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, where typhoons fire up in rapid succession during the warmer months. We saw a great example of the effect just this summer when two tropical cyclones interacted with each other a few thousand miles off the coast of Japan.

Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro pulled a fantastic animated loop of two tropical cyclones named Noru and Kulap swirling around each other at the end of July 2017 a few thousand miles off the coast of Japan.

Typhoon Noru was a small but powerful storm that formed at about the same latitude as Kulap, a larger but much weaker storm off to Noru's east. While both storms were moving west in the general direction of Japan, Kulap moved much faster than Noru and eventually caught up with the latter storm. The Fujiwhara Effect caused Typhoon Noru to stop dead in its tracks, completely reverse its course and eventually perform a giant loop over the ocean. Typhoon Noru quickly strengthened and became the dominant cyclone; the storm absorbed Kulap and went on to become a super typhoon with maximum winds equivalent to a category 5 hurricane.

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Kelly Gorham
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Space
Balloon Cams Will Offer Unparalleled Views of the Total Solar Eclipse
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Kelly Gorham

The August 2017 total solar eclipse should be visible to some degree from just about everywhere in the continental United States—that is, if the weather cooperates. But now, even if it doesn't, everyone will be able to watch along, thanks to livestreamed video from balloon cams drifting miles above the Earth.

Astrophysicist Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University (MSU) got the idea to monitor the magnificent cosmic event from the air after reading about an airplane pilot's flight through the path of a 2013 eclipse. She thought her students might enjoy the chance to get an up-close look for themselves.

But what started as a class project quickly, well, ballooned. At last count, teams from more than 50 other schools had joined the Eclipse Ballooning Project. The core of the work remains close to home; MSU students have designed, built, and tested the equipment, and even offered multi-day training for students from other schools. Undergrads in the computer science and engineering programs even created the software that air traffic controllers will use to track the balloons on the big day.

Students carry a large white weather balloon across a tarmac.
Photo courtesy of the Montana Space Grant Consortium

The next step was to get the balloon cam footage to a larger audience. Seeing no reason to think small, Des Jardins went straight to the source, inviting NASA and the website Stream to join the fun. The space agency is now beefing up its website in anticipation of 500 million livestream viewers.

And what a view it should be. The balloons will rise more than 80,000 feet—even higher than NASA's airplane-mounted telescopes.

"It's a space-like perspective," Des Jardins said in a press statement. "From that height you can see the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space."

Online or outside, Des Jardins says viewers can expect a kind of "deep twilight, with basically a 360-degree sunset" during the eclipse.

She urges everyone to get outside if they can to see the event with their own eyes, but expects the balloon cams will deliver something really special.

"On the ground, an eclipse just kind of happens to you. It just gets dark," Des Jardins told New Scientist. "From the air, you can see it coming and going. I think that perspective is really profound."

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