IT WAS supposed to be a dream 50th birthday holiday in New York, but last night Karen Coutts was holed up inside a hotel, hoping that Hurricane Sandy’s brutish strength would not smash the windows.
She was speaking from a suite at The Wellington, on Seventh Avenue, not far from a deserted Times Square, as tiles fell from the hotel roof opposite.
Mrs Coutts, from Bonnyrigg, husband John, 53, and daughters Lindsay, 21, and Natasha, 23, had no idea Sandy was en route to the US east coast until they arrived on Saturday.
“It was the taxi driver who told us,” she said. “He just said Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be really bad.”
Mrs Coutts said yesterday: “People are quite calm . There are still some outside, walking about, which is quite mad.
“We were out earlier for breakfast and it was starting to get quite wet. We would not go back out now.
“But there’s no sirens, no traffic. It’s eerily quiet.”
She added: “We were never set to be evacuated. The only thing the hotel said to us was they were worried that the windows might smash.
“We don’t know how bad it’s going to get,” she said. “Fortunately, we’re in a suite with plenty of space and TVs.”
Even on Sunday, before the storm hit, the shops were closing at 3pm. Mrs Coutts added: “People are joking that even the Starbucks have closed, and they worry when they close, because in the past Starbucks has stayed open through everything.”
On Thursday, she and her husband are due to fly to Milwaukee, while her daughters fly home.
She said: “It’s just one of those things, and it always happens to me. I’m surprised it’s not called Hurricane Karen.”
Sian Bevan: ‘Honest, Mum, no-one’s panicking. It’s the calm before the storm’
My MUM just rang. She’s been watching the news and is ominously certain that I’m going to get blown away.
Whereas I am weirdly proud that I managed to coincide my trip to New York with a comedy festival, an election and a hurricane, she doesn’t seem to share my enthusiasm.
It’s easy to be reassuring. I’m staying at a youth hostel in Harlem, and at the moment the weather feels like a dreich autumnal day back in Edinburgh – blustery, rainy and cold.
Everyone is glued to the TV in the communal room, but the dramatic proclamations seem far removed from everything we can see outside.
Even the news reporters are struggling to find any members of the public who are actually worried.
Looking outside my bedroom window (which is, to be fair, thumping around a wee bit), there are still a few people walking about, some local shops are still open and no-one sitting around me is showing signs of panic.
There’s some mild frustration that holiday plans are curtailed by the lack of public transport, but it looks like everyone’s just using the time to catch up on Facebook. I just popped to the shops for a sandwich and out to take some pictures, but it turns out that photos of wind in an urban area just look a bit lonely.
I’ll try again later, as I don’t want to be the first one to crack into concern.
Just don’t tell my mum.
• Sian Bevan is an Edinburgh-based writer and comedian.