After the Hurricane

We made it through the hurricane, though it was an interesting time for us.  The winds started around midnight and by three in the morning, they were howling and rain was falling in sheets and sideways from the sky.  I finally got out of the bed at five thirty, tired of listening to it and marveling that we still had power.  I took the dog out and watched the wind and the rain for a second before I realized how dangerous my situation was; I was in a yard full of tall, leafy trees blowing in all directions.  One major gust and the dog and I both got the message:  get the hell back inside.

I no sooner made my coffee and posted an alert to friends and family that our power was still miraculously on that it cut out, taking my internet access with it.  The morning slowly unfolded just like I’d imagined it; me trying in vain to find information on our battery powered radio, us hurriedly removing the most perishable items from the dark refrigerator and putting them on ice in a cooler.  We cooked off the eggs and bacon and had breakfast in the only room with real natural light on the first floor; our kids’ playroom.  In its former life it doubled as a sunroom, and while we looked out of the many windows lining the walls, we realized it might not be the safest place in the house.

The day proceeded on in quiet gloom while we all read books, played games on handheld devices, and I sent texts out to family members that looked like this:  “Power out.  All still fine.  Wind howling.  Keep you posted.”  But with the power out and our basement sump not doing its job, we kept traversing the stairs in worry.  Finally, at 11 or so, we saw the water rising in the hole for the sump.  There was only one thing to do:  haul it out by hand.  And so my 21 year old son and I (my husband having weak knees and little physical stamina for heavy labor) started pulling the murky water out of the sump pump, one bucket at a time.  For forty five minutes or so until we saw the water line stabilize, we pulled out water, hauled it up the six cement steps of our basement bilco doorway, and out into the windy, light rain that was still coming down outside.

It was exhausting work that needed to be attended to every twenty minutes or so for those first few hours.  We made a lunch of peanut butter and hardboiled egg sandwiches and hauled buckets.  I read a few pages from my book and hauled buckets.  I slipped on the wet, leafy, concrete stairs, but still hauled more buckets.  I yelled at my husband, who furiously tried to get storm updates via spotty service on his iPad, and hauled buckets.  We had a dark meal of pasta and salad cooked on our gas stove, punctuated by washing the dishes by hand in the sink and hauling out more buckets.  I fell into bed at 8 Sunday evening, exhausted and feeling a knot in my tailbone from the fall.

My husband nudged me at 1:30 am; time to haul out more water.  I groggily got out of bed and took the two flights down in my still sopping sneakers to discover that the water level had finally stayed static for a few hours.  The bucket brigade was a success; no water on the basement floor other than what we’d sloshed out of our buckets.  I took a few out for good measure, and looked up at the cool, crisp night.  Without light pollution, the stars were bright and plentiful in the sky; I breathed in and out and tried to tell myself that we were lucky; no real damage; the storm by then was over; we would survive.

We woke Monday morning to another day without lights, television or internet.  I’d charged my phone in the car so that I could still send updates like this:  “Still no power.  Sump stable for now after roughly 200 buckets of water.  Kids fine, us fine.  Going to find ice today, wish me luck.”  By now our stockpile of ice was in puddles at the bottom of the cooler and we’d cooked or eaten much of the most perishable food.  R went to work (where they had power) and I set about cleaning up the branches and yelling at the kids who seemed to think the worst thing about all of this was missing a few episodes of “Totally Spies”.  A friend gifted me ice and another coffee from the shop that made it with generator power.   Our landline phone died and to my dismay, my precious cell phone stopped making calls as well.  The emails and Facebook I’d relied on the previous day stopped pulling data.  Even my update texts were no longer going through:  “Cell service spotty; landline dead; pls text back if you get this,” with no responses.  I began to feel like we were on a raft drifting further and further away from what normal life used to be.

Finally, around 6pm our power returned last night.  I was at a friend’s house who did have power letting my kids overdose on screens while I did the same with what I’d missed the most:  vodka with ice in it.   My cell phone dinged with three words from a friend who lived nearby:  Power. Is. On.  I raced home (it was only ONE vodka, btw, and we’d been eating) without telling the kids, nearly driving off the road towards the intoxicating porch lights dotting the landscape.  And sure enough, when I got home, I was greeted with the reassuring “Set…Time…Please” scrolling in fluorescent green across my microwave.  Hallelujah.  Power is restored.

So all in all, we made it through with no real damage, thousands of twigs/leaves/branches to clean up and a 36 hour crash course on How to Live Without Power (Disaster Preparedness 101).  Which isn’t all that bad, really, with so many in this area in much, much worse shape (from what I hear anyway….the only information I was able to access yesterday came in newspaper form).  We are lucky, we are blessed and now, thank goodness, can finally watch Totally Spies again. 🙂

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