Why, Oh Why, Sandy…..

We are back up and running after a harrowing week dealing with Sandy. We live in SW CT, about ten miles from the shoreline.  Our experience with the storm was that it was a wind event for us, with very little flooding since we are inland.  Here is how we experienced the last week.

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We were all home on Monday, as officials had called off school the day before.  I spent the day finishing up laundry, cooking things that would be easily reheated in case of power outage.  It wasn’t even in case, really, we knew it was inevitable.  The whole day was spent watching and waiting for what everyone said was going to be catastrophic.  It was hard to imagine, really.

At first we all thought it wasn’t so bad, that perhaps the storm was tracking far enough south that it wouldn’t impact us.  We had very little rain, and while it was breezy, the winds weren’t terrible.  But around 3pm, the winds started to pick up.  Our anxious dog needed his Thundershirt to calm down as things got noisier outside.

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The power started flickering around 5pm.  I cooked dinner on the stovetop just in case it went out before I was done.  We are very, very fortunate to have a gas stove that works in power outages.  Sure enough, just as I was putting the last touches on dinner, the power went out, at 5:30pm.

The conditions got worse as the night went on.  We could hear things hitting the house outside.  The howling of the wind was like nothing I’d ever heard.  We put the kids to bed and turned on the crank powered radio to hear any sort of news.  The only station we could get was WCBS out of NYC.  The stories we were hearing were simply unimaginable; that water was flowing through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, that the water was rushing over the streets, that there was a horrible fire that no one could put out in Breezy Point.  We finally went to bed around 10pm.

We didn’t sleep much.  The noise of the wind was so unnerving.  Our daughter, who was worried about a tree falling on her in bed, joined us.  We didn’t kick her out, having heard about two boys who died when a tree fell on their bedroom earlier in the evening.  Finally, around 6:30 am, the light was starting to gather outside, and I got up to see what I could see.

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It was still lightly raining outside, and breezy, but it was clear the worst was over.  I took a flashlight outside and the dog to see what I could see.  We were incredibly fortunate that we did not have any trees down in our yard or worse, on our house.  We are surrounded on three sides by trees, so this was amazing.

We still had no power.  There was no question were in for a days’ long outage.  It was time to fire up our new generator.

When we saw the predictions for the storm the week before, I started calling around to get a generator.  I was mostly concerned about water in our basement, which has a sump pump.  I bailed it out by hand last summer, and this storm was predicted to be so much worse.  We got it all hooked up by ten am, and figured out how to snake extension cords around to power the fridge, the power strips to charge devices, and a few lamps.   We tried the TV, but the cable was out, so it wasn’t worth wasting the gasoline in the generator.

Cell service was incredibly spotty, and we weren’t getting a lot of information from our radio.  We knew that the damage to the coast had been bad, but we had no idea how much.  We weren’t sure it was safe to drive anywhere yet, so I put on my sneakers and took the dog for a walk to see what I could find out in the neighborhood.

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Trees were down across the road.

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Trees were down in people’s yards.

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Trees were down everywhere.  This is around the corner from my house.

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Driveways were rendered impassable.

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I saw three separate houses that had trees down on the houses.  It made me realize how incredibly lucky we had made out with just losing power.

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Here’s another one.

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Trees were uprooted, or in this case, completely snapped off of their trunks.

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And all over, trees were laying on power lines.  It was no wonder that 24 hours after the storm, our town was 90% without power.  We offered our family in town to come over to our place.  We didn’t have power, or heat, but we had running water and a few lights, and a fridge thanks to the generator.

So many people in this area have wells for their water.  When you lose power, you lose your running water.  The lucky people that have city water (we are among them) often do not have natural gas in their homes, so when they lose power, they lose the ability to have hot water.  When we bought here, we were so used to having natural gas, it was a factor in our choice of home.  We’d never had a well, didn’t feel comfortable with oil heat, and so we sought out a house that would have city water and natural gas.  We had no idea how beneficial this decision would be during these power outages.  They made a huge difference.

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We had our family in town over our place during the day on Wednesday and Thursday.  The house was growing colder, but we at least had the fridge and a few lights.  They didn’t even have water.  So we were a step up for them. It made the long days without school much more bearable.

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We cooked on our stovetop for each meal.  This was dinner on Wednesday night; sloppy joes with meat that was starting to thaw from our visiting family’s fridge.  Paper plates and plastic cups.

Wednesday was Halloween.  We didn’t celebrate.  It was cancelled in our town.

By Thursday, the house was getting cold.  We haven’t figured out how to make the furnace run on the generator, and I started to worry looking at the forecast for colder temperatures coming our way.  We took the kids to the mall to warm up on Thursday afternoon.  It was like something out of a movie.  Near every plug there were people charging their devices, using the WiFi to work, to get information about what was going on in the rest of the area.  We came home and got ready for church for All Saints’ Day.

As we were putting on our coats, the power came back on.  It was 72 hours almost to the minute since it went off.

That evening, we were able to watch the news.  We sat stunned looking at the images of what had occurred during the storm all around us.  The Connecticut coastline was decimated.  NYC was flooded, still, days after the storm.  The Jersey Shore was unrecognizable.  So many who lost so much.  Once again, we felt relief and gratitude, that our experience wasn’t worse.  We were so lucky.

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