Back to the routine two weeks after Sandy – today the weight room and the conversation was geared around generators. What was the best kind to get heat? Would the town permit a natural gas standby? Was the town responsible in part for their negligent maintenance of town trees prior to Sandy? 90% of our town lost power; many lost power for two weeks. This has been the third time in one year where our town has suffered from significant power outages.
Our family is a camping family and we have much of the equipment that we need to survive off the grid. The problem this time was heat- our house maintained a temperature of 55 degrees. It is hard to find safe ways to heat a house in cold weather. Many houses also depend on sump pumps. Last year, after Irene, we had no flooding in our basement- until the fourth day after a power outage. It was my birthday and my kids and I were using buckets to bail the water. I made everyone wear good rubber soles in case the power came back. My daughter took out the wall to wall carpet for my birthday present.
This time we were prepared. The night of Sandy, we knew that we would lose power the question was when? That weekend, I bagged all of the lose leaves and took them away from the front curb. We made several trips to the conservation center. My husband thought that I was crazy but I explained that we did not need to have blockage of the gutter in front of the house or any obstacles for emergency workers in the event of heavy rains. We gassed up our cars and I had bought water and easy foods to cook by gas stove. I did all of the laundry, washed all dishes and cleaned the house. I have learned that a cluttered house is a safety issue. In a house without electricity, the low winter light and diminished daylight give us short periods to get out stuff in order for the long cold nights. I was the drill sergeant- my husband confided to a neighbor that I was a “perfect storm”. I brought up my emergency box. The winds were strong and we lost power around 9:00 Monday the October the 29th. We made plans to have kids sleep in the least likely room to get hit by a tree.
I was not really prepared for how difficult it would be to be off the grid when most of the surrounding infrastructure was also affected. We are truly interdependent- we don’t farm or have local food supplies that are not shipped via trucks. We need mass transit, we need traffic lights and we need gas. There have been predictions of a hurricane hitting the east coast of this magnitude. However, I have learned that no matter how much I prepare in life there is always something else that comes along to surprise. It seems to be human need to assign blame to explain away good luck or bad luck but sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason. We could be hit by solar storms, earth quakes or pandemics. The only thing we can do is prepare as best we can.
Here are some of the pictures that I managed to take when I had enough charge in my I Phone.
DAY ONE -October 30
Very few cars out. It is hard to get around due to closed roads where downed trees have cut power lines. There is only one gas station pumping gas and no lines- yet. This man is going for a gas run for his generator.
Street signs have blow off posts and stores are closed in downtown district
Streets have been closed down because traffic lights have lost power. There is some police presence to manage main streets. Getting around is too difficult and most people are not on the road yet. My son said our downtown looked like a zombie apocalypse.
A tree came through the roof of this neighborhood house
Day Two- October 31
As I wrote earlier, 10% of the town kept power. Our local Walgreen's was informally letting customers charge phones on first day. By the second day, they had put up two power strips to allow customers to charge up.
My husband was able to find WI-fi and charge in our favorite coffee/yogurt shop, Bohemian Raspberry to telecommute. There was no train service and buses limited bus service into Manhattan. His co workers thought that it was some warm hippy place. I should take a picture because it is actually not at all what it sounds like. The building was a former KFC takeout joint.
Day Five and Six- November 3& 4
Special trucks have been flown in on Military aircraft. We spoke to crews from Jefferson City and Boston who have been sent to help with the repair.My husband and I searched for a bagel shop to donate food for local crews.
In an effort to conserve gas, I walked two miles to Home Depot where I was looking for tape and caulk to seal up all of our drafts and some fencing to fix hole from downed tree limb. Gas cans were sold out as were Lantern and D batteries. Met up with people that I knew and heard stories of generators and gas being stolen from houses. One friend's husband worked for Comcast and the generator was stolen from home he worked on (the thieves turned on the lawnmower so that the people would not hear that an engine kicked out). Our crossing guard's generator was stolen; the thieves waited until they turned out the lights at night. One neighbor was electrocuted by live wire that he moved. School was going to be out for another week since many roads were still closed and three schools did not have power.Temperatures are dropping. My 75 year old mother with cancer got power in her apartment complex.She would not have been able to handle another drop.Got power Sunday night.
Slowly houses started getting power...ours was not one so we found one warm place within close driving distance to get cheese fries and hope that we would have power when we got home. Much disappointment when we could see lights all around us but not on our block.
Have discovered that old fireplaces like this actually are not heat efficient and take warm air out of the house.
Day Seven , Eight and Nine-November6,7&8
We got power.School remained closed for the district it was estimated that 3,700 people still did not have power and 70-80 roads were still closed. We prepared for the ensuing Nor'easter.We invited everyone we knew to have a sleepover and warm dinner. My husband looked forward to the prospect of business trip. Apparently, getting to LA was easier than getting into Manhattan
Some people who had just gotten their power, lost it again in storm.
Day Fourteen- November 12
Here are some of the picture. The town said that 13 houses were deemed uninhabitable and I think that these are two of them,
Same House as above on Day 14