Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, October 24th was a quiet night.  I dropped the kids off at church for their programs and I had to go to Costco to pick up dish soap, chicken breasts, milk and eggs.  I walked past the batteries thinking “I wonder if we need any.  Well, I won’t pick up any because I’m not sure and I don’t have a lot of money to spend.”  We were already overdrawn on our bank account (but have a cash reserve so we were OK) and we would be getting paid on Thursday but sometimes the check doesn’t come through so I didn’t want to chance it.  So I just picked up the things we needed.  As we watched the news Wednesday night, we heard that there is a chance Sandy just might hit us if conditions are right but at that point, they thought the cold front in the midwest might steer her out to sea.  They were wrong.

Thursday morning was the first I heard that we just may get Sandy and if things happen the way they thought it would, it would be bad.  I started my prep then.  I knew the stores would start to get busy so I didn’t go until later on that night but while I was home, I started with the preps in the house.  I started to fill large containers of water to freeze in our upright freezer.  I inventoried the freezer, repacked it so that the important meats would be at their lowest point possible and filled the upper part with the containers.  I froze the 3/4 gallon water containers from Poland Springs, plastic juice containers, large Gladware containers, and even the quart Chinese soup containers.  I froze as many as I could fit in there.  I also pulled out the ice cream and ice pops and told people to enjoy them.  For the next few days, we ate anything that would need an oven or microwave to cook so we enjoyed frozen dinners, chicken nuggets and the like.

When I went to the grocery store on Thursday night, I picked up just essentials and very few cold things.  I got one more half gallon of milk, a few more soups, hamburger and sandwich buns, bread, crackers, canned fruit and 3 more 4 packs of D batteries.  This is where I wished I got them at Costco because they are so much cheaper!

Friday found me at work so I couldn’t do any prep but I did get gas.  I was noticing gas lines getting longer but it wasn’t too bad yet.  I told the family to get gas but they delayed and it was Sunday before the girls got gas - and they had to hunt around because most stations only had premium at that point and hubby got gas as well FINALLY.  

On Saturday, I had a bridal shower at noon so the morning only allowed us to get the dinghy home from the boat and secured and then I was out until about 3:30.  While I was gone, hubby brought the boat to the marina where were were going to winter it.  Unfortunately, we had to pay to bring it in a week early but it was the most prudent thing to do since they are basically a “hurricane hole” and would be safe in the storm.  I left the shower early so we could take the air conditioner out of the window (should have been done weeks before but we kept putting it off) and then we did a little tidying outside.  We had a farewell for friends that evening so we were gone the rest of the day.

Sunday morning was an absolutely gorgeous day and we went off to church.  We were supposed to see my in-laws after church but we canceled because we were behind on preparations and really needed the time since the storm was now definitely coming on Monday.  We spent the rest of Sunday securing everything.  After I had done the freezer inventory, I planned out 4 days worth of meals that I could cook on the stove top (we have a gas stove top) and I moved those foods to the inside freezer.  I also brought in some hot dogs, a few frozen vegetables and then packed this freezer with some of the ice I had already frozen.  I shut off the ice maker, removed the ice bucket and put the ice in gallon baggies then left the ice bucket out of the freezer to give us a bit more room to work with.  I put the baggies of ice right on top then turned the temperature down on both freezers and refrigerator.  We also secured the outside of the house and hubby tested the generator - which didn’t work.  That will be going in to see what’s up immediately but really, we didn’t need it.  After we went to bed, I woke up wondering if I prepped everything and on a whim, I got up and put the half gallon of milk I bought Thursday night into the freezer.

Monday morning woke us up to windy and dreary weather.  It wasn’t bad at all yet - no more than a regular storm so we just kind of hung out all day.  The kids watched TV (we didn’t do school) and we were online or watching TV most of the day to keep up on what was happening.  I precooled the ice chest with a block of ice, put a block of ice and the frozen milk into the fridge and I gathered all of our emergency supplies into the dining room where it would be out of the way but handy when we would need it.  The wind picked up throughout the day and the news was showing a lot of devastation already.  My oldest was supposed to work at the grocery store from 4:30 to 10 pm but they were saying that would be the height of the storm so we had her call in and say that she wasn’t coming.  Around 4:30 pm, we lost what we estimate is a 70 foot pine tree out back and fortunately, it landed perfectly and only damaged another tree - NOTHING on the property was damaged (although the grass out there is going to be needing some help since it pulled the roots out of the ground).  I was also absolutely frantic about the tree out front that at one time was the largest tree in our neighborhood.  It’s an old locust and I was watching the roots lifting up the ground during the same time as the tree out back fell.  I kept praying and watching but by the time we went to bed around 8:30, the winds had died down a little and I felt like the tree would still be standing.  We lost power at 8 pm on the nose after having the power flickering madly from about 4:30 on.  We figured by 8:30, we might as well go to bed since we were all tired so we did.  

Tuesday morning we got up and made some coffee (we have a stove top perculator from Farberware that we had from our old boat and we keep it at home for when we lose power), had muffins for breakfast and figured out what we were doing.  It was actually not that windy and we knew we were in the clear.  Hubby went out to see if the roads were clear enough to get my other daughter to the supermarket for 8 and they were - with caution since all of the traffic lights weren’t working.  He also checked the boat which was perfect and the marina even had power!  The store had no power but they did have a generator so they were able to sell at least canned goods and stuff.  Ice had sold out and they packed away all meat and deli in a refrigerated semi they just happened to still have there from a renovation.  We then drove around looking to see if we could get cell service since the phones went down during the night and we soon found out that most cell service wasn’t working because of damage to the system.  One woman at the grocery store said her sister watched one cell tower get blown over!  Basically, just a very few pockets of areas around us had power but 90% had none.  Every single road had a tree down with power lines and the detours were incredible.  We ended up back at our yacht club which is a mile from my house and not only did they have power, they had internet so I was able to get online enough to let everyone know we were OK.  We looked through the binoculars and found many boats up on shore - even big boats we knew.  That was heartbreaking.

After we got home, I then went to see if my dad was OK because I couldn’t get a hold of him with no cell service (I tried using the land line at Stop and Shop but it couldn’t get through) and I could see that the guys did a lot of work already cutting trees off of roads.  Every few hundred feet were evidences of another tree across the road - they would clear the road but just toss the debris over on the shoulder to clear later.  I got to my dad’s and he was fine so I told him to come over to my house since he had no power or even radio (found out later the radio station he listens to was off the air - he never checked to see if anything else came in).  It took me forever to get home because streets that had trees down on power lines - but the power lines were still standing - and I was able to drive through before now were closed to have them clear the road.  But I got home and by the time my dad came, the roads were fully clear.  We cleaned out the fridge and sent some of the things I wanted to save out to the boat (the boat has a fridge and freezer that run by the engine - just run it 1/2 hour twice a day in hot weather - even less since we’re in the 50s now) and we tossed a lot of condiments.  Everything was still really cold (the fridge was just at 40 since I had ice in there and had turned the temperature down the on Sunday) So Dad stayed the night with us and we had a nice time.  That night was spaghetti and Italian sausages and salad.  We were now 24 hours without power.  We were in good shape.

Wednesday morning, we had my daughter’s boyfriend and his mom come over to shower and my dad scooted out to go home and to drive around to see what was open.  We had a nice breakfast of potatoes, onions, peppers, ham and eggs (it was a frozen thing that we had gotten that had the potatoes, onions, peppers and ham and I just added the eggs - I had realized this would be good “no power” food so I saved it in the freezer inside) and coffee.  Hubby went to see if church was open for meetings and it wasn’t (still had no communication) so he came back home.  I started the fireplace because it was getting chilly - the fire was going all day.  I ran out around lunchtime to get online and while I was sitting in the parking lot of the storefronts next to the marina, I saw someone come out of the bait shop with ice so I threw down my computer and ran in to buy 4 bags.  They were small and still pretty wet - and $4 a bag but that was OK.  It was ice.  I walked them down to the boat where hubby put them in the freezer and he’d take one home that night.  That ice would last us at least 3 days from our experience with ice/ice chests on the boat.  When I was done, I drove to the barn but stopped at Stop and Shop because it looked like they had power - they did!!  They had just gotten it back.  Awesome!!  But I still won’t buy refrigerated food from them until they get a new shipment.  Their meat and deli were protected this whole time but the refrigerated dairy and frozen foods were allowed to go.  So we still can’t get milk from them for a few days.

After I stopped in at the supermarket, I went to the barn because I had no idea how they fared there.  I got there and all was fine - just no power.  I decided to clean the stall and exercise Whirl since he most likely had been so nervous after the storm and might still have some extra energy - he was fine.  I’m sure it felt good to get moving though!!  All of the horses were outside and looked good and there was no flooding there.  

The plan for Wednesday’s dinner was hamburgers and my daughter’s boyfriend was coming over and my dad stopped in.  I had corn and baked beans (both in the can) ready to go - and at 4 pm, we got our power back!!  Just 44 hours after we lost it, we got it back!!  We were floored because we figured that it would be at least a few more days but here it was - and better yet, our cell phones started working!  It was wonderful!  I ended up being able to bake a cake for my son (it was his 12th birthday - yes, a Halloween baby!) and we had a really nice dinner with everyone here.  We kept the fire going even though we now had heat because - well, it’s just nice!!  The kids watched videos (still no TV, phone or internet) and we read.  I ended up going to bed early because I was just pooped!  LOL  But before I did, I checked the outside big freezer that had been locked since before the storm.  The water jugs hadn’t even begun to thaw and just the bread at the very top of the freezer was softening but that is easy to do with bread.  My Italian ices were still even more frozen than slushy!!  I’m impressed!  I would say that we had at least another 2 days to keep the food frozen enough to save, maybe more.  

So now we are on the other side of it all - mostly.  We still have no TV or internet, many roads are still closed and most businesses are closed because of no power.  Our tree out back needs to be cut up and I want the tree out front taken down as well.  But we are in good shape.  I feel that the prep work I did paid off in spades.  We absolutely could have kept going at least a few more days in relative comfort and still have no issues.  I still had 2 more day’s worth of dinners ready to go (chicken breast that I could have done on the stove and served with gravy, mashed potatoes and a frozen veggie; chicken tortellini alfredo with frozen veggies) and then a full freezer as well.  I only opened one of the many packs of batteries we had to get a lantern going brighter and we still had plenty of firewood.  Having a gas hot water heater and a gas stove really made all the difference in the world - and of course we never lost our water as well.  So we were sitting pretty here.  Many people weren’t as fortunate since they had major damage to their homes.  One neighborhood in the city had 100 homes burn during the hurricane because the high winds just carried the flames along.  That is so heartbreaking.

I just asked hubby what he’d do differently and he said that he’d have made sure the generator was running earlier and would have gotten it fixed.  Needless to say, it will be going in to the shop to see if it can be fixed and if not, we’ll replace it.  The house is wired to accept the generator to the house electric (after you shut it off to the street) and so we will definitely make sure we have one again.  But otherwise, we did everything right from what we can see.  That makes us feel good.  I can now pass on the ice we bought to anyone we know who needs it and even the batteries for those who don’t have any.  I’ve also put out the word that we have hot showers if anyone wants to come by and I’ll always have coffee on for them.

Speaking of coffee, that is the most glaring thing I saw as we drove around the morning after the storm.  Coffee.  Where there was power at a deli or anyplace that might have coffee, there were lines out the door.  People are absolutely addicted to coffee and NEED it no matter what.  I just thought that was funny.  So for the coffee addicts, get yourself a way to make coffee in a storm even if it’s a camping stove and a stove top perculator or french press!  It will make your life that much better.  LOL

The news kept “hyping” that this would be a historic storm.  Now being here 3 days later, I agree.  This storm had the lowest barometric pressure that hit the East Coast.  Our winds hit 97 mph here in my town.  Lower Manhattan is basically a ghost town and our mass transit still isn’t running here on Long Island (I heard last night that they may try to get limited service going but with so many crossings without power, I’m not sure what they will do).  There is no question that this was the worst storm I’ve ever experienced and we will never forget it!

OK - Now I’m adding on a few things 24 hours later.  We got our cable back last night so now we have phones, TV and internet.  We watched the news last night and I have to say that we are so fortunate.  The damage here is nothing compared to what others got.  SOOO sad.

There are a couple of major issues facing people right now, 4 days after the storm:

  • Gas - most gas stations are running out of gas because of no deliveries, no power and a huge run on gas.  I think many did get gas before the storm but not enough - and many are running generators.
  • Electric for electronics.  Even in the grocery store, people are asking to charge their electronics.  I have a Power Monkey Extreme so even without power for an extended period of time, charging the electronics is no problem other than the laptops and we just closed them down and shut them off.  But for phones and iPad and iPods?  Not a problem with the Power Monkey Extreme.
  • Ice - Usually after a storm, a few days later, ice is beginning to be available and I’m seeing that.  But I’m grateful that I found a few bags the other day and we’ve now given those away.
  • Heat - SO many are complaining because it’s getting cold.  Tonight will be in the 30s and without heat, the houses are getting chilly.  We are just not used to this but then I think back to the Little House on the Prairie books and how the girls woke up with snow on their beds and I think we are STILL better off.  But people should consider an alternate source of heat in their homes if this will happen again.