Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I'd like to express my appreciation and thanks to all of the first responders--police, fireman, EMT, Coast Guard, but especially the utility company workers, repairmen, dispatchers, truckers delivering supplies, etc. who are working around the clock to serve the rest of us.
On Monday afternoon, I lost power, network, land line and cell phone service. My wife has been in Hong Kong. At home, my wife likes to buy things in bulk in case of emergency, but that doesn't mean that we know where anything is. Michael knew where one flashlight was, and the other was in my backpack. By chance, Michael found the bag in the basement with my wife's horde of batteries. Michael remembered that he had a battery operated Sony radio in his dresser. He connected two PC speakers to it, and it worked perfectly. Thanks to my wife's habit, of buying things in bulk and only on sale, we had enough food in the house for at least a month, if not three. We had a sizable cache of candles which my wife had bought fifteen years ago, in case of power failures. Over four days, with no contact with the outside world other than our neighbors and whatever was in walking distance, Michael and I listened to the news of the disaster on the radio. At night, we played chess by candle light.

I live about three miles from Raritan Bay. The Northern part of my town, Hazlet, had been evacuated early in the storm. We go to church in Union Beach. The town of Union Beach sits between Hazlet and the bay--the Union Beach border is about two miles away, with about another mile before you get to the bay. From the radio, we learned that 200 houses in Union Beach were completely destroyed, and one person died as a result of falling off his roof into the water.

During the summer, I had visited the beach at Mantaloking (near Brick/Lakewood). From the radio, I learned that the entire town was under water and that ten homes had caught fire from gas mains. Even after the homes had burned down, the gas main fires continued to burn. Utility workers were unable to get to Mantaloking because it was surrounded by flood waters. Essentially, as per other reports, plus the governor, the entire Jersey shore is gone.

Late Tuesdays night, I had a hunch that if we drove towards Rutgers, where Andrew is, we might pick-up cell phone service and be able to contact family members. Sure enough, as we approached the Raritan River, we got cell phone service. My son at Rutgers was very happy to hear from us. He said he had been trying to contact us for more than two days. To get to Andrew's campus, I had to drive around two roadblocks, but it was late at night and no one was around. Andrew is a new dorm that was built with backup generator power. Michael and I charged up our cell phones in his dorm room. And from there we phoned my wife in Hong Kong. Once she finished scolding, panicking, reprimanding, and trying to micromanage us all the way from Hong Kong on how we should be doing in the outage, Michael asked her where the third flashlight was. She did not know, but she told us where we could find an unopened package of three flashlights from Costco (with batteries already in them!). With that we would be O.K. in the dark for a few weeks at least.

We had gas and water throughout. My son and I are very glad that we had each other for company. Rather than being plugged into the Internet, cell phones, or T.V., we had each other to talk to. We did a lot of planning and preparation. It was an extremely relaxing time playing chess and just talking to him in the dark. However, on the very first night, right after the sun went down, we both said to each other, almost simultaneously, that this could get very boring, very fast. But it never did. I got to know and appreciate my son Michael better during this time, and I found that fascinating and eminently worthwhile.

We won't be back to normal until we can buy gasoline. As luck would have it, my wife's car had a full tank of gas in it.

The unexpected thing about the storm was how little rain it had.Yes, it rained for 24 hours straight, but it was very light, not the torrents we have had in previous storms. Michael and I spent considerable time laying out and weighing down a tarp to guide falling water away from one of the basement windows, but it was unnecessary. Of course we took everything in the yard & porch and brought it in the garage including garbage cans, grill, Halloween decorations, bird feeder. We also quickly took down all the trellis' in the vegetable garden. after the storm I actually found 3 bell peppers that were able to be harvested. and this is November.


Things are still bad around here.  I just received a robo call from my town's emergency services office.  They announced that at the Catholic Grammar school in Union Beach that my sons had attended, the NJ National Guard will again be distributing drinkable water and ice, as they were yesterday.  At Maranatha Baptist Church (within walking distance) they are asking for donations of clothing and blankets, for distribution, as is St. Benedict's church (the Catholic Church in the other direction.)

Perhaps you had to be here, but I was amazed by this. There is a little strip mall about a quarter of a mile from our house, with a little Chinese restaurant called Liu's Garden. We get a discount there because my wife is friends with the owner (and we always pays cash!). Like us, they only had water and gas from Monday PM to Thursday. I drove by at night, and inexplicably, the parking lot was packed. My son said, "Liu's Garden is open!" I looked through their window. It was dark, but I saw a glowing light in the back of the restaurant, from the kitchen area. It was the glow of the gas flames under the woks. As my eyes adjusted, I then noticed the silhouettes of a lineup of the backs heads of customers waiting at the counter. The restaurant was packed with customers! Obviously, they stayed open solely for business reasons, but I think they should get some recognition for providing food service during the outage.

By executive order of the governer himself, today is Halloween in New Jersey, but we have had no Trick or Treaters! Sandy is the devil that stole Haloween. I was able to get gas locally yesterday. There were less than 10 cars on line, but they only had high test, and I had to pay cash. I went to my local Pathmark Supermarket, and they still have no food that requires refrigeration. Shoprite Supermarket had milk, orange juice, bacon, etc. but most of the lights in the supermarket were out. The cashier, acting very happy, said that her house is still without power, that she has forgotten what it's like to have power. Next, I went to the local bakery. There were two college girls on line in front of me who asked the cashier for donations of unsold goods at closing time, for relief efforts. The cashier, who also seemed quite happy, said that she understood because she lived in Union Beach (which had been declared a disaster area and required to evacuate). She told me that her house was intact but still without power. My in-law in Old Bridge are still without power as well.

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