We knew it was going to be a big one. The big storms always take a long time to build. I could see over the course of last weekend, the sky grew that deep and foreboding tone of gray burl…and it hovered without letting much precipitation release. It actually stalled for a day and arrived 24 hours later than forecast. The winds blew stronger and as the two massive fronts came crashing together, BOOM! Rain. Heavy rain! Wind. Mighty wind!
I was outside on the night of the big storm. Checking one last time to see everything was weighted down and tucked away. Around 10:00 PM, the wind was blustering heavy with sheets of rain slapping down. I watched two transformers spark up and pop loudly. Still, I had power on in the house. I could see the lights had not gone out. I checked a few more things around the garden and shed area then came inside for the night. Nothing left to do but sleep and wait to see what damage there may be in the morning.
Awakened by something at 3:00 AM, I noted that the winds continued to wail and we no longer had electricity. Back to bed and now to think about how to approach the day if the power remained off. Everything in my house runs on electricity; well-water pump, stove, heating, lights,everything.
Over the years, I have gathered together some effective and handy camping equipment and I enjoy camping as a pastime, but that is generally a planned activity and provisioned for in advance. I knew this storm was coming and felt that, “heck, I’m always prepared”, nothing to worry about. That attitude can prove to be perilous.
I always have plenty of food in the freezer and well stocked dried goods along with my fresh produce from the garden. I keep several 2 gallon plastic jugs of water and have three, 5 gallon containers with spigots. Those 5 gallon containers were excellent to fill from my 55 gallon rain barrel. Hauling water is not much fun though, even if it is only 50 – 100 yards. So I have plenty of food and water and I know I have my gear if I need it, but I am hoping the power will come back on in another couple of hours. That did not happen.
It was time for a little breakfast and to make a plan for the day. Cold fruit, yogurt, juice is okay but not my favorite way to fortify myself for the day. I would rather have pancakes or eggs with bacon but that would be too much work before I got started on the other work that had been foisted upon me by the storm. After I ate, I walked the neighborhood and assessed the damage. I had quite a few small branches down from neighboring trees and some of my small trees lost a few limbs. My garden fencing was a mess and will need straightening, but not before all the blowing is finished and this rain stops. As I walked I saw many trees down and some hanging precariously from power lines. There remains a lot of work that will need to be done by line crews before electricity is restored to everyone. One house has a tree resting where it crashed upon and damaged the roof. Big trees near homes are extremely dangerous during high wind storms.
Just before Noon, I cranked up my hand-crank radio to get some news. Apparently NYC and N.J. had been hit hardest. Unfortunately, it seems Washington, D.C. has been spared. As many as 8 million people are reported without power. Many of these people may not expect to have power restored for up to a week. This is where things can become problematic for large numbers of folks.
Reluctantly, I began to dig out from all the other clutter in storage, camp cook stove and propane tanks. It was then that I discovered that tank #1 is empty. Well, that’s not like me. A slight oversight. It won’t happen again. Flashlights are handy but they don’t work without batteries. I always have back up batteries. Uh, er, except this time. Okay, no problem. I knew I had a box of candles somewhere….somewhere that I was not able to locate when I needed them! I guess I have been slacking off on my prep inventories. I’ll have to get on that.
Households with generators were comfortable as they continued to have lights and heat and all the amenities we come to take for granted. I had to heat soup on the camp stove in the garage. Hot soup with cheese and crackers held us until dinner. Maybe the power would be back on by then. After lunch, I ventured to the grocery store to pick up a few items that would likely run out soon; ice, milk, bread. I wanted to see how the roads were and to determine how extensive the power outage was. Along the drive there were many trees down and some roads were blocked entirely by large timber. Detours were found to be blocked by more downed trees. This required finding a secondary alternate route. The grocery store looked like it had been depleted the previous night with no sign of being restocked.
Back home I listened to the crank radio as I cooked and ate Pasta with pesto. It was an easy meal in one pot for quick clean up. I went to bed early and hoped that the power would return by morning.
Day 2- This storm had clearly taken a heavy toll on the region. The electricity was still off after 36 hours and I had to think about a long term plan if power was not restored after 48 hours. A concern for losing the food stored in the freezer became serious and sanitation starts to become a burdensome chore. I went out to one of the local eateries and they were jam packed. I decided I would drive a little further to a second choice. They were busy as well. It seemed everyone in the area was without power. The various conversations I heard confirmed this was the case.
Fortunately, the electric power was restored at my place later in the afternoon of the second day. My telephone and internet service remained down for another 24 hours. Even my cell phone was out of service. All calls failed. A storm of this magnitude undoubtedly knocked down transmission towers and networks failed.
I am back online now and I have to admit that this storm taught me a few lessons about being prepared versus thinking you are prepared. It doesn’t hurt to double check your emergency preps, especially before an expected storm. I am also going to look into getting a generator and a couple more rain barrels.