Monday, November 5, 2012

Power in the House: A Post-Sandy Post

I was wrong.

I was wrong when I scoffed at the storm, posting on a friend's Facebook page, "people.  It's going to RAIN."

I was wrong when I didn't bother to stock up on more than a few days' worth of boxed milk.

photo by flickr user dvidshub,
used under creative commons license
I was wrong when I almost didn't fill my gas tank.

Because I didn't take Sandy seriously.

Though I hadn't spent much time online, I saw enough in the newspapers and in occasional log in to know that we were lucky.  My brother was evacuated from Hoboken, where his building was flooded with several feet of water.  Here, at my house, we were inconvenienced, but not devastated.  We sustained only minor property damage (if you could even call it that).  Though we lost power for a week, we had an inverter, powered by my husband's Prius when he was home from work, that gave us intermittent heat and chilled milk in the refrigerator (because there wasn't much else in there by the second day).  I made a conscious decision not to use my computer or my phone if I could avoid doing so, because doing so would mean sucking up gas, which was--and still is--in very short supply here, and desperately needed by so many other people.  Even in my town, downed trees cut houses in half, squashed cars.  Transformer explosions caused fires.

It had been a week since we'd seen lights on my block.  Generators droned on in the background, day and night.  Our town postponed Halloween until tonight, and though it was going to be pitch black out, I decided to take the kids out anyway for a little while, just to feel normal.  My son walked proudly down the street in his home-made sea captain costume, made out of a cardboard box, to which we affixed a pinwheel for a propellor, hand-made fishing pole, and a hand-sewn (by him) felt flag.  My daughter barrelled down the sidewalk in purple tuille, in an oversized freecycle ballet costume we refer to around here as the "poofy dress."  And some of my power-less neighbors really came through: one of them built a fire pit in his front yard; another lit candles across the porch; another came over with giant Hershey bars for the kids and Buttershots-spiked cider for the adults.  It was a quiet Halloween, but I was impressed by the tenacity of my neighborhood.

Of course, it wasn't all hand-holding and kum-ba-ya here this week.

I was cut off when I was on the road driving my mom to physical therapy by two people who needed to get in line for the Dunkin' Donuts drive through, presumably because they didn't have working coffee makers at home.

I witnessed two neighbors come close to fisticuffs over the noise of the generator at night, which was powering a house blazing with light and TV.

I saw gas lines three hours long (and actually sat in one for an hour and a half), with people waiting for cans of gas.  One of them complained in our local paper that he had to fill his generator twice a day.  I couldn't help but wonder: for what?

But I also saw Jersey drivers being courteous at traffic lights that no longer functioned.  And I had friends all over the state (and in the next state over) offering me a warm place to go, or a hot meal, or a hot shower, or a washing machine and dryer.  And when the power came back on tonight almost a week to the hour that the lights went out, I determined to pass that same invitation on to anyone who needs it.

Disasters like Sandy make you think about what's really important.  Filling up cars with gas?  Yes, if you need to get to work or to the doctor or to the grocery store for essentials.  Doing the laundry?  Not so much, provided you have a little clean underwear to change into every once in a while.   Showers?  Maybe, if you're going to work.  TV?  Dunkin' Donuts coffee?  Low priority.  Internet?  Maybe for basic communication.  But certainly not for the kinds of things so many people think they need it for.  Cell phones?  Again, yes, for communication about where to find food or gas ... but maybe not so much for texting about what's on TV.  Shelter?  Yes.  Warmth?  Yes, with the caveat that it's possible to wear enough clothes to stay warm as long as you have shelter.  Food?  Yes.  Basic food.  Not beautiful food.  Healthy, nutritious, life-sustaining food.  That maybe even came out of a can.  Like peanut butter.

Still, in my area, thousands of people remain without power, and a nor'easter is scheduled to hit on Wednesday, with snow accumulating up to a few inches.  Thousands are displaced, some without things like diapers for their babies or food or warm winter clothing.  People will be cold, even if they are lucky enough to have a home.  There's a collection center at my local library, just down the road.  It's the sort of thing you never expect to see in your back yard.  If you're local, and in a position to do so, I encourage you to find a donation center.

If you can't donate locally, I urge you to consider donating to OccupySandy and OccupySandyNJ, because they are on the ground right now helping people get access to food and basic supplies, at least at the Jersey Shore.  (You can get to their Amazon wish list by clicking on the Wedding Registry.  It's weird, but it works.)

I would also like to host an online bake sale/auction to aid in the long-term recovery efforts for Sandy victims, because the rebuilding process is not going to happen overnight, and because a case of diapers isn't going to make the disaster disappear.  If you're a blogger and baker, please leave your contact info in the comment section.  If you know of a food blogger and baker, please pass them alone.  I don't know much about online auctions, but I think we can do this simply and still amass some amazing looking treats, and send them around the country for a good cause.

Powering down for now.  Because I've used my share.
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  1. I am so proud of and inspired by you. So glad your power is back on! My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to all those still without power and recovering from Sandy. xoxo

  2. So glad you're back. Thanks for the update and advice on how we can help.

  3. Hurricanes, ugh. From down here in Florida I can say that even though we do the hurricane thing relatively often, it's still a balancing act between being prepared and building walls and walls of canned goods in the house.

    Glad to hear that you and your family are well and praying for those devastated by the storm.

  4. I'm glad you guys are all okay, and that you're back on the grid.

    I don't know anything about generators, but based on the Facebook discussions I've seen over the past few days, even running just a refrigerator sucks down a lot of gas.

    I'm in for the bake sale.

  5. I've been so worried about you - even though I know you don't live in the area that was hit really badly, so many of my friends in Jersey are without power and had property damage. Was really happy to see your comment on my blog the other night. Glad you and your family members are okay.



  6. So glad to hear that you're okay; sorry you lost power for so long.

    I'm a blogger who bakes, or a baker who blogs; if I can help, I'd be glad to.

  7. I've been thinking of you lots. Glad to read this post, and that your family is okay.

    My mom grew up in New Jersey... I feel a connection though I am very far away.

  8. I am no baker but always up for delicious baked goods and doing what i can to pitch in . So, you can count on me to participate in the sale.

  9. So glad you and yours are well. I didn't know OccupySandy had a amazon wishlist. going there now to help I know so many that have friends/relatives on the jersey shore and they really are devestated.

  10. I am so glad you all are OK and your power is back on! I've been through an ice storm that left us without power for a week and a hurricane that left some in Raleigh without power for 2 weeks. It can be hard to believe the impact will really be that bad, especially when there have been so many misses.

    I'd love to bake something or at the very least, help promote it.

  11. Glad that your power is back on and your town escaped relatively unscathed. Thanks for info on how we can help from out of town!

  12. Beautiful post and my sentiments exactly - we see the best and the worst of people in a crisis. Sending love and warmth to you while you wait for the power to come back on!

    I am in for the bake sale. I make granola. Just started selling it actually. I will be glad to donate some for the relief efforts.

  13. What Kathy said. What you've been through really makes you think about what's important and necessary.

    I'm glad you're OK. Wishing everyone in your area well through the recovery.

  14. Glad to hear you came through relatively unscathed. I know so many did not. :( Thanks for reminding us all how lucky we are and how much we take for granted.

  15. Just stumbled upon your blog!
    We're in the middle of a winter storm here but nothing like your going thru!
    My oldest is going to new York this summer with reach work camps.
    Keep warm and safe!
    Heather @


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