Hurricane Irene - What I Learned
What I Learned From Hurricane Irene - Do you know what to do to prepare for a disaster?
Often, I watched scenes of disasters in the United States and abroad and empathized with the plight of the people.
Recently, we experienced problems due to hurricane Irene up the East Coast, including my home state of Connecticut. Now, it hit home.
In no way does my hurricane Irene experience match the hardship, loss and suffering of other people during a disaster. However, the little inconvenience I suffered made me more in tune with how hard it really is for people who have lived through a disaster.
The purpose of this article is to be thought provoking and to warn those that have not yet had a disaster that they really do need to be prepared.
Photo shows the predicted path of Hurricane Irene
It Could Never Happen Here Syndrome
aka Head in the Sand
As early as Wednesday, August 24, 2011 we heard weather reports indicating hurricane Irene might hit us.
We reasoned that the weather reports always blow things out of proportion to keep people tuned into the news. Cynical? Yes. But, past experience has been that they make dire predictions about hurricanes and then the hurricanes blow out to the Atlantic.
Then, we reasoned that we live inland, and the hurricanes only affect the shoreline. Plus, this was only going to be a Category 1 hurricane and people in the Bahamas had survived it when it was a Category 3.
Governor Dannel Malloy Appears On TV To Warn About Hurricane Irene - It's Beginning To Sink In
Typically, our governors have gone on TV for large snow storms -- sometimes before and sometimes after to warn everyone to stay off the roads. I don't remember when a governor has warned us about a hurricane.
Hmmm .....maybe there's a reason everyone is being so cautious about this one.
Okay, so now that we have seen the governor on TV, we are thinking there is something to this. Maybe we should get "a little prepared" in case we lose the power for several hours.
We had plenty of flashlights, batteries and candles, so that was not a problem.
We charged our cell phones.
The refrigerators and pantry were full. The propane tank in our barbeque had enough gas for quite a few meals.
We went to the library and took out books to read.
We did several loads of laundry and took showers the night before the storm hit.
We filled several gallon drinking containers with drinking water. And I made a pitcher of ice tea. More than adequate (we thought).
When we lose electric power, our well pump doesn't work, so we filled about 8 gallon containers with water and kept them out on the deck. We would used these to flush the toilets.
Even then..........amid the preparing, we kept saying "I don't think it's really going to be bad"; "it'll probably be nothing" "no need to worry".
Okay, Now Let's Test Your Disaster Readiness - Would You Have Thought Of Everything?
You have been reading so far. Maybe, something struck you as a "gee, I wouldn't have thought of that". Let's take the poll now and then take another poll after you read to the end of the article.
After reading this story would you have been as prepared as we were?
Last November, We Had Two Large Trees Removed
The trees were leaning toward our neighbors house and their child's bedroom.
As we hear the wind gust, and see all the downed trees. We are so happy we did that ahead of time.
The peace of mind is golden.
Sunday Morning August 28, 2011
Things Are Not So Bad, Right?
It had been raining hard all night and the wind was blowing during the hurricane.
We got up and it was still raining and once in a while there was a gust of wind.
As we ate breakfast we watched TV and were stunned by the damage all over the State.
THEN......late morning, we lost of electricity. "No biggie", we thought. We have lost power for a few hours before.
It was a gloomy rainy day, so we stayed in and read.
Our neighbor, to the right of us, offered us time on his generator in the morning. We declined. We figured if we kept the refrigerator door closed we would be okay.
Content to sit and wait, we read our books and cooked out on our outdoor propane gas grill.
Monday, August 29, 2011
The Rain Stopped And The Sun Is Shining
We got the word from people walking by our house, that there were a lot of roads blocked by trees and a lot of live wires hanging down. One man drove by and said he had tried several roads, but you really couldn't go very far with out hitting a blockage.
On the plus side, it was the friendliest I had seen all the neighbors. Everyone was talking about it, and mostly in a good mood.
By late afternoon, our neighbor on the left was offering us a chance to hook our refrigerator up to his generator. We took him up on his offer. We offered to buy the gasoline for the generator.
We cooked dinner outside on the grill again.
By now we heard our telephone ring faintly. Faintly, because without power, cordless phones don't work. So only the two corded phones were ringing and we would have to run to the rooms with the corded phones to answer.
There is no more water left to flush the toilets. Luckily, we live on a lake. Unfortunately, it's downhill. My significant other volunteers to go down to the lake and bring back buckets of water. Even with the handcart, he is struggling to push them up hill.
The Walls Are Closing In On Us
We hear that we can get through on the state highway to the Interstate.
Good. I telephone Ruby Tuesday and Chili's restaurants two towns over. Surely, these large chain restaurants would have a plan for a power outage. No answer.
We find out that Norwich, 25 miles away, mostly has power.
This is important, as we volunteered to get gasoline for the generator and, the gasoline station pumps all need electric power to work. In all the towns in between here and Norwich, none of the gas stations are open.
The trip is scary. Traffic lights are out and no one seems to know, that in the State of Connecticut, if a traffic light is out, you treat as a four way stop. Cars are just zipping through in all directions. I observe the stop and the guy behind me, nearly goes into me.
We eat lunch in Norwich as we watch the 3 gasoline stations across the street. Shell has a line of cars about 20 deep. But Mobil looks clear.
We go to Mobil. They are clear because they ran out of gas. We go to BP and wait a half hour in line to get gas.
When we get home we find we have lost all our telephone service. I try our cell phones. We try out back; we try out front. No service.
We put batteries in our radio and find that we can only get Rhode Island and Massachusetts stations. Thus, we are clueless as to what is going on in Connecticut and when we will get our power back.
It's a strange feeling to not be able to communicate, or receive communication. We are so used to having that luxury.
A neighbor tells us the elementary school is opened for shower taking. This is our night out. We go take showers. It is great. We feel wonderful and we are grateful we had this opportunity.
There is no more water left to flush the toilets. My significant other volunteers to go down to the lake and bring back buckets of water. He is even more tired today of lugging water up the hill. Still, we are grateful, that we have access to the lake water.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Still No Power
The good news is ........the electric power company is restoring power to town centers first. Our little town center has power. Now we can fill the gas can five miles from home instead of 30. The bad news is the utility company will do all the town centers before they do the houses outside the center limits.
We go to lunch in the small local restaurant in town. And fill up the gas can.
We are able to get a cell phone signal in town and call some friends and family to let them know we are okay.
At lunch we discuss how lucky we are that we are have mobility and means to go out to eat. We realize that there are people who don't have this option when disaster strikes.
There is no more water left to flush the toilets. My other half, Jim, volunteers to go down to the lake and bring back buckets of water. He is even more tired today of lugging water up the hill. He has to rest up before and after water retrieval.
I Learned Something I Want to Share
Our neighbors were bringing their solar lawn lights inside, in the evening. They put them around the house to keep from bumping into things.
During the day, they put them outside again to recharge.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Much The Same As The Day Before
We continue the same pattern of eating lunch out and purchasing gas can for the generator.
Reading has become sleep inducing. We find we are lethargic and napping.
Our neighbor says: "I have something to tell you, you probably don't want to hear". (Oh my!) "We are not scheduled to get our power back until Monday, September 5 at 11:00 a.m."
We get our telephone back in the morning.
I operate a vintage collectible shop online at Ruby Lane. I want to check in to see if any of my customers are trying to contact me. I call a library 35 miles away and ask if they have WiFi. They say they do. We pack up our laptop and go. When we get to the library almost every table is taken by someone with a laptop. All the library computers are occupied. We find we cannot connect to WiFi. The information desk tells me everyone is having that problem. We never get a connection.
We lose our telephone again in the evening. One of the neighbors walking by, used to work for the telephone company. According to her, those boxes you see by the side of the road here and there, belong to the phone company. They have generators in them that last about a day and a half after they lose their electrical power source. We must have gotten power back because they brought a fresh generator. Why it's out again, we don't know.
There is no more water left to flush the toilets. My significant other has to go down to the lake and bring back buckets of water. He is even more tired today of lugging water up the hill. He naps first, then goes for water.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Pretty Much The Same As Thursday
We decide to go a different library. This one is also 35 miles away. Unfortunately, it is 35 miles away when we take back roads. We are told all the back roads we usually take are impassable. The trip winds up being more like 45 miles away.
The information desk tells me that people are complaining they can't get on WiFi ......but she doesn't believe that's true.
Fortunately, this library has tons of PC's and I don't need to deal with WiFi. I check my shop and find, I indeed have a customer purchase order. I respond, telling him, I will ship as soon as power is restored to my home PC.
And......once again we run out of toilet flushing water. Poor Jim, he admits climbing up and down the hill with buckets is getting to him.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
It's a wonderful day -- almost
When we came back from lunch, our neighbor was out in the street telling everyone the power came 15 minutes ago.
Thrilled is the word!
We ran around cleaning up the house. Lugging pails of water in has created a mess, etc. Jim takes the pails out of the bathrooms and puts them on the deck. I run the dishwasher. I do a wash.
We lose power again.
Another neighbor comes over and says that a fuse has been blown and 4 towns in the area are completely out. He tells us the power will be restored in two hours.
Three hours later, no power. Jim brings the buckets back in from the deck to the bathrooms.
We go to sleep.
Sunday, September 4, 2011 - Wowie! We See The Light
We wake up and the power is on and.............................wait for it.............................................. it remains on.
Generator, What Generator?
The Story of Our Former Generator
We had a gasoline powered generator, but in the past 10 years we never used it. It was taking up space in our shed, so we sold it (the beginning of summer).
Up until now, all our power outages were in the snow. Typically, branches come down when they are covered with wet snow and/or ice. They take the power lines with them.
Our reasoning was, in a snowstorm we could bury our food in the snow and keep it cold. Also, a generator isn't big enough to heat our house, so we would have to move to a motel anyhow. (Didn't think of being cut off completely, with no means of communicating and finding out which hotels had power and were open).
During this latest outage, on Wednesday, we saw a neighbor drive by with his car trunk open carrying a generator. We found out that he had his name on a waiting list at TSC (Tractor Supply Company) and a shipment just came in. We head over there, to find the store has no power. You wait on the sidewalk until a sales associate comes to open the "automatic doors". We ask about generators and are told they are all gone and they now have a waiting list of 170 people.
Home Depot had no power and was closed.
Lowe's was open but sold out of generators.
Moral of This Story: Don't think you are going to buy a generator after the fact.
Each year, during power outages there are deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators and barbecues need to be kept outside the house.
This year in Connecticut, someone died, who had their generator outside but the carbon monoxide still seeped into the house. Watch where you place your generator.
Make sure ahead of time that you have a long enough cord to place the generator as far away from the house as possible. The muffler should be pointing away from the house.
Friday, October 7, 2011
It's now 24 days after we ordered our generator. We check on our order with TSC. Tractor Supply Company indicated they had received 30 of them, but there were 30 people ahead of us who ordered them.
Fortunately, it looks as if hurricane season is over.
Now, that we have had a taste of the problems of being powerless, I am hoping we receive the generator before blizzard season.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' (from the Jabberwocky)
Tractor Supply just called to say the generator is in. My significant other ran out of here like a speeding bullet to pick it up.
Wednesday, October 19 and then some..................
The day after Jim picked up the generator, he bought a 220V 20 amp plug so we could use the generator with our well pump. It turned out to be the wrong kind plug. We need a 220V 30 amp plug.
Off and on he keeps looking for the correct one, but no one seems to have it.
Lesson to be learned....Make sure you have the correct plug for your generator ahead of time. Getting it in a timely fashion after the fact, may not be possible.
October 28, 2011 Snow Storm Alfred - The search for the plug escalates
We are now receiving warnings that we are going to have a freak early snowstorm.
We are cautioned that as it is still autumn, the trees still have their leaves. The leaves will hold more wet snow and add more weight to the trees.
Today, Jim ups his efforts to find a 220V 30 amp plug for our generator. He is in a hardware store and there are 3 other men looking for the same thing. The salesperson tells them the store sold out of the kind they need before hurricane Irene. Even though generators have come in since then, the plugs have not.
Storm Alfred Misses Us
October 30, 2011.
850,000 electric customers in the State of Connecticut are without power. Cell phone towers and landlines have been knocked out.
Our little Southeast corner of the state only got rain and a dusting of snow and no power outages. Again, we are fortunate
We keep learning
Several people's homes burned down after Alfred. When the power went off, they forgot to shut off their stoves and other electrical equipment. The power went back on when they were out of the house and started a fire. Be sure and check your stove, hot plates, coffee pots, etc. when you lose power.
The Most Important Thing I Learned
I learned how fortunate I am. There are people living like this and worse, everyday.
Compared to other people's experiences with "disaster" this was just a blip in the road of life.
We have great neighbors, who came together and helped each other.
© 2011 Ellen Gregory