My Hurricane Sandy Experience
Around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday, just as Sandy was unleashing its final beachfront assault against New Jersey, I was eating a nice corned beef sandwich and a perfect dill pickle, watching the NOAA Water Vapor loop from Drudge over the Internet. Then about 10 seconds later we lost power.
Bzzzzt. Blink. Bzzzzzzzzzzt….blin….blink……BRIGHT….bzzt. DARK. FLASHLIGHT BEAM! Where’s the Flashlight? Ok you know you put it right over there…
It’s strange that when the power actually goes out, no matter how well you’ve planned for it, there’s always a moment of primordial shock. It’s like making a transition to the preindustrial age in a matter of a few seconds, surrounded by all the modern gadgetry that has just been thrown into contrast all around you, suddenly useless as tombstones. It’s such a strange feeling. No matter how many times it’s happened to you, the next few minutes are primordial. I sat there for a few minutes taking it in.
Then you get up and think about what the heck you’re going to do now that the pump that moves the water around isn’t working.
We lost power for approximately 5.5 hours, right at the MA/CT border. That was a pleasant surprise but also a bummer, because despite my hopes of going all the way without feeling a blip in the juice, there were too many other lines around us that got rearranged by the storm and the winds and the trees dancing all over the place to allow it. We were ready with gasoline and generator and propane but never wound up using them. Temperatures indoors never got below 50 degrees. We’re inland and a little high-elevation and there was near-zero worry of storm surge or flooding.
Apparently the root cause of our hours of darkness wasn’t very serious and power was restored by 10:30 p.m. last night. We had been hoping for the best, but we were prepared to run the place with long extension cords and gasoline – luckily it never came to that. We were never really afraid of the wind velocities although they occasionally hit (by my own wind speed meter) as high as 56 MPH. Most of the weak trees are already down (see below).
It was fascinating and eerie and scintillating to hear it move in, though. It started off slowly, it built slowly – some distant hissing and rumbling. Then it became urgent and resonant and insistent, howling and hissing as Sandy came ashore in NJ. It rose in a crescendo for about 3 hours and then WHOOOOOOOOOSHHHhhhhhgasp it was over and there was almost complete cathedral silence. Dead. Silence.
Prior to that, as the wind intensity grew you could hear it blowing over the small hillocks we call “mountains” in this area, spreading a huge and fine foggy mist of rain everywhere. Most of the leaves that hadn’t already blown off the trees were comprehensively made to amscre by the wind gusts. In terms of leaves on the trees here, autumn is now *OVER*. They were actually blown down onto the road and it became a kind of shifting autumnal mosaic for a while there. It was still daylight, and the clouds passing over were flashing by so quickly that any small aircraft caught in them would have needed prayer on both wings. This storm was *moving* once it started moving. I don’t recall seeing clouds move so quickly. You’d get sustained howlings and then BLAM big gusts of wind and you couldn’t hold on to the door.
It was funny, though, and almost poignant: as all of that was going on, the air was warm and sweet, and it almost invited you to step outside into the mist. The outdoor temperature just as it was passing over was around 62 degrees. The misty rain falling felt almost like a shower at the beach as the water dribbled down your face and shirt – I almost wanted to stay outside during the “worst” of it, just to watch and listen to it, which tells you how little impact we really received because I’m sure in New Jersey very few people felt that way.
That was about the best we could have hoped for. There are about 100,000 in MA still without power. Where I was, the sun was shining this morning.
Most of MA (proportionally speaking) is restored at this point in terms of power but there are still people suffering. From my perspective National Grid earned their keep this time, for perhaps the first time I’ve lived here. I have the feeling one of the reasons we’re faring better than a lot of towns is that after the tornado that passed near here, then the huge freezeout freak Halloween storm last year, National Grid was compelled to do the kind of power line and roadside maintenance on the trees and lines that basically brought them into the 21st Century. Last year right at this time we were among the last people in the Commonwealth to have power restored and frankly, a lot of people here got sick and tired of defecating into plastic bags and showering with handi-wipes, and they complained mightily. You really didn’t want to “meet and greet” your neighbors around Day 6-7 during that event, and we made our displeasure known.
I don’t see or expect any voting impacts, early or otherwise, maybe very small ones but nothing requiring Federal Action. Post offices were open today, town halls were staffed for the most part, and people where I live were pretty much back to (ab)normal by the end of today.
Almost everyone here was very well prepared and most were also well armed. I’ll have to check the Police Blotter later this week but I cannot conceive of any looting or theft attributable to anyone during the storm: most anyone trying it wouldn’t have outrun the bullets and/or the buckshot. I think everyone in our local government did a great job.
Many people I know in New Jersey are still suffering and I’m doing what I can to help them. You should, too. At least ask if they need it – they’ll appreciate your effort.