As I write today, our weather has turned much colder. I know most of the people affected by the Superstorm (formerly known as Hurricane) Sandy are also being affected by early cold weather.
I talked to dad about the storm yesterday. I told him about the many areas of flooding where he used to work. He smiled as he told me about flooding in the same low areas 50 years ago. He remembers that very well. He was pleased to hear that our immediate family members seem to be well and accounted for, though some remain without electricity.
In fact, a good part of the states affected still remain without electricity. Please be patient. Some people realize very well that with so many huge trees down on every block — some houses have three or four large fallen trees on them – it will naturally take awhile to get all the electricity turned back. Others insist that the utility crew should have gotten to them by now, no matter how extensive the damage is.
I heard from my brother who has been out and about looking for a place to get warm, get wi-fi and to charge his cell phone. He found several locations and more seem to be opening every day. He knows it will be awhile before electricity will be restored where he lives and where he works and has worked out an alternate routine for now.
I received a letter (yes an old-fashioned pen on paper letter!) from a close friend who is also stuck in a cold house making a list. She found she needed lots of D batteries to run her portable radios and flashlights too (and hasn’t been able to get any after the storm) and now she plans to be more proactive about making her disaster preparation kit next time. She is a new widow and is still suffering from grief and loss as well as the loss of everyday comforts such as warm meals and showers.
I try to find television and newspaper news about the many different neighborhoods where my friends and family live, but the mainstream news seems stuck at New York City (mainly Parts of Queens, Manhattan and now Staten Island and some stories on New Jersey). I know there is extensive damage on Long Island as over a million were without electricity on the first day and that number is now about 460,000 still waiting. While I have seen one story about the south shore of Long Island, I haven’t seen anything at all about Connecticut. I know Connecticut has sustained a lot of damage also, and I presume it is along the shore on the Long Island Sound, I would really like to see more news about the areas now being neglected by the mainstream news.
I also know there was a huge snowstorm in West Virginia and yet see little coverage of that! I watch the news channels more hours of the day than is reasonable, and yet I end up frustrated. The stories they covered are covered extensively, but the rest of the affected areas are not covered at all.
Yes, I care about New York City. But even there, the same stories are repeated and other areas are neglected. I know of family and friends outside of Manhattan who have fled to other family members’ homes just to keep warm and safe until electricity is returned to their neighborhoods. Ditto for New Jersey. I find more information about the areas I care about from Facebook postings by those who have been able to get to a location with electricity and wireless connections if only for an hour or so. I am grateful for all the information I can find.
Dad didn’t seem particularly worried but I don’t think he understands the magnitude of the problem, even though he sits in front of the television for hours each day while the stories are played. He doesn’t really pay attention as he told me himself. One of the advantages of Alzheimer’s disease is that dad never seems to worry at all!
For myself, I worry about the anger and in some cases actual rage displayed by people waiting to fill gas tanks or obtain a seat on a bus. In most cases, people are out and about because they want to see what is happening not because it is a matter of survival. Some people are checking on friends and other family members and for those I have more patience.
Really in a few days the gas stations will have electricity again so the gas lines will be shorter and the buses will be running again in most places. It is boring and cold at home in the dark. But it saves gasoline and human energy to try to do less in the beginning if one’s home is habitable. Many people are in shelters set up by the Red Cross and others. I am thankful that they are fed and warm. I know they want to go home but I am glad they are safe.
Currently, utility crews are being flown to the affected states from as far away as Texas and California. Naturally they couldn’t be there immediately after the storm, but they will arrive and many will stay for a long time. Insurance adjusters are arriving and starting the massive task of working with homeowners to settle claims.
One thing that I did in the past that I encourage others to do; In the aftermath of our hurricane, when I finally had electricity and could open my garage door, (and dared to drive on the local streets), I drove to my local Red Cross headquarters. I volunteered to work with the Red Cross during the rest of the recovery period. I was trained with 5 others in a shortened version of their initial volunteer training. I worked almost full days preparing for the influx of disaster victims and then doing intake interviews with people who endured flooding, home damage, etc.
I enjoyed the work with the Red Cross. It felt safer than driving the long commute to my work place in the nearby larger city and I was helping people. My employer announced that workers were to help in their communities first and come to work afterward when the need was not as great. However, this was not a vacation, for those who did not volunteer, they were expected at work. Surprisingly less than half of us worked as volunteers.
From my own experience I know that it took almost a year for my insurance claim to be settled and for the work crew to be available to fix the interior of my home which had sustained water damage during our hurricane. I was anxious for it to be done, but I understood that others had trees through their roofs and other major damage and they had priority in the cleanup process.
I remember the mountains of wood chips created when the work crews cleaned up all the downed trees from the hurricane. In my state at that time, the National Guard came to help clean up debris. They lived in a tent city for many months and I drove past them and the mountains of wood chips as I drove to work each day.
Surviving in the aftermath of a hurricane is not easy. It is very stressful even after the initial period without electricity. It is stressful to find gasoline, to work with insurance adjusters and to find a trustworthy contractor to make repairs on the house. It probably took almost a year before I stopped waking up thinking about that disaster every morning.
I continue to pray for all of the disaster victims daily as I keep track of the progress towards recovery. I hope all my family, friends and their neighbors throughout the region can keep their spirits up while they work towards full recovery.
I hope you can all make it through this difficult period without playing the blame game. It was not the fault of any politician or work crew that such a massive storm came through. Not every utility can get to every house in the first or even second day. They are all working long days and many have traveled great distances to help. Please be patient, even as it seems to take your last ounce of energy.
The first day or two after a hurricane are days of assessment. The utilities have to assess the damage and make a work plan that prioritizes the work so that large outages and critical outages to hospitals and other necessary public services are repaired first. Smaller neighborhood outages are last to be done because the main lines have to be fixed first before the small wires that feed individual houses.
Similarly the governments and the Red Cross were assessing the extent of the damage to determine what resources are needed and where they should go. They had to find outside sources to help fill in the gaps where the local resources couldn’t fill the needs. That is why everyone is always told to keep at least 3 days supplies on hand at home, and really a week’s worth is more prudent. If you can sustain yourself and your family for a full week, then you will be better prepared for any storm or other disaster.
Afterwards, when the cleanup is done, it will be time to re-evaluate and determine what should be done to prepare for the next storm. For there will always be a next storm.