Friday, September 2, 2011

Lessons I Learned from Irene

We sat in the dark for 5 long running water.  We lost all the food in our refrigerator & freezer.  Trees and wires down everywhere.  No cell service for 24 hrs.  Then, as we were going to bed last night, the lights came back on.  Cheers erupted throughout my neighborhood.  Still no cable, phone or Internet (sorry no photos because I'm writing this on a computer which is not my own) but having running water makes all the difference in the world.  It could be so much worse, really.  So many of our friends are still without power and no hope of getting it before Tuesday.  Also, my thoughts go out to the flood victims in Vermont and other areas.

So I thought I'd take a sec to share what I've learned from this experience.

*  Hubby was brilliant when he insisted that we have a propane cooking stove 8 years ago.  Brilliant I tell you.
*  If you have to fill your tub with water because of the threat of power outage, use duct or electrical tape to cover the drain first.  Hubby knew this already, but I know people who didn't and their water slowly leaked down the drain.
*  Percolator coffee is excellent.  We had 3 ways of making coffee during the outage and it is amazing what coffee does to make you feel like things are ok.  In an emergency, go ahead and brew some joe (and bring some to your neighbors.) Somehow it helps to keep things civilized. 
*  The generosity of friends is humbling.  We had friends who got power back days before we did and were offered a place to charge electronics, hot meals, showers, laundry, and ultimately, 2 generators (as we had none.)  One neighbor came by to offer her pool water for flushing toilets if we had run out.  I can't thank all these people enough.  More than once I was moved to tears by these offers.
*  5 days was the limit for me I think.  I was sitting in the dark muttering "I'm going to snap" over and over again when the power did come on.  (It could have been the lack of running water and the fact that I didn't have dinner though.) 
*  It's important to check in on people.  I know we're all busy trying to get by, but don't forget the seniors or single people who are sitting by themselves in the dark eating crackers.  Invite them over, stop by for a chat, bring them a newspaper or magazine for something new to look at. 
*  Having a battery-operated radio to listen to is the only way to stay connected to the outside world sometimes.  Gram happened to have one and she listened to it 12 hours a day for updates and news.
*  The old police scanner in the basement was kind of fun to listen to the day of the storm.  We knew right away how badly the town had been hit by the extent of the reports of fallen trees and wires all over town, and that we weren't going anywhere.
*  I am not at all GREEN in emergency mode.  Paper cups, plates & utensils take center stage when I cannot wash dishes because of no running water.  I did, however, recycle what I could.
*  As my neighbors and co-worker Deb here just reminded me, put out empty containers (like rain barrels) to collect the storm water for use later when flushing toilets, etc.
*   If there is a threat of power outage, stock up on the essentials early on.  Water was such a hot commodity in my community that the day before the storm the grocery store was rationing how much you could buy.  I was thankful that I bought mine 3 days before the storm hit.  What I missed the boat on was D batteries - went to 6 stores and not a one to be found.  Luckily we managed to get by with the flashlights we had.
*  Baby wipes and antibacterial wipes came in REALLY handy.
*  I don't want to criticize, but it feels like my town wasn't really prepared.  There was no communication coming from town hall or the town manager.  He didn't even show up to the emergency town council meeting.  I heard several people complain around town about the lack of leadership and especially communication.  We still had newspaper delivery, so why wasn't there information in the paper on where the shelter was, etc.?  At the emergency meeting, I will say that I thought the town staff and departments worked together well to give us an update on what they knew.  At Sue Weintraub's direction, they also agreed to have a sign made to be posted outside town hall with info for residents.
*  Fill the gas tanks.  My dad always does and he was right on.  My town had no gas stations open for several days.  It was a ghost town until this morning when power started to come back. By the way, SHAME on the local gas stations for raising the prices of gas when they did reopen.  You know what, the gas stations in towns 30 min away who didn't lose power are selling at the same much lower price it was last week. 
*  Finally, you CAN bake croissants on the grill!  I had raw dough that had thawed, threw it on a cookie sheet and about 20 min in a closed grill on a medium temp and we had a really yummy breakfast with that percolator coffee!

So in a way, we were "surviving the apocalypse in the suburbs" (as I had written in a recent post after reading Wendy Brown's book.)  It was a short term apocalypse.  Tonight we're harboring a friend of Gram's from the senior housing in town who is still without power.  I've been hearing of other good deeds too, like Jane of Fit-Trix Fitness Center here in town, who opened her gym this afternoon and set up an obstacle course for kids to come and play on free of charge, and offered adults coffee and a chance to watch the news and relax.  Then there's Paul's and Sandy's who is a collection point for a family in nearby Portland who lost their house (& pets) to a fire started by a candle they had burning during the power outage.  Thanks to both of these businesses for being so neighborly and doing what they can.

Hope everyone is safe.  If there is something I can do, even if it's sharing a gallon of water or making you coffee & ironing your shirt for work tomorrow...please don't hesitate to ask.  We're all in this together right? (Or, perhaps to use one of my favorite LOST quotes, "Live together, die alone.")



KJ@letsgoflyakite said...

This is an excellent list. I am not going to bookmark it, but print it out and keep it with our emergency kit to get prepared. I am so glad you are okay. I am also thinking about the Vermont communities. The storm hit so hard and it makes me so sad to see the damage to all of those beautiful covered bridges. Many memories were made.

The GREEN Connecticut Realtor said...

Thanks so much, KJ! By the way, I've just added the usefulness of baby wipes to the list of things I learned from the storm. We hadn't used them in years but it was the best way to clean up as we had no water.

Deus Ex Machina said...

I am glad to hear you made it through OK. It sounds like you were better prepared than most people.

Wendy,, has pointed out to me on several occasions that the "apocalypse" may be weather, econmic, or otherwise. She covers most of the things you mention, as you know, in her book.

I am curious about what you would do differently, now having had this experience with Irene.

Mama Gone Green said...

Wow... I can't imagine. Glad things are (hopefully) getting more back to normal. xo

The GREEN Connecticut Realtor said...

@ Deus Ex Machina....I would have made sure that our 90 year old live in great-grandmother was prepared in her in-law apartment instead of taking her word for it. She quickly ran out of water - I'm glad I had over-prepared. Also, I know now the importance of having those size D batteries on hand, babywipes, and making enough ice to help your food last longer. Also, seeing as how we could make coffee, I would have gone to neighbors who were in the dark like we were and brought them some, as well as visited with them as it was kind of isolating & boring.