Hurricane Sandy Wrap-Up

The hurricane is over for me now, but not for everyone. Right now, LIPA is reporting 62,000 people still without power. This isn't including the 55,000 customers who LIPA has determined are unable to receive power safely, presumably because these homes and businesses were too compromised by salt water, or in some cases simply no longer there anymore.

Friends and family, my community, will be rebuilding for a long, long time. And I'm trying to figure out what I can do to support them in the days to come. But for me, for now, I'm taking a deep breath and trying to get back to business as usual.

First, though, a grab-bag of things that have been knocking around my head the last several days.

Surprise Winners and Losers

Winners: Physical newspaper delivery, shelf-stable bacon, Panera.

Losers: LIPA, mobile phone and data service, C-batteries.

Lessons Learned

1. My mother was right about everything.

Well, almost everything. I was raised as something of a nutty survivalist -- I remember perusing books that explained nuclear fallout and blast zones, and how to live through them as best you could, when I was a wee girl of 11 or so. 

Thanks to that guidance, I knew just what to do ahead of a natural disaster. My shelves were stocked with bottled water, pasta, tuna, beans, and other shelf-stable foods. We topped up on gas. We filled the bathtub with water. We made sure we had batteries, flashlights, candles, matches. 

Not all of these measures were necessary. The water, for example, is still sitting in our cabinets, untouched. Though we were instructed to conserve water in the first days after Sandy, we never lost water service, nor did our water become unsafe to drink. 

2. We could do it better next time.

We evacuated more hastily than one might prefer, because we didn't get the evacuation order in a timely fashion. For some reason, none of our phone numbers are on the county emergency call list. Go figure.

I did bring our Important Documents folder when we left (yes, this is a real thing I really have) and some photographs, but there are a bunch of things I wish I'd done on the way out -- like disconnecting our gas grill from the house line and stowing that in the garage. I was petrified the grill would blow over, snap the line, start a gas leak, and blow up my whole neighborhood. Fortunately, none of these things occurred.

Next time, we'd also take our game consoles and other valuables up to the second floor of our home, so we at least might not lose our previous save games in the event of flooding. It's interesting how a night of lying awake, wondering what's left of your house and your stuff can clarify what's important to you. 

3. The psychological effects are killer. 

...even when you haven't personally suffered any long-lasting damage.

I swim in social media and IM all the day long. The net effect is, I think, very like living in a telepathic society -- I'm used to being able to share my thoughts with anyone, at any time, no matter where they are in the world. As hard as the physical privations of a freezing 12-day blackout were, being cut off from my virtual communities was equally hard. This is not hyperbole.

These communities are an important means of support that I rely on all the time. Being unable to access that support in the middle of an objectively pretty rough time was... difficult, more difficult than I would even have expected. I lived for the couple of hours in the middle of the night when data service would sometimes work, and for the hour and a half I could chisel out on wifi at Panera. And I wonder what that means about how technology is irrevocably changing how we (I) interact with the world.

Soooo that's it for Hurricane Sandy. Though I'm worried, now, about how many local businesses will be closing because they flooded and don't have the funds to rebuild, or because they lost two weeks of income, or because people broke from having to rebuild their homes are saving every penny they can. And all of the friends and neighbors who have to start over with nothing but whatever scraps they can plead from FEMA and insurance companies.

It's over, it's over, it was over two weeks ago. But in some ways, the actual hurricane was just the beginning.

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