Hurricane

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The hurricane and the storm a week later is still with me. The aftermath has been intense. Before the storm the media was frothing at the mouth and I tended not to believe the hype. Nevertheless, we prepared, putting all the outdoor stuff away like the Buddha statues and the wind chimes and the bird houses. We made sure we had water and batteries and a hand cranked radio. Things were okay until that Monday morning, when the storm was just arriving and the power went out. Okay, it was windy, not very rainy, so I sat by the window and read a book. I heard a loud crack and looked out to see a big tree come down in the front yard and land way rather close to the house. I moved away from the window. I remembered hurricane Irene last year, which arrived to all this hype and was really not so much. This one, Sandy, was very different. The winds frightened the dogs so we couldn’t take them beyond the porch to pee and that was scary enough. As the day wore on more and more trees came down, taking power lines with them. In the neighborhood there were at least three crushed cars and one guy lost a quarter of his house to a huge maple falling on it. No one got hurt, thankfully. We had bags packed and plans for animals incase a tree fell on our house and we had to leave suddenly. We went to bed that first night almost dreading the worst. We heard the wind for half of the night, then it went away. It returned in the morning with heavy rain, which lasted most of the day and then it was over. That first night and for some subsequent days we cooked what food we could salvage on the wood stove. Margie was quite inventive there, making us sweet potatoes, cauliflower in cheese sauce, pancakes, and a pork stew. We ate by candlelight, often with neighbors.

For the next few days after the storm we were pretty cut off. No electric, no Internet, no cell phone reception. Only the crank radio. We weren’t supposed to, but we got in the car and drove around to check on how some of our friends had fared. Everywhere there were trees down and power lines. We heard somewhat about how bad it was on the south shore and how some of the towns on the north shore were flooded, Stony Brook among them, but we saw no pictures and had no contact with anyone but the neighbors. The roads were closed to all but emergency vehicles, businesses were closed. Public transportation did not run. We were shut down on this Long Island and it felt very, very strange. As the days without power increased, 12 of them to be exact, we ran out of food and underwear and got tired of washing in cold water. mad at the power company, jealous of those with power. We spent a good part of each day preparing for the dark: replenishing the candles, laying out clothes for the next day, doing what we needed to do while the daylight was with us. It got cold. We got 2 inches of snow. We were inviting neighbors who were strangers to us to come over and share the wood stove. After a bit some of the stores reopened and we could get take out food. Still no cell phone, Internet, etc. Gas was in short supply because distribution channels were disrupted. I waited 3 hours on a gas line the week after the storm so I could get to work.

Being more mobile meant I could charge my phone and iPad and I began to see pictures of the devastation and at the hospital meet people who lost everything. Block after block of belongings out on the street because of flooding. The beach where Margie and I first went when we moved here is no longer there. The roads to the water are still closed. Shelters are in some of the parks, big tents, the kind you see for weddings, housing people with generators to keep them heated. The community colleges have turned into shelters. Chaplains have been dealing with their own stress and patients displaced from evacuated hospitals and nursing homes. It is very intense still. The suffering is great.

Our neighbor Barbara got power back four or five days before us and we watched the election returns together, showered, did laundry. She was very generous, even wanted us to move in for the duration. Some of our other neighbors were less generous, particularly the ones with generators. They did not offer to share, even though they had some power through the whole thing. To me it symbolized the election: do we do for ourselves and expect everyone to do the same or do we come together and share what we have? I know it wasn’t quite that black and white, but still. Last weekend we were all off and we cleaned the house, reordered everything, raked leaves, cut up the windfall branches. Margie has gathered enough wood for a couple of winters of wood fires.

Well, that’s a long story, huh?

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