Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy: Spared and not Spooked

I am very grateful and relieved to relay that my little Attic, building, and neighborhood were spared most of the ravishes of the hurricane (aka FrankenStorm aka Superstorm aka the Sno'eastercane) known as Sandy.

Although I was up in CT visiting ye old homestead, Grumpa Max, Jenn, Wendy and Ms. Emily, the forecast was dire enough that plans were cut short so I could return to NY, unload my rental car, return it, and get on one of the last MetroNorth trains before the system was frozen. I was able to get all my emergency supplies of candles, soda, bread, and Diet Coke tucked away next to the food storage tins Dad brought East from the land of the 72 hour kits, fill the bathtub, make sure the freezer was full of ice, have the cooler ready next to the water supply, and to sit and wait to see what Mother Nature would wrought.
I even took pictures of the local river and highway so I could do before and after shots. In previous storms, the river has flooded the highway and trees have come down. 
The Bronx River
Having prepared as much as I could, I 'hunkered' in. The most scary part in the early stages was making sure that Dad was able to fly out of Hartford and back to Vegas. His was one of the last flights out Monday morning, much to everyone's relief. Especially his. (Next time, I believe he will be packing more than just a trip's worth of medication -- WON'T YOU DAD!?)

The waiting is what begins to get on your nerves. The pressure literally plays havoc with your brain. I had the worst migraine until about 9 p.m. on Monday - the day we got the brunt of it. However, I have learned one of the best things to do is actually turn off the television and radio for the most part, and to use common sense. Don't go outside. Don't go near the windows. Take all the potentially flying debris out of Mother Nature's way. Prepare. Be Calm. Carry on. Then don't be stupid when things look to be over. Stuff actually is more dangerous in the 6-36 hours afterward.

I can't say that all of my neighbors quite get this. The stupid upstairs neighbors, they of the illegal fire-escape Christmas lights, still hadn't taken them down, from last year, and they were unfastening in the wind, swinging down, and BANGING on my windows until I went up and pounded on their door and told them that I was going to pull them off if they didn't freakin' take them down -- HOURS into the hurricane winds. STUPID STUPID STUPID! I am still annoyed at the upstairs stomping neighbors, but I was more 'understanding' of the people on my floor. Understanding enough to be prepared to be the Crazy Craft Community Children's Entertainer for the 5 kids of varying ages on my floor if the power had gone out. When talking to one of my little neighbors, I asked what she was going to do if the power went out. She didn't know. She doesn't like to read. She didn't have games or puzzles, so she was just charging her iPod and hoping. Now ... Please. That's just ridiculous. I remember being her age in a hurricane and being shut in, but I knew how to entertain myself then, and now! I said fine and told her and her mom I had a plan. If the power went out, I had scissors, paper, pens, stamps, stamp pads, yarns, and stuffing, and we'd set up in the hall under the emergency flood lights with candles and have craft time. We'd make Christmas cards, work on snowflakes for our doors (we always have a "contest"), learn how to crochet, and make it a party -- thus entertaining the kids, charging their imagination, distracting them, giving them and their parents a break. I am kind of relieved it didn't come to it, but I know if it does, I  ... need more crafting supplies to be part of the storm prep, as well as batteries and candles.

Luckily, although we had some scary power flickers, we never lost cable, the Internet, or power. I was able to text, tweet, e-mail, and call people all day and through today. The winds were crazy, but the rain and winds have been worse for other storms. I also don't live near the ocean and am far enough inland that we were spared. I only found out tonight about how lucky this building was -- the one right next door is without power. Let's hear it for post-WWII brick low-rises. They may shake and sway in the wind, but for this storm at least, she held together.

I can't say the same for some of my NYC colleagues' situations. I'm sure the newscasts and photos don't do it justice. I know that some people of certain ages (those 20 somethings) had absolutely NO idea what to do with themselves when the power was out, or how to prepare, or how to deal with things even now. This may have been their first hurricane, now that I think about it. A lot of them lost power. Many are stuck in Brooklyn, Queens, and lower Manhattan with no way, for now, to get to work. (They may, or may not, be unhappy about this.)

I did venture out on Tuesday to assess. The river didn't overflow it's banks and the highways (as far south as I could see) have no trees down on the roads. The only real damage to my neck of the woods was in our strip mall. The main CVS sign is gone. The Dunkin' Donuts was closed so none of the local cops could stock up, even though the Starbucks was open. The 7Eleven was out of important things like chips, bread, and ice, and the papers couldn't get delivered, but the guys were calm, cruising through Lotto ticket sales, and charging people's cell phones and mobile devices.

School for the local and NYC kids was cancelled through the week. The Big J was closed for classes and staff on Monday and Tuesday. By today, classes were cancelled but staff were encouraged to get in if they could.


The NYC transit system is a mess! Luckily I commute through mid-Town and the Upper West Side which was spared, but the transit system wasn't even beginning to assess until late today. People did try to drive in, which apparently TOOK HOURS.

I spoke with my supervisors as early as Sunday and basically said I was going to work from home, as I could, until the situation stabilized, with a guesstimate of Friday ... maybe ... trying to get back. Guess what? I was right. I *might* deign to go to the office on Friday, but given that most of my work is in a database or e-mail? Welcome to the 21st century; I'm working from home!

Once things calm down I will be talking to my database colleague about our emergency back-up plan, for the server and the back-up of the back-up. The organization got lucky this time. We might not be next time. We're not that many blocks from the Hudson River and just lucky it "surged" mostly down-town and not that far in-land.

The only major bummer for the neighborhood kids was the apparent town curfew. This sign appeared on one of the doors on our floor. (Yes, the typo is driving me absolutely crazy.)

Which was too bad. There were some cute decorations put up in anticipation of Halloween. Mine is the one on the left -- all from my trash/recycling.

Usually I dress up as Ms. I'm-not-home or The Grumpy Neighbor Lady Who Doesn't Answer the Door. This year, since the kids knew I was home, I had to come up with a costume and go buy some candy, since I didn't think they wanted apples and/or granola bars. I did have a stash of Cyclops hats,
and then I remembered I had this t-shirt from years and careers past.
So I was a Scary Children's Librarian - threatening to SHUSH or hand out apples but really handing out NERDS to those kids who wanted candy. I purposely bought the NERDS. I figured I might as well give into the stereotype. I had one 10 year old lace-clad-goth-vampy girl that I intentionally gave the apple to and said, "Use this and say you are the cover of the Twilight novel." Luckily she hadn't read it, but the mom totally got the reference. Which is fine. I think 10 is still too young for the first Twilight novel. Why set her up for disappointment? Edward is .... well, let's not get into that right now. (Go Team Jacob! or something, I like The Host the most.)

Had I had more time, these are what I wanted to get together for my trick or treaters. I saw these at a bake sale/craft fair in Chelsea when I was running around earlier this month, and of course, wanted to "borrow" the idea. Clear catering gloves, some Tootsie rolls, M&Ms, Swedish Fish, and microwave popcorn. Healthy, unique and creepy. NEXT YEAR!

So that was my experience with Sandy. Lots of prep, lots of supplies, luckily no loss of power, life, or limb, and a few days off and then working from home. I am very very very fortunate indeed.

Please extend your prayers to those snow bound, or those further south in New Jersey and part of New York City, and up into New England, that were ravished by rain, floods, and fires. They will need your thoughts in the days ahead.

As for me, I will be giving blood at a blood drive on Friday (pre-scheduled, but now urgently needed), taking brownies into thank some of the MTA information/technical crew that hasn't been home since Sunday, and possibly donating some perishable supplies to a local food bank.

Be prepared.
Be smart.
Be calm.
Be a Good Neighbor.

For more on hurricane preparedness, please refer to this information prepared by the Red Cross at:

I will also be browsing the aisles at Paintball, Food Storage, Violins and More in St. George a little more carefully this coming Christmas vacation.

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