A Few Days in My House During Hurricane Sandy
(A Sequel to "A Few Days in My House after Hurricane "Irene")
In August 2011, after Hurricane Irene hit, I wrote an article about my family's experiences during that time. In that article, I stated that I believed that weathermen exaggerated too much when they warned us about severe weather (i.e. tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, etc) because Hurricane Irene was not as terrible as everyone thought it would be. So when the weathermen forecast last week that Hurricane Sandy would be raging across Long Island, NY and a few other places beginning Monday, October 29th, I was not persuaded in the least.
But my parents were. My mom predicted that our power would go out. Thus, my mom spent Sunday night cooking an extra five cups of rice, ironing and washing all our clothes, and filling the flashlights with new batteries. As always, my mom's philosophy was "prepare for the worst" while mine was "don't worry about the unknown worst".
When we awoke on Monday, the wind was already pouring its wrath on us. Night came and the storm was at its worst - moaning, whistling, and howling. Around six o' clock, I was figuring the distance between -2 and -10 on the number line for my math when - BOOM! - and my notebook faded into darkness. Confused, I glanced up. When I saw that the lights were off, and the realization hit me, I shouted, "The electricity's out, everyone!"
At that moment, my sisters and I hurried to find the blueberry muffin candles and orange with spearmint candles as well as all of our flashlights. The house was beginning to become darker with each minute and once again, we were re-united with the realization about how dark a house could be without electricity. But no matter how dim it was becoming, I lounged on the conch and stared from the window at the raging hurricane. It was stunning to see the tree branches flying as if they were frisbees, the trees swaying as if the wind was fanning the trees with its hands, and the streetlights dimming as if they were too tired to continue supplying their light. Inspired, I wrote a poem about what I was observing.
After a candlelight dinner, I suddenly felt as if all my activities had been stolen from me. I couldn't read, I couldn't complete my home-school assignments, and I couldn't play. For the first time in my life, I realized how wise Benjamin Franklin was when he stated, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" considering that after a certain time, there was really nothing to do during night time but everything to do in the morning. But my family and I all sat in the living room and chatted the night away while one of us fed my baby sister a bottle of formula.
On Tuesday, it was no better. When I awoke on Tuesday, I was ice-cold. I asked my mom about it. She said that the heat was not operating since the electricity was gone. And right she was. Our house was freezing even though I wore a fleece sweater, a khaki skirt, and knee-high socks.
Wednesday was even worse. Because we had no heat, each day was starting to become colder. With every hour, I waited with anticipation for the time when we would get back our electricity.
But Thursday was much better and exciting. In the morning, our neighbors came to check on us, asking if we needed anything. Then in the afternoon, as I was passing by the doorway to change my baby sister's diaper, I was startled when I saw someone in front of the door. But my startled-ness converted into delight as I realized that someone was one of my friends.
We had a pleasant and short visit. After dinner, the same neighbors who had come over in the morning came again to give us their cell-phone numbers since their phone and internet did not work. So we got to visit once more. After they left, I washed the dinner dishes as fast as I could in the dark. My dad had to shop in "Waldbaums" to buy more 'C' batteries for our flashlights, ice for our remaining vegetables, and milk for my infant sister. Since I hadn't been out for the past few days, I wanted to go out as soon as possible, so my younger sister, Elena and I went with my dad.
On our way there, we saw that "Stop and Shop" had just opened again and had just got back their electricity. So we shopped there. We could not get 'C' batteries because they were really popular due to the storm - no more remained. And the ice was gone also. So with the formula in hand, we got into the car.
As my dad was driving, Elena remarked, "How come we're going this way? Over there is home."
I looked up, puzzled, and then made a guess. "We're going to the C. family's house?!"
My dad smiled sheepishly saying, "Just to check if they're alright."
But his smile vanished when we saw a huge tree lying on the road, blocking our way.
"Wow," we all exclaimed.
Daddy backed out, turning into the next block. Again, a tree hindered our way.
"That's it," my dad declared. "We're going home. It's too dangerous."
"Awww, please, can you just try one more time? Just turn in where this bus is turning," I pleaded and pointed to the bus ahead of us.
So he drove into the next block. "If there's another tree here..." my dad warned, trailing off.
But there were none and soon we reached their home. As we parked in front of their house, a light glowed in one room of their home.
"Don't tell me they got electricity already," I muttered.
"Hey, that car looks familiar," daddy commented about the blue Toyota Sienna parked in front of the C. family's home. It really seemed as if it was the car of one of our friends that lived a few blocks away who also knew the C. family.
I knocked on the door. When it opened, my eyes widened. Their kitchen was filled with people. The people were the N. family from our church.
Then for some unknown reason, all of us burst out laughing - the C's, the N's, and us, standing on the threshold.
"Wait - what are you doing here?" daddy said, bringing up the question that was in our minds, knowing that they lived half an hour away.
"Wait a second..." I said, "Why is it so warm in here?"
The C's had actually lit the oven and found recipes to bake in order to keep the house warm.
Anyway, we found out that the N's had come unannounced just five minutes before us to bring ice to the C's freezer. However, the C's did not need it since they had already borrowed electricity for their refrigerator from their neighbors by using an electric cord.
Since we needed the ice, the N's gave it to us. It was amazing - we were meant to go to the C's house. And to think that we almost did not...
In the end, since the C's were leaving for PA for two days to attend the open house for "Christian Aid Ministries", they let us babysit their bird, a cockatiel named Tammy. They were going to leave the following day and they still had not found a baby-sitter -- at least, not until we arrived.
The father of the C's created the light in their home that I had mentioned earlier. How he created it was clever. He used a car battery and connected it with the light-bulb from his car's headlights. And wow, that was such a creative idea. After half an hour of visiting, we headed back to our ice-cold and candle-lighted home.
Wasn't that an exciting day? We got to visit with some friends. And the day was full of surprises that made me smile.
This week has been a challenge. We had no electricity. And no electricity meant no phones, no stoves, no heat, and no internet. But even though it was difficult, I think that these days have been a blessing in at least four ways. First, instead of spending time on Khan Academy (an online math program), writing, and ApricotPie, I was able to spend more time in prayer, bible readings, drawing, reading, playing, and many other things. I was even able to draw and shade a bird, the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, so I could submit it to Nature Friend Magazine. Second, we were able to sleep as early as eight thirty and awake at dawn. Third, we were compelled or needed to depend on friends and neighbors. And as a result, we were able visit a few friends (whose electricity had come back before ours did), have dinner with them, and show Christ's love to them as well. Also, when we went to check if some friends were alright from the storm, we received the much-needed ice in return. But last of all, we were challenged to not take conveniences for granted, while realizing that many people still live in homeless shelters and on the streets.
So here I am, writing this on Friday, October 2nd and my family and I are still without electricity. Most of our friends have gotten their electricity back, but we have not. The weatherman says it might be another week or two before some get their power again. I hope that is not our case.
But even though we've survived four days without electricity, tonight my three sisters and I are going to sleep over at our grandparents' home. We'll see how that goes. Surprisingly, life without electricity is not too dull now that I am becoming accustomed to it. I think I'd even make a good Amish, unlike what I stated the previous year. No, that was in jest. I never would remain true to the Amish church.
But experiencing this hurricane and witnessing the disasters of this storm has transformed my views about weathermen and their exaggerations.
After all, they did not exaggerate this time. Hurricane Sandy has been a real disaster.
Some good examples: first, New Jersey, Staten Island, and Manhattan are flooded. Second, you cannot recognize Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway Beach (where I was baptized). The water was pouring onto the sidewalks, which are a long, long way from the ocean. From the water, you must walk past the long sandy beach, past the boardwalk, and then, you reach the sidewalks. And for the ocean water to sweep all the way onto the sidewalks is just unbelievable. Third example, ninety percent of Long Island Power Authority's customers have no electricity. Thus, at night, it is pitch black outside. And fourth, gas is incredibly scarce now. Few gas stations are open because the gas pumps use electricity to operate and there is no electricity in most places. As a result, the gas station lines loop on for blocks and blocks. In the end, instead of cars parking at the gas station, dozens of people are lined up with red containers in their hands.
Since so many people want gas, there are ten gallons of gas per visit limits. Also, a policeman is monitoring at each gas station in case of any arguments. But most tragically, fifty-one people have died because of this storm. Am I still saying that the weathermen have exaggerated again? No.
I have decided that from this day forward, I will be more understanding towards what the weathermen have to say about severe weather. I never thought I would ever see the day that I would be saying this. But people and circumstances change, you know. And there's nothing wrong about that.