Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hurricane Irene ~ Lessons Learned


As Hurricane Irene approached back in October of 2011, we did little to prepare for it.  I'm in my 50's and with all of the hurricanes and storms I've lived through, I have never once had major structural damage to any dwelling I've ever lived in, nor have I ever felt that my life was in peril.  For the most part, my storm experiences have resulted in nothing more than small inconveniences that were over and done with after a day or two.
We lost power for five days after Irene. My youngest grand child was four months old at the time and having no way to heat her formula was problematic, not to mention being unable to cook for ourselves.
I made the mistake of not putting gas in my car in advance of the storm and with the power down none of the gas stations, banks or stores could do business.  We cooked the thawing food from our freezer on the grill and ate it until we felt it was no longer safe to do so. The cold showers in October were extremely unpleasant but compared to those with damage to their homes, we felt we had no room to complain.
Some of our friends were not as lucky.  A friend in the northeastern part of the state was without power for nearly 3 weeks and a friend from the south had major damage to her home.  Our friends' stories is what finally got me thinking that maybe being a bit more prepared wasn't such a bad idea. 
A friend of the family lives in the south with her husband and son, who was about three-years old  at the time of the storm. Her area was hit hard by Hurricane Irene and sadly, her husband was away, outside of the USA on a business trip so she went through the initial ordeal without his help.

A huge tree fell on her house and came right through the roof of her kitchen, caving the roof and completely destroying one wall------ the wall that housed her pantry and all her foodstuffs. When the storm was over there were virtually no functioning utilities for miles around. Access to her pantry was blocked; her house was full of water, most of the windows broken, etc.

She brought her son out to the car and they basically lived in the car for a couple of days. Luckily, her husband, an avid fisherman, kept bottled water and snacks in the car to have while fishing, so there was a small amount to share with her son---but she had to ration these to the extreme.

On day two she began making her way to the airport to pick up her husband, who had no idea what he’d be walking into as her cell phone wasn’t working to try and reach him. She had enough gas to get there, but not enough to get back home, and as everything was closed she had no idea what they were going to do.

On the way to the airport, she spotted a guy in a convenience store parking lot. The store was closed, but this guy had his own racket going on of selling 8oz bottled water for $3 each or 2 for $5. And he had granola bars and other snacks for sale. Unsure of whether to be grateful or repulsed by such a person, she bought more supplies and went on her way to the airport.

Once reunited with her husband, they began heading towards home, even though they did not have enough gas to get there. On the way, they passed by a house where a family had set up a mini “relief center” at the end of their driveway. They had water and hot coffee, and were serving a simple soup and various snacks—all for FREE. They were simply being Good Samaritans.

The soup was nothing more than egg noodles cooked in chicken broth. But after several days without real food this tasted like 5-star cuisine! They fed our friends well, provided gas for their car with the help of some neighbors, and sent them on their way with enough provisions for a few days and even a coloring book and some crayons for my friend’s little boy.

We had our own drama here during the hurricane but it was nothing like what this little family went through. The contrast of the guy selling the water and the family offering free help really stayed with me. I had never thought of prepping before-----but by new year’s eve, my resolution was to prepare---and not be at the mercy of other people’s greed or generosity during a crisis----as you can’t count on encountering the latter.  To this day, my friend cannot bring up that family who helped without bawling her eyes out.

That kind southern family has no idea that throwing some egg noodles into a pot of bullion and serving it to hungry neighbors has affected the actions of someone 1000 miles away whom they never met. This is another example of how we may never know the full extent of how our actions have affected the lives of others.

The new year came and went and in February, an ice storm knocked out our power for 2 days.  Without electricity, our oil furnace and electric space heaters were useless.  We don't have a fireplace and didn't have a generator at the time, so we endured almost intolerable cold for those two days.  We had no way to even heat some water for hot drinks. We were worried about the pipes in our basement freezing and bursting from the lack of heat.  A neighbor loaned us a small kerosene heater which we put in the basement for the pipes instead of using it  for our own comfort.
In many ways, that ice storm motivated me more than Hurricane Irene had, and I began "prepping" immediately after that.  My first purchases include a pair of oil lamps and a case of lamp oil, sleeping bags rated for temperatures under 20 degrees, a small kerosene heater and a portable butane stove rated safe to use indoors.
As the months wore on, I fondly recalled my grandmother and the way she was always prepared for anything.  I had my husband turn a large hall coat closet into an "extended pantry" to store extra non-perishable food and basically went on from there.