The aftermath of Sandy: How are you doing?

I was pretty concerned about lots of you on the East coast of the USA when Sandy was coming.

I am not following American news much at the moment, but comments suggest that some people are just getting power back right about now.  Some notes and comments I have read say that it took a long time to get services renewed and people were cold and hungry and pretty darn frustrated.

Do you see, friends, why I occasionally suggest that you have bug-out bags, with basics for a few days, and that you have plans and supplies?

On the dramatic scale, there could be global power-grid frying EMPs from coronal mass ejections.  There could be economic crunches that destroy our infrastructure.  There could be pandemics that bring us down like grass before scythes.  We are probably due.

But on a smaller scale there are fires, accidents, earthquakes, local or large storms.

Things happen, friends.  And sometimes things happen to you.

The last time I visited my mother in Florida, a tornado dropped down on the community she lives in.  No warning.  BAM!  The damage field ripped through the neighborhood just two houses away.

It is pious sounding to say, “Oh, I’ll just leave it to God!”, but if you get injured or in a fix, someone has to take care of you, which takes resources from someone else.  You wind up being a burden, or perhaps a distraction if not a burden.  There also may be people who depend on you to help them.

I am not suggesting be a “prepper” (though it would be hard to fault you, so long as you don’t drive yourself into a total obsession).  I am suggesting a little planning, a little packing, a little prudence.

And don’t just think in terms of stuff, though stuff is important.  Think in terms of networking with others where you live.  If you are not strangers, you are more likely going to be able to help each other, rather than… the other thing.

In the meantime, I hope some of you will chime in and let us know how the storm affected you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Phil_NL says:

    While I’m not even an American, I’d like to add two things; firstly prayers for those affected, but also a suggestion: get as many of your power cables underground. Of course, in the vast rural plains the cost would be prohibitive, but in a more urban context it’s worth it, especially if you live in storm-prone areas. If the final 500 yards or mile (usually where the voltage get adjusted to normal levels rather than something more juicy) are underground, it cuts drastically on the amount of repairs needed and thereby on downtime. Power companies are normally reluctant, but lobby them – and your local governments – every step of the way.

    Better import that idea from the old continent then our healthcare systems…

  2. gracie says:

    My neighborhood still has no electricity (I live in New Jersey).

  3. introibo says:

    We lost power for three days (Monday-Thursday). A bit of a pain as we have a well, so we had to use bottled water for cooking/drinking/flushing. Otherwise we didn’t fair too badly..a couple of trees down, some damage to garden fence; still, when we see what happened elsewhere, we feel very fortunate.

  4. Amy Giglio says:

    I live in NJ, across the river from Staten Island. My street made out fine. We didn’t lose power during the storm, just sporadic outages due to line repairs. We have nothing to complain about. Many citizens in my town are starting their 8th day with no power. Staten Island is a mess. The shore is a mess. It’s really worse than it seems on TV. Please pray for those who came out of this storm with nothing at all left. Houses and towns just washed away…

  5. eulogos says:

    What struck me was how fast there was no gas to be had. We went to New York City for a medical appointment for my husband, on Wednesday. Driving in through New Jersey we saw huge lines for gas and many gas stations close, with yellow tape around the pump area. So when we left we went up through the Bronx and Westchester, and across the Tappan Zee bridge to Nyack, a familiar town to both of us. There was no power there, and gas stations were closed. We went a little farther into Rockland County, to Congers, where we waited on line for gas for 45 minutes before the station ran out. We continued to drive around looking for gas,using up what little we did have left. Finally we got on another line and after a half an hour wait were able to get gas. As we left there were about 40 cars still waiting to buy gas. People said there was a gas shortage as far north as Poughkeepsie. I felt guilty, but at the same time very relieved, driving north with a full tank, thinking, maybe we should only have taken a few gallons… The gas stations were cash only, and with power down, if you didn’t have cash, you weren’t going to be able to get it out of an ATM. So that’s another lesson; always have some cash on hand.

    In New York City everything seemed deceptively normal above 34th street, but we kept seeing convoys of ambulances heading north, which I think were evacuation the downtown hospitals. I was told (by a doctor friend whose husband is a cardiologist) that Bellevue had kept going for seveal days running on an inadequate generator, which was supplied by a bucket brigade on the stairs to get the fuel to it. Now I hear via work related issues (we obtain medical records to determine disabilityclaims) that Bellevue and NY Presbyterian Langone, will both be closed for several weeks.

    Susan Peterson

  6. JonPatrick says:

    Here in Central Mass we lost power for about 4 hours Monday evening. We also have a well but had filled trashcans with water to use to flush toilets. We have a propane cooktop so were able to make dinner. We consider ourselves lucky, other people on the street lost power for a few days, fortunately they had generators.

    Concerning underground lines, while they help to protect against wind storms, they do make you more susceptible to lightning strikes, seems counter-intuitive, but lightning does pass through the ground and the wires present a lower resistance path for the electrical charge.

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    In addition to cash, if you have safe storage (garden shed good; garage, especially attached garage, bad) a couple of cans of gasoline (with StaBil) are a good idea too. We have kept 10-15 gallons on hand ever since Hurricane Opal knocked out power here for a week (wound up siphoning gas out of one of the cars on that occasion, had about 5 gallons but that ran out by mid-week).
    Gas will run out just as soon as the panic buying starts — because normally we all drive with about half a tank. If everybody has a full tank instead, the supply chain is not set up for that quantity.

  8. Lirioroja says:

    I live in Queens, NY on high ground. We made it through all right but we lost some power (including the fridge) and our heat for 2 days. Oddly enough we had hot water the whole time. I had to toss out some food but otherwise I was fine. I made a point to get cash as part of my storm prep so I didn’t need to look for a working ATM. I don’t drive so the gas shortages have not affected me. However it was hard not having the subways running. I was stranded in my neighborhood until the buses started running. I went back to work on Wednesday and it took me 5 hours. It’s good to have the subway back.

    My family lives on Staten Island and they are among those who came through the storm unscathed. They are inland and on high ground so there was no flooding. They never lost power (a few shortages during the storm but the lights came right back on) and they never lost heat or hot water. They had food and cash on hand. The only thing that affects them now are the gas shortages (my dad likes to keep a full tank but that will eventually run out). They were trapped on the island until this past weekend when the ferry started running again. Both my mom and my sister were able to go back to work today.

    It really was a tale of two cities here in New York – the “have power” folks and the “have no power” folks. Last week I stared into the line of demarcation and it was eerie to see the streets dark. A friend tweeted about going to Mass by candlelight (which I must admit sounded kinda cool – just like in the first 1,900 years of the Church). There’s a shortage of food in the formerly dark zone and the first food deliveries to markets and restaurants are expected tomorrow. Life is slowly coming back to normal. However for the hardest hit areas, it will be a long time before anything starts being normal again.

  9. Sandy says:

    I prayed so hard for my elderly mother in Virginia Beach (the one who won’t move out of her house!) and they were spared, thank God, although a piece of something blew off of her roof. I’m trying to impress upon her the need to get someone to see what’s going on up there! May those of you affected so badly get relief soon. God bless you all!

  10. Philangelus says:

    We weren’t even in the path of the hurricane but had no power for 72 hours, so we lost all the food in the fridge (although we managed to preserve some in a cooler) and cooked some on a propane camping stove. Used water we stocked up ahead of time to flush toilets, drink and wash dishes.

    My family in NYC didn’t even lose power; my family on Chesapeake Bay didn’t lose power. I sent my guardian angel out to check on them, and I guess he did an awesome job! :-)

  11. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Since I live in California, I’m pleased to report that the effect was minimal except in two interesting ways.

    1) Around here, there doesn’t need to be a world crisis for gasoline to spike — but it hasn’t done so this time.

    2) The suffering of those back east has helped to put some from around these parts in some greater perspective.

  12. maryg says:

    We are on the north shore of Long Island and were without power for a week. Fortunately, we have a generator and a wood stove. The generator gave us some trouble but it was better than nothing. Gas lines were very long and some people on them behaved badly. We were glad we had taken some cash out of the bank prior to the storm as many of the businesses that were open would only accept cash. Lots of trees came down in our area, some streets remain impassable and schools are still closed. We are still better off than the people on the south shore and those in Breezy Point (over 100 homes burned) and Staten Island.

  13. PA mom says:

    We had it fairly easy. Lost power Monday night right at lights out time, and it was back on right before supper the following day. It was an opportunity to talk with the kids about conservation (look how much less we can be ok with), and how vital indoor plumbing is. Power out at work gave the hubby a couple well deserved vacation days too.
    We don’t know anyone who lost a house, but the island where we vacation looks like it will be uninhabitable for nearly six months for gas line restructuring. That’s going to be terribly difficult on those who live there year round.

  14. AnnAsher says:

    Amen Fr Z ! Bug Out bags, simple food for a week or two, water. So easy!

  15. Charivari Rob says:

    Today’s radio reports suggested some of the electric companies had restored 80 % of the customers who had lost power, which still leaves many tens or hundreds of thousands out, 168 hours later.

    I drove from Boston today to my native NJ Bayshore with a carload of relief supplies. Power still out to many.

    Gas lines due to some stations not having power to pump, and some refineries/distribution centers not having power to fill tanker trucks. Fairly orderly with the Governor having ordered alternate-day rationing, lines not too bad today. NY (particularly Long Island) in a worse state at the moment.

    Last report I heard Sunday said 22 dead in NJ, 30 in Staten Island.

    Many hundreds of homes destroyed in NJ. Certain neighborhoods ravaged. Barrier islands remain under mandatory evacuation orders. Widespread damage to roads and rails.

    My parents’ house is inland and sufficiently high ground not to have the storm surge flood issues. Power out since the day, though, and a couple of trees down. Thank God for fireplace – only source of heat and cooking right now.

    My father’s nursing home has been without public power since the day, but is sufficiently modern to stay habitable with backup generator for necessities. My wife’s mother, aunt, and uncle live in various senior housing further south along the Atlantic shore of NJ – all in mandatory evac zone, all at a nearby cousin’s house (where power is still out). Cousins on LI north shore without power since the day. Cousin in Westchester County NY – tree fell on his car. Friends in southern Connecticut – no power for 2 days. Friends in coastal RI – no power for 3 days, sufficiently inland and high ground to be spared the ravages visited on their town’s low-elevation beach area.

  16. Charivari Rob says:

    Oh, yes -nearly forgot: there’s now a nor’easter bearing down on the region, arrival due Wednesday.

  17. Lori Pieper says:

    I live in the Bronx, on high ground, so I wasn’t much worried about flooding, though I was desperately afraid we would lose power, and I wouldn’t be able to use my computer for work, that is, for my living – for all practical purposes I work as a freelancer, and don’t get paid time off or vacation. So if I couldn’t work, I would lose all the hours and pay. Expecting some power outage, I went to the store to lay in some supplies including candles and matches.

    The one thing I was not expecting at all was to have my wallet stolen in the grocery store 3-4 hours before the storm was to hit. I had to find my roommate so I could borrow some cash and get food, and she didn’t have enough on her to pay for candles. Then I prayed the phone lines would stay on long enough for me to call the bank and the credit card companies and cancel everything.

    Nothing at all happened, I called everyone, and the power stayed on. Thanks be to God.

    Thieves frequently take advantage of confusion and panic like this, especially in big cities. So many people though, experienced much worse than me.

  18. Darren says:

    I live in New Jersey, just inland from Seaside Heights (which was almost completely washed away) and was fortunate to just lose power for four days and suffer practically no damage to the house. My immediate neighborhood is fairly new (20 year-ish old houses) and so no big old trees to fall on houses and all of the power and utilities are underground.

    I have seen power companies from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Alabama working in my town. We are all very thankful for everyone who came from all over the country and Canada to help restore power.

    Please keep those hardest hit along the shore in NJ, Staten Island and other areas… …and those still suffering without power near the coast and inland – in your prayers. The water surge traveled up the rivers and streams… and the high winds went far inland. People far from the coast are still without power due to many many downed trees.

    I, only seven miles from the ocean, have been very fortunate.

    Fire companies from all over New Jersey have been in the area, I think taking shifts going to the hard hit coastal areas along the bays and the ocean. There are some new inlets in Mantoloking, and I have been told, but have not yet comfirmed, that Sandy Hook is more like Sandy Island for the time being.

  19. Father K says:

    Things happen, friends. And sometimes things happen to you.

    A particularly insensitive remark – something that Jerry Seinfeld would say, but not a priest

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Insensitive? Seriously? So… I guess that teaching people about the force of gravity is some kind of human rights violation?

    If you love people, you tell them the truth. The truth is that bad things do happen. We are called not to worry ourselves about them; but we are also called to use God’s gifts prudently, for the good of others and even ourselves.

  21. dirtycopper says:

    I wanted to share a story with all of you about one of our Permanent Deacons. After we evacuated him from his home by boat at the peak of the hurricane and just before he disappeared to check on all of his elderly neighbors he turned to one of my cops, took the wool watch cap from his head and handed it to him saying “you will need this more than me tonight”. This from a man who lost just about everything.

    If any good will come of this mess it is this. The people of my community have banded together and are making multiple, simultaneous small miracles happen. The good people of Our Lady of Victories and Saint Stanislaus Kostka have banded together and are supporting their neighbors in a way that defies description. They are living the Gospel.

    We are working around the clock here in Central New Jersey. Our Bishop visited the damaged areas yesterday and in doing so provided a tremendous boost to folks who are at their wits end.

    We are facing more weather tonight which we are hoping is NOT the .25 caliber behind the ear to finish us off. But as bad as we have it please pray for the folks in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. They have it far worse than us.

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