As many of you know, Hurricane Sandy hit the North East pretty hard this past week. I am happy to report that while I was in the path of the hurricane, everyone that I knew personally did not have any significant damage or injuries. For those who weren’t glued to their TV all week watching the updates by the various news programs, there were over 7.5 million people without power as a result of the hurricane, tens of people in the tri-state area lost their lives, and now hour long waits at the gas stations. While these effects of the hurricane are horrible, it started to affect us before even hitting us.

How to Prepare for a Hurricane or Long Power Outages

It was still a few days away (the storm hit Monday night), but my wife and I spent the weekend preparing for the storm. We didn’t go out with friends or do of the any things that we normally do, but instead made the preparations for storm. We aren’t in an area where there is risk of flooding and we were far enough inland that we knew the only things we had to prepare for were trees being down and long power outages. Last year, we also faced similar (but not as bad, destruction wise) storms with Irene and the early October snow storm that caused major power outages as well. In other words, this wasn’t our first rodeo. We had done this before, so we knew what to do in order to prepare. If any of you are wondering what to do to prepare for a Hurricane, here’s a step-by-step list of our actions that we took:

  1. Clean the Apartment – The first thing that we needed to do was to get our apartment clean. If the worst case does happen, it will be stressful enough. You don’t need a cluttered home. This includes getting rid of clutter and washing clothes and dishes. We failed to wash our clothes, but I am planning on doing that sometime this week (once life gets back to normal).
  2. Get 3-4 Days of Water/Food – The next thing we did was to prepare the essentials, in terms of food and water, for the days to come. Part of the stress involved in preparing for the hurricane is dealing with the unusual traffic of people wanting to do the same thing. Whenever there is a storm coming, you can bet on bread and bottled water selling out almost immediately. This didn’t worry us because we just stored water prior to the storm in water bottles and other containers. We also planned meals that we could either eat cold or warm up on the stove. For us, this meant soup and pesto-paninis. There’s no need to resort to PB&J sandwiches just for a storm.
  3. Fill Up Gas – This is something that we did last minute and I am SO GLAD that we did. While it may not seem necessary to fill up all of your cars with gas, it is a MUST! I didn’t fathom the worst case scenario with gas (which is happening now), but I got gas anyways just to be prepared. As it turns out, the state is now rationing gas for who knows how long. You can only get gas every other day (depending on your license plate) and the lines are hours/miles long. I dread having to get gas and hope that it is back to normal by the end of next week.
  4. Extra Water – Another cool trick is to fill up your bathtub with water. This isn’t necessarily for drinking water, but just water to use for flushing you toilet in case you don’t water in your pipes for a few days.
  5. Charge Electronics – Our lives are so tied to electricity and especially technology (think of the last time you didn’t use your computer for a whole day), so it’s important to charge your electronics ahead of time. They won’t last forever, but it will get you through the first 24-48 hours depending on how old your batteries are. While I didn’t have this ahead of time, I just purchased a solar power battery, that I can charge my electronics with. That means I can charge up the batter via sunlight and then use it to charge my cell phone or I Pad. While this may seem like a luxury item, it takes away the stress of having your cell phone die when you need it the most. It won’t power your house, but it is enough for the essentials.
  6. Lights/Candles – Another essential is having a few flashlights/Lanterns/Candles to help light up your house. It now gets dark around 6pm (or 5pm thanks to daylights savings), so you need a few hours of light each day. We have 2 main flashlights in addition to candles and a headlamp. I realized that it would be nice to have a lantern, so I will probably add that to my “kit” for next time.

While there are many other minor steps (like prepping your freezer/fridge and getting a cooler ready), these are the essentials. I didn’t intend this post to become a preparation post, so let me jump into my reflections on the storm.

Reflections from Hurricane Sandy

There is a lot that goes through one’s head when something like this happens so close to home. Moments of stress and feeling overwhelmed are paired with moments of gratitude – because it could have been worse. These are a given. I’ve been surprised to notice a few other things as well.

  • Some People will Always Under-estimate the Storm – My wife and I were amazed at how many people were not taking the storm seriously enough. There were surfers in the water, people who were staying in their houses that had mandatory evacuation zones, and much more. Even myself, and I am normally a “be ready for anything” type of person, I didn’t imagine it would be this bad. Luckily it didn’t stop me from preparing for the storm, but it still goes to show you that people assume they are untouchable.
  • Some People are Selfish, but Most Care about Others – Overall, my friends and I banded together to help each other out. When one person had power, everyone was invited to enjoy the heat and power of that person’s apartment. When everyone lost power, there were texts the next day to check to see if everyone was okay. I even had grandparents calling me to make sure everything was okay. This type of stuff doesn’t get conveyed as much as it should in the news. Instead, it is filled with stories that draw on people’s emotions. Reporters interview people with a vary narrow focus, asking them about the homes they lost, what they are going to do, etc. I even saw stories about looters. While it is important for the public to know about this, these stories are emphasized while stories of camaraderie are swept under the rug.
  • We DEPEND on Systems / Others – We like to think that we can take care of ourselves, but this simply isn’t the case. My work closed for 5 days while everyone dealt with the impacts of the storm, but I am still getting ready to go to work tomorrow with no way to get to/from work. As many of you know, I take the train to work. As of this morning (Sunday), my train line is still suspended until further notice. When you combine this with the gas shortage, this is not going to be an enjoyable week. Between this and other experiences in this storm, I have learned that no matter how independent we are, we are almost always dependent on others.

Sandy, my uninvited guest, is now long gone, yet its impact on the North East continues. I am hoping that life gets back to normal sometime soon, but most importantly, I am thankful that my family and friends did not suffer any significant damage / injuries. I know that a lot of people cannot say the same thing and my thoughts are with them.

Did you live through Sandy? What did you learn from the time?