Fortunately, my family and I made it safely through Hurricane Sandy, a freakish storm that left enormous devastation here on the east coast, including loss of life. While things aren’t completely back to normal for us, they are getting there, and we are fortunate. So many cannot say the same.
I am originally from New York City; my husband is from the Jersey shore. So while we concentrated on keeping our own little immediate world safe for our children, we also worried about friends and family in two of the hardest hit areas.
Much of the media is saying, “this is the new normal.” One metrologist was quoted, “When you let the water into New York City, there is no turning back.” Even if just a shred of that is true, we all need to be more prepared.
We all prepared as well as we could, but were still in for some surprises. Here is what I learned from our experience with the event that was dubbed “Frankenstorm.”
Be Prepared for Multiple Events
A hurricane brings with it many dangers, from flooding to electrocution to being killed by a falling tree. This storm also brought the danger of fire, something that might not normally be associated with torrential rain and flooding.
Also, we all need to be prepared for subsequent events. The freezing temperatures when you have no heat, trees that were weakened and fall days later, violence due to scarce gasoline and food resources, and even a second storm on top of the first. These are all events that have occurred or are about to occur even a week after the initial storm has hit.
Being Prepared Early Gives You Peace of Mind
While we were anxious about the storm, I imagine that we had more peace of mind than most. We didn’t have to fret about the empty shelves in the grocery stores, the pumps that were out of gas or not operating, or roads closing. We weren’t in a flood zone (but had a plan in case we flooded anyway), so we could retreat into the basement with our little family during the worst of it. Our generator provided some light and a movie for the kids, as the adults listed for updates of the storm on the radio.
The time to prepare is before a threat looms. When a threat does appear, evaluate your preparations and then act quickly.
Regular Maintenance is Key
Because we cut down selected trees that could post a problem, we reduced our risk of property damage and death. Because the gutters were clean of debris and a system in place to channel water away from the house, our chances of flooding were reduced. Make sure your home and car are in good order.
Be Prepared to Help Others
When push comes to shove, survival and comfort may really depend on your neighbors and local friends, not on the state or federal government. It is the neighbor with the chain saw that will cut down the tree blocking your exit from your home or the friend the next town over who will lend you a generator to keep your warm.
Have extra resources on hand to help those around you. Guaranteed that most of the people you know will not be prepared. It is better to be in a position to help than in one of need. Extra resources can also be used to barter.
Property is not worth loss of life, as several families found out. You are not tougher than a hurricane and your window of evacuation may be very small.
Things turn out to be different than you expect, so prepare for several possible outcomes.
Redundancy is key. Have more than one way out, more than one source of transportation, more than one way of feeding yourself, and several preparations for both evacuating and sheltering in place.
Stay safe everyone!
* Photo of early flooding in near my old neighborhood in Queens, New York. Source unknown.