There’s no telling if news of New Jersey’s and New York’s storm damage reaches beyond the Apalachians, except my sister Daria’s currently playing host to four Texans who drove a semi filled with thousands of pies from one tiny community, evidently in the middle of nowhere. My sister and the Texans were on Fox & Friends this morning, discussing their crazy caper. While the caper is impressive, the show is for shit. You can find the segment yourself, if you’re so inclined.
Before the storm, I reviewed my favorite game: the Snow Day. At the time, I thought it was a bit of a dark impulse. Meteorologists run around with their hair standing on end if the break room runs out of Splenda, so we’ve all come to take their warnings with a boulder of salt. I didn’t really believe it could be as bad as it was predicted; neither did I know that I was not actually prepared.
Let’s assess, then, our outcomes.
Our house is very high up, roughly a hundred feet above sea level, says Pete. This came in handy when we were never flooded. Our basement didn’t flood. Our yard drained immediately. That our neighbors within a few blocks were not as fortunate may amount to luck.
We are on a tree-lined street, which worked against us when great branches fell everywhere, taking down wires. We did not suffer, as many did, when whole trees tipped over and crashed into houses. A startling number of the people who died were inside houses when trees barged in.
We lost power for about 46 hours. That sucked. If it had been longer, we might have had to make some difficult decisions about where we should be. Power came on in a seemingly endless patchwork, so while we got power back Wednesday night after the Monday night outage, our neighbors down the street did not get power for a week, some for two weeks and some still do not have it. This led us to conclude we would not face another hurricane season without a generator. Because everyone with generators went sort of crazy about buying gas, we will not be buying a gas generator, because the idea is to have less crazy.
The hurricane’s aftermath exposed a few chinks in our armor we were not aware existed. An example: our cell phones were mostly useless for five-six days, Pete’s having a much stronger signal than mine for no reason we could determine. Further: our cable bundle internet-television-phone was a total failure. Remember when the U.S. converted to digital TV and we all stared at our coat hangers like old friends? After three days, Pete set up our bedroom TV with the attic’s bunny ear contraption and we had TV. You have not lived until you’ve watched one of those CSI shows by candlelight.
The phone thing was mostly a pain in the patoot, but it meant that to communicate with the outside world, I had to go to work, where phones called, lights lit and the internets remained snarky. I was writing from a remote location in the middle of fucking Jersey, and though I was okay and had a home and food to eat, everything was not all right. My co-workers also came to work in self-defense and didn’t so much want to go home to cold, dark houses. When things went well, it was still a strain. I did not count on that and now know I’d better mull that over.
There were also things that went well.
We had gas and hot water, so we could cook. Further: we had taken the precaution of filtering quart after quart of tap water – we do not do bottled water – so we had clean water to cook with. The boil-water order came days later, as we suspected it would, but it was predictable. We had clean water to drink, too, but we discovered that our bodies reacted to the conditions by trying to hold on to its own resources. Thus: in the future, I will also make sure our house always contains cranberry juice. At the first sign that urine changes color, drink!
A package of a hundred or two hundred – I forget which – tea lights proved invaluable. I lined a platter with foil and lit a bunch. They produced not just light, but also no small amount of warmth. This was a big asset. We will never be without them from now on.
We save our carrot tips, onion tops and celery bases in our freezer, so when the lights went out, we set up stock pots on the stove. The simmering of chicken carcasses and beef bones produced marvelous aromas, normal humidity and kept the house from cooling completely. It also helped that I’d set aside jarring projects until the storm hit. Having something steady to do really kept me focused. We also brought in herbs from the garden and set up compound butter. My sister Anya reported:
Daria: Do you think they’re really okay? Would they tell you if they were in trouble over there?
Anya: They’re fine. They’re making compound butters.
Daria: We just don’t have the same kinds of problems, do we?
Anya: I’m calling from my basement canoe.
Some of our outcomes were the luck of the draw. Some require further thought. We also obtained some definite results. Because of some excellent planning on the part of Pete’s parents decades ago, we are way up high and that helped. Now, if only we can go back in time and get them to put solar panels on the garage roof last year…