State of Emergency – 2010 Chronicles Pt. 1

The year is drawing to a close and I have to say that I am grateful. 2010 will remain in my memory as an unprecedented time of change, anxiety, sadness and unexpected joys. I figured I would immortalize it, the good, the bad and the ugly just for the fun of it. I learned a lot this year and that is saying something!

2009 gave way to 2010 quietly as midnight saw us half asleep, drunk and staring with horror at what has become of the infamous Dick Clark. Would it be cruel to say he is a relic of his former self? Time can be cruel, yes? Yes. I can’t believe the man is still coming on TV but its hard to imagine a New Year’s eve without him ringing it in. Who will ever do it as well as him? Judging by the additional celebrities who graced the screen, I would have to say it will be awhile before someone can walk in his footsteps. No insult to J-Lo and Anthony lol.

I greeted the New Year with excitement, ruminating on all my plans for our new business and my foray back into college. The thought of being a Horticulture student and learning about nature, which I so love, was wonderful. I was right and it was great, right up until the week of March 12th when we were hit with a record-setting Nor easter producing torrential rain and 70 mph winds which toppled trees and power lines. It caused extensive flooding through various parts of the North east and left approximately one million homes without power.

March 2010 North American winter storm – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

We were home that night and well stocked with groceries as I had shopped the week before. The lights dimmed once or twice at the height of the storm and we cringed as we heard the wind wreaking havoc. Even when the lights went out for the third time, we didn’t bat an eye. As anyone who lives in suburbia knows, power outages are sometimes an ugly reality. We went to sleep safe in the thought that PSE&G would work tirelessly to restore power and all would be well in the morning. When daylight dawned, we saw all kinds of objects littering the streets and our backyard looked as if there had been a wild party that we weren’t invited to. Alas, there was no power. Still we were not alarmed until dusk approached and we were still in the dark. We did the neighborly thing and checked on our elderly neighbors who were better prepared than we were! You see, there is no substitute for experience lol. Then, much to our horror it got cold and we realized that there was no heat. Duh!! So, we went to the movies to escape the cold, hoping against hope that the power would be back on by the time we got home. Ummm, no!!!

Only on the second day did it occur to me that the sump pump was no longer working and panic struck. We had just gotten our basement refinished to the tune of 30K after which we both promptly lost our jobs to the recession and downsizing. When we checked the basement we could see that water was indeed seeping its happy way through the floor boards. It wasn’t too bad though, just an inch or so and I figured that insurance would cover it but I was wrong. Go figure!

So there we were, no TV, no telephone, no lights, no heat and running out of hot water. I relied strictly on my cell and laptop but what would we do when the batteries died? Thank God for analog phones. Thank God for email so I could tell my professors I would be out until this was resolved. Worse than anything, we had no Disaster Recovery plan and since our office houses our business we were down for the count. Since it was too cold to stay in the house we checked with PSE&G who clearly have no REAL disaster recovery plan on file as they estimated it would be back on the next morning (lies). So, we went to a hotel in Jersey City where we spent an uncomfortable night in a tiny bed with crappy cable. But crappy cable is better than no cable. It was only then that we realized how bad it was as we watched the reports with horror seeing cars and vans submerged in rivers of water, people working earnestly to pump out their basements only to have the water come right back in and the extremely alarming fact that an unprecedented operation was underway to restore power throughout the North East. Electrical companies as far away as Canada had been pressed into service to assist with the recovery.

Entering battle mode, I called our house but since the answering machine didn’t pick up I correctly deduced that we were on Day 3 without power. I began calling around for a generator and everywhere in a 30 mile radius of us was sold out. Unbelievable! We had to go to Passaic county to get a generator and I was only able to do that because of our Landscape contractor status. Thank God it was cold or we would’ve lost all our food. The drive to the rental place was surreal. We saw the basements of homes submerged in water, Canadian electrical trucks and stressed out crews of men working feverishly, roads and streets flooded with rivers of brown water and trees everywhere. Their ginormous rootballs upended as if God had reached down and plucked them up in a fit of rage. What should have been a 30 minute drive turned into 1.5 hours but we made it home victorious.

Ha! The generator ran one night and died the next morning. We were actually happy with the subsequent silence because the sound of the gennie was enough to drive you crazy. Power was coming back then sporadically and I had hooked up an analog phone. The phone rang off the hook with desperate people complaining that (a) they couldn’t get through to us and (b) looking for help with their tree situations. Technically, we close for the winter season and re-open April 1st but I felt so bad for the people that we actually attempted to work. Ha! Ha! Once the generator died we were back at square one. No phone, fax, computer etc. and dare I say the vendors weren’t better off?! Half the stores were closed due to flooding or power outages which I tartly reminded callers of lol. Lucky us, we had gotten a gennie with a bad fuse so they agreed to come pick it up and we got a second one from a local vendor. Even so, we were cold and crazed for a total of SIX DAYS.

No amount of preparation could have prepared us for such a disaster and my lifeline to the world was Facebook. People kindly offered refuge but how could we leave the house with flooding, unrefrigerated food and no alarm system? Talk about a time rife for looting!!!

The power came back on March 18th at 2:01 PM. I was trying to eat lunch and not worry about the unforeseen expenses, staring at the clock on the DVR as it flashed on and off in the struggling daylight. I did not believe all was well until I had literally turned on all the lights in the house. I stood stock still in shock and nearly burst into tears. I was almost too exhausted to be jubilant. Almost lol. NEVER have I been as thankful as I was at that moment that I had been born in the 20th century. How the hell did people live without electricity? Without PC’s? Without answering machines to screen the insane? Without heat that comes on without you having to think about it and the darling of our lives, the fridge? Or, TV and Radio to fill the unrelenting silence? The thought of reading by candlelight may seem romantic until you actually have to do it.

LESSON: MAN PROPOSES, GOD DISPOSES. An Analog phone, candles, flashlights and Batteries REALLY are a necessity and should be put where you can find them. A generator is a good investment. Thank you Mom, for teaching me the importance of canned food and if you have a home office, you better have a DR plan.

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2 thoughts on “State of Emergency – 2010 Chronicles Pt. 1”

  1. The state of emergency was more like the state of a joke. The last time I checked, it seems like our state doesn’t care about us at all. I don’t know which was worse, the lies from the city of Hackensack or their lack of preparedness. I can understand not knowing what to brace ourselves for but we knew it was coming and our city officials knew before us poor everyday folks. So why wasn’t a plan put in place? What the hell, lets wing it! For all the things you described, Lisa, all I can say is WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!

    What happened to the days when we cared for each other and conducted ourselves like professionals? Well, by the grace of God some of us weathered the storm and some of us didn’t. GOD BLESS our emergency team, or should I say the ones in charge. Stop spending our money on yourselves and actually implement a state of emergency plan. Oh yeah, interrupting my program to tell me, “This is a test…” is stupid, pointless and a waste of time and money. The funds would be better spent on an actual state of emergency. Great piece, Lisa!!

    You got me going. Watch out now! Peace.

    1. I see that the memory is way too fresh for you, lol. I agree that the storm and its aftermath clearly showed the deficiencies in our public utility systems and government. The question is did they actually do anything about it?! P.S. – You know why!!! lol

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