Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hurricanes, Nor' Easters, and Random Thoughts

We were very lucky with Hurricane Sandy. We had several trees come down, some large branches, and lots and lots of twigs, but nothing hit the car or the house. Electricity was sporadic, going out for a few hours here and there, but never long enough to actually get the generator going. Each time we thought, okay, time to get the old clunker up and running the power would come back on. One day, when I thought we were safe from any more power outages, I made pizza dough. What was I thinking? I had the oven preheating and had just finished rolling the dough out when out went the lights. Well, I could still cook on the stove top since we have propane (the oven won't work, though). So I grabbed my big griddle, rolled the dough thinner, cooked it on each side till it was bubbled with brown spots—kind of like you do when making pita bread—topped it with tomato sauce and grated mozzarella cheese, covered it with an upside down lasagna pan until the cheese melted, and voila! Yummy griddled pizza eaten by candlelight. 

We also lost internet for five days. Amazing how you come to rely on it. All we had for news was our trusty radio. We heard the same stories, repeated constantly every ten minutes or so, with occasional updates from Mayor Bloomberg on how New York City was doing, or reports from NJ Governor Christie or NY Governor Cuomo. Rick made an observation that the news reporters were reporting all the grim, tragic, and disturbing stories, while the politicians were spinning it the other way, reporting on the positive improvements as problems were tackled and overcome. It was an interesting observation.

Rick's mom was incommunicado for two days. We last spoke to her during the hurricane. She was hunkered down in the hallway with a blanket, a pillow, and her cellphone because a huge tree had uprooted and she was afraid it was going to fall on her roof. Then no word. With electricity down she had no phone (we're oldfashioned and have kept our corded landline through the phone company, so we never lose phone service), and her cellphone had lost its signal. On the second day, she managed to get a cryptic text out to Rick's sister in Boston: "Mom here. With Mary. In the dark." And then nothing again. No one in the family knew who Mary was, and since we couldn't drive to her I called the nearest precinct, asking if they'd send a police officer to check. They reported to me the house seemed dark (duh) and deserted. We live 35 miles away, which means an hour drive on a normal day here on Long Island. Our town was completely dark, though, no traffic lights were working and they had closed all major roads down including one we'd have to drive on to get to her. In Nassau County, the county executive had closed every road down. Driving that 35 miles would have been dangerous, and maybe impossible. My mom lives two miles away from Rick's mother. She was happily eating her way through all her food. As soon as she heard power might be out for days she decided to cook everything she could think of that would keep unrefrigerated before it went off (some of her choices, like pasta fagioli, were a bit odd in my opinion). She was even having fun cooking after she lost power. Like us, she has a gas stove, but power was out for so long that she ran out of fresh vegetables, had already cooked what meat she had in her initial cooking frenzy, ate all her eggs, and started in on canned soup. She was on her last can when her power finally came back on after 5 1/2 days. At one point, early in the week, she even decided she couldn't let her new container of semi-defrosted Breyers peach ice cream go to waste, so ate (or kind of drank, really) half of it before she decided she might be ill. I made her promise to throw the rest away. We finally did "find" Rick's mom, who was fine. She had been in her basement (with Mary, her tenant). Unlike us, however, she has an electric stove and had to cook all her meals on her propane grill. She does, however, have a gas fireplace so was able to stay warm despite the very cold weather. Her electricity came back on 8 days later.

Then the Nor' Easter hit. Since when do they name nor' easters?? This one was called Winter Storm Athena. In a way, it was almost worse than the hurricane. Winds were gusting almost as high, up to 70 mph vs. the 90+ mph of the hurricane, but we had much more rain by us. And then snow. And it seemed to go on for a long long time. Another tree came down, but, again, it didn't hit anything. Rick's chain saw needed a new chain and he had sent away for a replacement. It arrived on Saturday and he went right out and chopped up the tree before I even knew what he was up to.

Rick goofing around as we started our pile of debris.
In the scheme of things we were all very lucky compared to so many others on Long Island. For us, after the task of clearing downed trees and other debris, the biggest residual problem had been the shortage of gas. Lines were ridiculously long at any station that was actually open and had gas deliveries. People were lining up at any station that had electricity, hoping a delivery would come sooner or later. Even after some stations got power back, gas deliveries were few and far between at first. People sat on line for hours only to get to the pumps and find out there was no gas left. Here, in town, there was police tape and cones up around the gas stations announcing no gas yet cars were lined up anyway, waiting. Finally, this past Friday, Long Island went to an odd/even gas rationing, like New Jersey already had done the week before. With the majority of gas stations now open again, and deliveries actually making their way to us, the odd/even rationing has lines down to almost normal. Yesterday, the station here in town had a line only two blocks long—a vast improvement. Annalee, however, drove 7 miles east and found a station with only 4 cars ahead of her. We had given up a show in New Jersey the Sunday after the hurricane hit because of the gas problem. Traffic might have been extra bad, too, but we would have braved it if not for the gas. It being a 206 mile round trip we couldn't risk running out of and not being able to get home. Especially since Rick wanted to keep what gas we had so he could go rescue the grandmas if they needed it.

The cold weather has given way to more moderate temperatures. At least for the moment. You can hear the sound of chain saws going as people continue to clean up. And each time a truck rolls by with a new telephone pole people cheer and wave. Here's hoping all those still recovering from the hurricane can get the help they need, and can find shelter, especially as the holidays draw near.
Rick conquers chopping a tree! He hates this picture, but I thought it was funny. Now, you needed to be there. This is part of the tree that was stuck in the crook of the big tree you see behind Rick. After he had chopped all the smaller branches off, he grabbed this (which was still about 12 feet long at the time) and started pulling on it until it got dislodged. Only problem is, as the tree fell down on the one side it catapulted him into the air on the other. Rick went flying up, spread eagle, maybe 6 feet into the air and then came flying down, landing in the ivy. Luckily, the ivy was very cushy. Annalee and I witnessed the flight and tried not to laugh until we found out if he was okay. I think Rick has a new career as the human cannonball. After the initial shock, he started laughing, too.