Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy Aftermath

Sandy, to put it succinctly, kicked my ass, but not to the extent that last year's hurricane Irene did. I got to work before the brunt of the storm hit, around 2PM on Monday, knowing that I would not be leaving the site before 9AM the following morning. I packed as if I were going on a camping trip- plenty of food and several changes of clothes.

When it hit my neck of the woods, Sandy differed significantly from a typical tropical storm in that there was comparatively little rainfall. Out of the several times when I had to be outside checking up on things, I only had to wear my rain poncho once. The wind, however, was pretty brutal. My workplace lost power around 11PM (two of my co-workers were also pulling all-night duty, one lost power early on, the other didn't lose power at all).

The weird thing about losing power in a public building is that there is emergency power that kicks in to provide enough lighting to allow an evacuation of the building. Of course, I was not evacuating... it's a bit eerie sitting in a dim building, watching the lights slowly dying, listening to the beeps of the alarm system growing fainter with time. Luckily, I had access to candles (during our nighttime fundraisers, we put lanterns up on site to provide "atmosphere"), and I made sure to "top off" my electronic devices throughout the evening while I still had power.

Knowing the power would not come on for a while, I had to engage in "resource management"- I had to use the gigantic rechargeable flashlight sparingly and conserve phone battery power (the phone is an emergency light source as well as a communication device in instances like this). I only used my phone frivolously once, to snap a picture of a tired, unshaven, raggedly looking bastard working by candlelight:




It was pitch dark but luckily I had a torch and a match in my inventory.

About every three hours, I did a walkabout to gauge water levels on the site (Irene was primarily a flooding event in my neck of the woods) and checked for storm damage to the buildings on site. A sizable branch had narrowly missed my car, but we survived pretty much unscathed. During one of my rambles I saw what appeared to be an intense, though extremely localized, fireworks display- probably a transformer explosion. The police, fire department, EMTs, and ConEd work crews were out and about- the night was punctuated by wailing sirens and flashing lights. By the time the site director and site manager arrived at 9AM, the storm had subsided, and I had a comprehensive report on the extent of the minor damage done to the site. I sent several text messages to my department head to appraise him of my situation and convey the reports of my two overnighting co-workers.

I returned home on deserted roads and found that my neighborhood had never lost power. A large oak tree came down right where I usually park my car... I joked to my neighbor that I was lucky I worked an all-nighter- it's not the first time my car missed getting totaled by a falling tree by virtue of my work schedule. She joked about inviting all of her powerless friends over for the day- "If you have any frozen steaks you don't want to spoil, bring them over!"

I crawled into bed, bone tired, and zonked out until about 3PM, when I received a call from the guy who was supposed to work Tuesday afternoon- he was stuck at home by flooded roads and downed trees. Damn, damn, damn, I had to go back. Luckily, I had re-charged my cell phone- I arrived to find that the power was still out at work. Knowing that the power would probably be out, I made sure I had a fat, lurid paperpack, purchased for a quarter at a library book sale, and my wind-up radio/LED combo with me. Around 5PM, the Chief Financial Officer of the organization came over to conduct a spot inspection (much to my surprise). I took him on a Cook's destruction tour, pointing out the minor damage that the site had incurred. The rest of the night was uneventful- it involved using my resources sparingly, reading my trashy novel, and listening to radio reports of the massive damage that coastal areas received. I'm still not really caught up on current events, but Sandy pretty much supersedes everything as far as media coverage in these parts.

5 comments:

mikey said...

I'm still not really caught up on current events...

Meh, not much to talk about. I think there's some kind of election next week. Pretty quiet beyond that...

mikey said...

Oh!

The Giants did win the World Series. I'm sure you wanted that update as soon as you could get it...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's funny, one of my co-workers is a Detroit Tigers fan. He's a lifelong New Yorker, but he digs the Tigers for some reason.

Another Kiwi said...

Well done that Bastard. Never did a person deserve a spleen sammich more.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I remember a long black out in NYC when a Con Ed transformer blew up at 14th Street and the FDR.

The building had backup lights for a while, but a day or two into it it was down 9 flights of stairs in the darkness. (And worse for people up on the 33rd floor!)
~