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Life in post-apocalyptic New Jersey

Hi everyone, this is the first time in 2 days that I’ve been able to get decent cell phone service so I’m going to try to update as completely as I can.

Monday night was scary. Brooke had just finished her class online when Sandy made landfall at about 8:10pm. The lights stayed on until about 8:15 and then for an hour and a half, it sounded like a freight train was bearing down on us. We had been getting gusts off and on throughout the evening but when Sandy made landfall, it was one continuous gust coming from the southeast. The back of the house faces that direction. About 30 feet from the house, the landscape slopes up about 15 feet to where the pool is located. I think it was the berm that acted as a natural windbreak that saved our house from any structural damage. There is plenty of damage in our immediate neighborhood. The neighbor to my immediate left lost a tree close to the house. He’s very lucky he didn’t lose more. He’s not protected by the pool elevation so he got the wind straight on.

I don’t know how fast the wind was moving but in comparison, I waited out hurricane Charlie in a condo in Naples, Florida facing the gulf. I’d say the wind was at least that strong. So, if someone says 100 mph, that wouldn’t be far off, in my guesstimation. Brooke was upstairs in her room in the central most part of the house and she said she heard a lot of snapping noises. I was downstairs in the back of the house and could hear ominous groaning throughout the worst of it. It turns out that this is what trees sound like as they’re being uprooted. The house trembled and shook and it sounded like the roof was going to lift off.

I turned on my crankable radio and listened to Leonard Lopate broadcasting via generator from WNYC. He and Will Shortz did a good job keeping everyone calm. But when they reported that the wind was going to keep up like that for about another 3 hours, I started to get nervous. For reference, my town is about 36 miles from NYC as the crow flies directly west. So, whatever winds they were getting were the same ones I was getting minus the storm surge. In fact, this hurricane was very different from Irene. There was very little rain and the basement stayed dry.

The Aftermath

After I checked the house the next morning and discovered that we miraculously escaped any damage, Brooke and I went out to get gas for the generator. Now, we’re about an hour away from Belmar so we didn’t get the massive flooding but we have some pretty severe damage to the power lines. As we exited our development, we saw probably a hundred downed trees, including a tree that was (and is still) leaning dangerously over the power line and the street. There’s a traffic cone to direct traffic around it but it won’t help anyone if it falls. It’s a ginormous tree. For that reason, the road is blocked off in the return direction, which means we had to get on rt 206 to get back home. That’s when we saw about half of the main thoroughfare was closed because of more downed and live power lines. There were only two gas stations opened in this town of about 40,000 people and one of them ran out of gas at about 5:00pm yesterday. Exxon was closed although I can’t see any clear reason for that when the gas station across the street was open and so were a couple of other businesses on its side of the street.

This morning, the other gas station was closed. They must have run out of gas later in the evening.
There’s no place to get ice.

The New Jersey Hall of Shame award has to go to Jersey Firewood (jerseyfirewood.com on rt 206 that is gouging local residents for firewood, Yep, the MFers won’t sell less than 20 cubic feet to customers. It’s not like they’re going to run out. They have a couple of acres of firewood but if you aren’t going to buy a t least 20 cubic feet, they won’t sell you so much as a single log. They have no problem selling a small bundle any other time of the year. Just not now. So, since I have just a small car and can’t imagine needing that much firewood anyway, I had to do without. No amount of begging and pleading would get me so much as a stick of kindling. I can’t believe they’re able to get away with this in an emergency situation. We have a couple of Duraflame logs and a few logs so we should be ok tonight but unless the gas situation gets better tomorrow, we’re going to have to just wear our thermal undies and burn some furniture.

What really burns my oatmeal is that Jersey Firewood will have plenty of free material to sell next year when the downed trees are cut up and the logs allowed to season. Avoid these people like the plague.

The local Hall of Fame Award goes to the guys as the Getty gas station on rt 206. They weren’t even planning to open yesterday but they did. They opened early in the morning and kept going until late in the evening when they finally ran out of gas. I saw the same gas station attendant twice as I refilled my 2.5 gallon container. He was directing people very efficiently and keeping the line moving even though I could tell he was exhausted from 12 hours of bending over to fill the tanks. I offered to bring him hot chocolate, cider, coffee, a beer, anything he wanted. He finally cracked a smile and said he’d love a beer but he’d be done for the day at that point.

This afternoon as I went looking for firewood, I saw the Comcast and PSEG trucks finally in the vicinity of my neighborhood. I think the rate limiting step is going to be dealing with that massive tree that’s threatening to fall down. But there are a lot of them.

John Hockenberry is taking Sandy Stories in the evenings on WNYC. Some of the stories coming out of Newark and Hoboken are hair raising. You would not believe what these two cities have been through. Half of Hoboken is under water and at some point during the storm caught fire. Rescue vehicles from neighboring towns were called in but watched helplessly because they couldn’t get through the rising flood water. Staten Island was flooded and Long Island, where Katiebird’s sister Bev lives was inundated on the ocean and sound sides. Bev’s house is about 1/4 mile from the sound. I don’t know what kind of damage she’s looking at but about 95% of the island is without power.

I’ll have more to say about infrastructure on another post but let’s just say that this is not a good week to be an asshole Libertarian. Yeah, we hate those people this week. Really, really hate them with a white hot passion. Oh, and AT&T too. The next Republican who says that everything should be privatized and that phone and cable companies shouldn’t be regulated is going to be strung up by his balls in the northeast.

One last thing: John Hockenberry took a call from a guy in Somerset NJ which is about 5 miles from here. The guy said he finally saw the cherry picker trucks in his neighborhood last night. Their license plates said Michigan. I knew I wasn’t imagining the cherry picker convoy last Saturday night. So, I would just like to add:

THANK YOU MICHIGAN!

And that goes for all of the other states who sent equipment and power line experts to our state.

BTW, the generator is working great! We have light and can charge our computers and phones, not that we can get a good signal or use the wifi yet but it is good and I can’t thank you enough for the generator. In the even that Sandy comes back through with rain, I can hook up the sump pump.

I’ll try to check back in the comments. Later…

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