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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:


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…

28 Responses

  1. The pictures coming out on the news have just been incredible. Glad you two are safe. Whew. Best to you. Happy Halloween, I guess. Omg.

    • I live in Little Rock, AR I saw a big convoy of electrical trucks pulling trailers of poles leave out of here Saturday. If you see any Arkies up there say Wooo Pig!

    • I have pictures and video of the general area, Brooke took pictures today of the Somerville-Bridgewater area. It’s just been really hard to post them.

  2. Thanks for checking it. Glad the generator is working out so well!
    Such awful events are the only thing that check the privatize bastards. Perhaps it will be a year or two before they start up again. Those firewood people need to do jail time

  3. I think you might reconsider buying the 20 cu ft of wood. You should be ale to load most of it in your small car with seats down, front seat and trunk and as last resort, make 2 trips for second load. A cord of wod is128 cu ft. Now that is a lot of wood. They should allow you a small bunde but 20 cu is not as much as you might first think. Glad generator is working. It could e a long time till power is on.

    • It was a lot of firewood and not only was it more than I need or would use, they were charging $100 for it. A little bundle of wood is all I need. Duraflame logs are excellent. They last for hours. I lit one a couple hours ago and it’s still blazing merrily.
      BTW, if anyone in Nj is reading this, Wegmans is open and operating and has set up charging stations. Cell is sporadic but when it’s available, you’ll want to be able to charge up.
      Also, the governor has asked that we conserve water. That’s why we fill our bathtubs with water before the storm to flush the toilets.
      Finally, the headlamp look has become very chic. EMS has sold out of their supply. I feel very fashion forward. Fleece pullovers are invaluable. And fuzzy socks and down comforters.

      • $100 for that…forget what I just wrote. I am from an area where that would be about $15 or so. Never mind. Tke care.

  4. I have three cords of downed wood from last night’s light-in-comparison winds. Thankfully, we were a couple degrees too warm to get the three feet of snow they got next door in the Park.

    • You’re in the Asheville area, right? How bad was it down there?

    • The last time I was in either Knoxville or the Park was in 1982 I think for the Knoxville World’s Fair. I wonder how the Park has been evolving/changing since then.

      What is the state of the fir forest on the tops of the highest mountains? How about the spruce forest below that?

  5. You can report price gouging to (862)209-1030 or (973)220-3474.

    • Thanks, I might just do that.

      • I think you should, RD.

        Meanwhile, I am so glad that your house held up.

        I’m having waking nightmares about the whole area.

        The whole country probably should have postponed Halloween in solidarity.

        • Nah, kids around the country have only one Halloween. Some nj kids will have two. Some neighborhoods are organizing block parties and some apartment high rises are proceeding on schedule. It’s only townships like mine where it’s really unsafe to be walking around where nothing is going on tonight. But we’ll have Halloween next week for sure.

        • Yeah. It feels very bizarre to be handing out >Fun Size! Snickers Bars!< while worrying about all my friends on the coast.

          Should have put it off till next Tuesday and cancelled the stupid election instead. We could ask Iceland for a caretaker government.

  6. Glad to hear you are okay. Take care.

  7. Whoo-hoo! The power flickered on briefly! Fingers crossed.

    • They are cruelly messing with us. The lights didn’t stay on. No idea what’s going on. Nice to know they’re working on it, distressing to know that it wasn’t successful.

  8. You both came through it, and without even a flooded basement this time.

    Haruhi be praised! :mrgreen:

  9. I have twenty acres of downed trees and a chainsaw. Too bad we are too far away and to tired from two days of power out to do anything about it. Al and I both with bad backs, we had a hell of a time keeping the generator and two wood stoves going. We ran the fridge and the TV to keep up on what was going on. One night I had to get up at 3 and add gas to the generator and wood to the fire at 3 am. I am not up to this anymore. And yet, we are so much better off than NY and NJ. I feel so sorry for the towns on the shore which had their sand moved inland for blocks and blocks. Makes the name Hurricane Sandy very ironic.

    • Teresa, I feel so conflicted — feeling happy for my family and friends who came through so safely (and relatively well) and still, terrified for the people caught in the worst of the damage!

      Both feelings are sincere though. I am so glad that you are doing OK. (exhausted but OK) xxoo

    • Teresa, if I can get some gas for my car, I will be more than happy to drive out to help you. I’ll be in touch.

      • We have our power back now. Thank you for the offer though. Let me talk to Al. Maybe we can figure something out about sending firewood to Princeton. We have trees down in the woods and they have to be cut and split.
        It will depend on his mood, but if you can get a friend with a truck and a strong back we can probably find a few trees worth of wood.

  10. Glad to hear you came through okay. I have a lot of relatives in NJ (I’m originally from Rahway) and they were all lucky as well. Especially one cousin near the shore; his block is fine, but all the other blocks around him were destroyed.

  11. 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

    Well that just SUX Shame on him. 😦

  12. Thanks for the report RD I have been worried about you and Brooke.
    The good news you are ok.
    and no house damage.Our Red cross is there as well as Ohio Task Force One. and utility trucks.
    Neighbors helping neighbors that is what we do.We are Americans the finest in the world. 🙂

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