Hurricane Irene Aftermath

The newscasters forewarned us for days here in New Jersey that Hurricane Irene could be the most powerful storm we had seen in decades. As many of us in New Jersey do, we prepared for the worst and hoped for Irene to blow out to sea or dissipate before making landfall like most other hurricanes do.

I took the warnings seriously (or so I thought) and did my best to prepare for the storm. So how did I make out?

I live in Woodbridge, which is a town in central New Jersey. I have lived here most of my life and I remember some big floods when I was a kid. As an adult I have dealt with some minor flooding so I thought I knew how to prepare for the worst.

You cannot control flood waters. If your basement tends to flood, you need to prepare it for the worst.

I give myself a C for preparing my basement. The majority of the storage in my basement was done in plastic storage bins. That was a smarter way to store items like Christmas decorations, old toys and other items but plastic storage bins can crack. I failed to check some of the older bins that have been bounced up and down my basement stairs.

A hole in a box sitting on a basement floor that is flooding is now a box of water.

Hurricane Irene’s worst rain hit us about 3 a.m. That is also when our power went out. No power meant that our electric pump stopped working. By 4 a.m. there was six inches of water in my basement.

By 4:30 a.m., we had carried up less than half of the storage boxes and crowded them into my tiny kitchen. Why I didn’t do this the day before is another reason why I score myself a C.

It was exhausting and dangerous to wade around in rising water while trying to remember what was most important to save.

I had prepared by having plenty of flashlights and candles. Thinking that candles would have been enough is dumb. You forget exactly how dark it is with no power. Candles should be reserved for romantic lighting not hurricane survival.

My daughter did bring over motion sensored battery operated lights which were perfect. Preparing for no lights I get an A (thanks to my daughter who also brought plenty of extra batteries).

The power remained out for almost two days and I was smart to have very little perishable food in the refrigerator. I get an A for that. I had plenty of boxed cereals, nuts, peanut butter and bread but we could have had more water and drinks.

For preparing for water I get a B. We luckily had enough but had the power stayed out longer, well, we would have been forced to use tap water filtered through Brita filters.

Communication is another issue. My husband has an iPhone which came in very handy to check the weather forecast. He also has a car charger which is another plus. My phone went dead because I don’t have a car charger or an extra battery. With several people in my home, between us all we were never cut off from the world. I got lucky again but had I been alone, well, I would have to score an F for preparation.

Our local fire department pumped our basement out and if I had a generator I would have been able to keep my pump working. I am not going to make excuses for why I don’t have a generator but it is a very smart idea to invest in one especially in an area that floods or is prone to natural disasters.

Cleanup has been rough and it would have been faster if I had a shop-vac. This is on my wish list because I see it as a huge necessity. Pushing a broom to get rid of the puddles of water is frustrating and not effective.

I did have plenty of bleach, disinfectant and trash bags so for my cleanup efforts I grade myself a B.

Overall I learned that as far as preparing for the worst goes, most of us cannot imagine the worst until it actually happens. We pray it never does happen but preparing for it can make your life easier.

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