Hurricane Diaries, part 5: Oaks in the Attic

The day started out with promise. I mean, not the literal day itself. The only promise in waking up at 3 a.m. was that I got to use the extra hour from setting the clocks back to resuscitating the fire in the wood-burning stove. It was down to toasty embers, but I was able to get it going again and bring some heat back to the library.

Anyway, the real promise was when I got up around 6:15 and hit the electric company’s outage map. Clicking on our zone, I saw that our power was projected to be restored TODAY! AT 8:30 A.M.!

Now, I didn’t think that time was likely to be met, since the split power line is still lying in two of my neighbors’ yards, and it would presumably need to be spliced or replaced, (unless there’s some sorta patching they could do to work around it), but I had hopes that we’d have our power back sometime today!

An hour or so later, the map updated to 12:30 p.m. today. Another two hours, and the map reverted back to Friday, Nov. 9 for the projected restore time. I got all crestfallen, and settled in for a full day without leaving the neighborhood. We walked the dogs, met some neighbors, kept the fire stoked, and otherwise hung out in our lovely library, where I finished The Manticore and began Worlds of Wonder.

While Amy napped at mid-day, I went upstairs into the cold (about 58° F) and finished up the article I need to get out tomorrow to close my Nov/Dec issue. Riddled with the combo of work-anxiety and outage-anxiety, I scarfed down all sorts of snacks while I was up there. Because I’m me, this meant cashews, trail mix, figs, and the like, as opposed to the three bags of Halloween candy that have been sitting in our kitchen for a week.

Also, I called United to ask what’ll happen if I don’t get on the flight to Seattle that I’m supposed to take tomorrow afternoon for a business trip. I already informed the biotech that I’m supposed to visit that I won’t be able to go if we don’t have power back, since I’m not capable of abandoning my wife & doggies in the cold and dark. (And with the shift in weather and the clock-change, it’s going to be colder and darker this week.)

The United rep told me that I’m eligible for a Superstorm Sandy exception to their flight change rules, and that I’ll be able to use the tickets to Seattle anytime within the 12 months that I bought them. I feel bad for the biotech, since they’re putting on a big day of sessions and a facility tour that they’d love for me to be a part of, but I think they’re understanding about the circumstances. (The event is on Wednesday, so if we get power back by Tuesday, I may be able to get out there in time, and maybe stay over an extra day and decompress there before heading home. I also have this vision of going to the office tomorrow, finishing up the mag, finding out we have power restored, zooming home, packing a bag, and heading out to Newark for the trip. It’d be in keeping with the rest of this craziness.)

But again, are these complaints? Hardly. During this morning’s walk with the dogs, we met Ann, our neighbor whose house was destroyed by Hurricane Irene last year. It took almost a year to rebuild the house (insurance, code, etc.), and they moved back in 6 weeks before Sandy struck. (They suffered no damage this time around.)

We hadn’t talked with her since Irene, so this was the first time we heard the story from her perspective. All we knew was that a huge tree by the side of her house fell in the wind and crashed through the attic, parallel to the house itself.

She told us that her family — her husband, her two kids (college age, as I recall), and her 94-year-old mom — had been in the living room upstairs during Irene. They heard a crack — the tree snapping then hitting their side of the house — and then everything went black. Why? Because the entire contents of their attic fell into the living room and the rest of the upstairs.

She told us she couldn’t move her head, because she was trapped under junk, and had to pry herself loose. It was dark, and she had no idea what shape anyone else was in. One of her daughters, upon hearing the initial crack of the tree, got up and was trying to get out when the roof fell in. Her mother started yelling, “so I knew she was okay.”

Ann suffered a broken nose from the impact, but everyone else got out without a significant injury. I told her that if our place got hit like that, I’d likely be smushed under the central air-conditioning unit, which would only be fitting because of the work I put into getting it replaced this summer.

“I told my husband that I’m worried because our central air is right over our bedroom in the new house,” she said. “He told me, ‘Come on: what are the chances it would happen twice?'”

She was pretty upbeat, considering the potential for flashback-trauma, and I told her about the house a mile or so up the street that had gotten pasted by a tree. “Not as bad as yours last year, of course.”

“We win!” she said.

So, yeah, we’re going another day without power and it’s getting colder. I’d like to watch the Giants-Steelers game, but I’ll get by without it. I mean, it’s not like my house caved in and brained me with a stack of old cassette tapes and a pile of Ranger Ricks and Dungeons & Dragons books.

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