Hurricane Diaries, part 3: Searching for Satellites

The day started off with bad news, but took a turn for the goofy.

This morning, after I got the kettle going for our coffee (have I told you about my Emergency Coffee Management System yet? If not, I’ll do so tomorrow), I checked out the outage map for our electric company on my iPad. Since the power first went down, all the “hot-spots” had a status of “Assessing damage,” along with a little take on what was causing the outage: wire problem, pole down, etc.

This morning, we finally had an estimated time for restoring power (yay!): Nov. 11 at 11:30 p.m. (boooo…)

I closed the browser window and got back to making our coffee. I brought it downstairs and gave my wife the bad news. I was mentally juggling the amount of firewood remaining, the gas in my Subaru, and other factors that would have to hold up for the next 9 days, including my fraying sanity.

Half an hour later, I thought to check out the status for other zones on the map. All of them had the same estimated time for repair, so I felt less hopeless and more reassured that Rockland Electric was merely trying to cover its ass and make sure that all repairs were “in less than 2 weeks”.

But I had other things on my mind.

Last night, I got news that my company found some satellite space for us in the town of Glen Rock, so those of us who had issues of our magazines to put out had to come in and get pages going. At that point, I went into crazy triage mode, trying to figure out which features were closest to finished, what writing I still had to do, how I was going to accommodate a Q&A that came in 500 words longer than anticipated, and a million other factors. On top of that, my associate editor’s pages were still on her iMac in our office, making them essentially inaccessible for today’s work session.

Most important, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get to the satellite office. See, there’s one main road in and out of our town: Skyline Drive, colloquially known as “the mountain.” Because of fallen trees and power lines, it was closed after the storm came in on Monday afternoon. When Amy & I wanted to drive out to civilization on Wednesday, we had to take the secondary road out, Ringwood Ave., and that was a bumper-to-bumper mess. I was considering whether it would use less gas to take that route or to go all the way up to New York state via Sloatsburg Rd., which would likely have no traffic, but would be a bunch longer.

Gas is still more valuable than gold right now, and I want to keep consumption to a minimum.

I decided I’d try to go via Skyline Dr., and if it was still closed, I’d decide on a dime which of the other routes to try. I cruised up the lower parts of the road, heading toward the last turn-off, Cannonball Rd., where the sawhorses would be situated if the road was closed. Skyline curves slightly on that approach, so I couldn’t see whether the mountain was blocked or not as I closed in. But there was a car a bit ahead of me, so I kept looking to see if it was braking or turning off for Cannonball. When I saw it cruise ahead without the slightest flash of its taillights, I let out a cheer and was more enthused than I’ve been by anything else this week. I zoomed over Skyline with 3 or 4 other cars, probably the lightest rush hour traffic the mountain has ever seen.

From there, it was a quick trip to the satellite office. I got lots done on the issue in the next few hours, ironing out page after page with my art director. They were hoping to get our mag out today, but there was no chance of that happening, as I still needed to write a shortish article that would need at least a few phone calls and some online research. I promised we’d have the last pages done by Monday at noon.

While we worked, we traded stories from the past few days. Most of the coworkers at the office hadn’t lost power during the storm, or had it restored within a day. They all had awful tales about the behavior at the gas stations near their homes or on the highways. I’m still glad we went without a generator.

And during the morning, Amy texted me to let me know that our neighbors’ Tree of Damocles was being cut down!

I guarded against the excessive hope that they’d also replace the split power line and get our neighborhood back on the grid. I figure this is a matter of baby steps. First, get the tree down. Then, replace the transformer that blew out. (Rumor has it one of our neighbors who still had power on Tuesday decided to “test” his whole-house generator. In so doing, he fed too much power into the line and knocked out his part of the street.) Then replace that split line and hook us up!

So I persevered on the issue, and was just finishing my editorial, “Operation Blackout,” when the power died in our satellite office.

No, seriously. It just shut off. The building — and, we assume, the neighborhood — lost power.

We were all working on laptops, so no files were lost, but we couldn’t move anything to the servers and thus our day was done. I gave my art director a few files on a thumb drive, and we all helped move the servers and other equipment back down to the IT director’s car.

We figured out a place to convene on Monday morning, and all headed our separate ways. On the trip home, I marveled at more tree-on-house violence, and remained thankful that we got off easy, all things considered.

And now, back to The Manticore (and that article I have to write over the weekend)!

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