As the perfect storm rolled in with it came a long lasting quiet devastation of that changes the course of one’s life for the next 7 days. With winds of up to 80 miles per hours and torrential downpours it wasn’t long before the trees and power lines came down. Both cellphone towers and local cable was disrupted and it appeared that we were not only in the dark without electricity, but in the dark with phone communications and internet.
I learned a great deal about myself during this 7 day period and also learned a great deal about our communities in general. I have always kept a plan to have the things we need to get through an emergency but until you have to live through it you just don’t really know what it means to be truly prepared.
This storm tore through out little town in mid August and with temperatures nearing 100 degrees we quickly learned the value of modern air conditioning. Not only was it hot, but but with the humidity teetering at close to 95% it made conditions unbearable. Most modern homes in the suburbs of America are built for energy consumption and are sealed pretty tight in their design. Compared to homes built before the popularity of air conditioning which had large windows for good ventilation the modern home can quickly become a human melting pot.
But we had our battery operated radio which brought us the local news and also the reminder of just how hot it was. We had candles for light at night for reading and as I mentioned enough food to get by although much of it would soon go bad in the freezer which had no power to keep it cold. The propane grill in the yard worked out perfectly for cooking food and we still had water to wash dishes and use the bathroom when needed. Thank God for small miracles. But it was that intense heat that was just overwhelming and can actually take your breath away.
After waking after the first day sleeping downstairs on our sofa’s because the upstairs was just too hot, I decided to make my way out into the world. We heard that some local roads were cleared up and I figured that I could make it to the Home Depot to find a few items we would need. At this point I wouldn’t even mind a small generator just to supply power to a couple of fans to keep us cool. When I neared the Home Depot after waiting through the intense traffic in the area I found the parking lot was filled and people were parking anywhere they could. I must of spent an hour just trying to figure out where to park. When I finally made it into the store I felt the intensity of a popular night club. There were people everywhere and most were angry. To my surprise just about everything was sold out. The store didn’t even have their cash registers working and operating on a cash only basis. With just a debit card in my pocket I quickly made my way out of this madness to fight my way out of the parking lot then again devastating traffic to make my way back home.
As I got closer to home I noticed that my car only had about an eighth of a tank of gas so I pulled into my local gas station to find sign posting “No Power, No Fuel”. You would figure that most gas stations would have some type of back up generators but the truth of the matter is that they don’t. Even it I could of purchased a small generator I still would be able to use it without fuel. Even worse I have to go to work the next day but don’t have enough fuel to get me there.
I made it back home and thought about leaving and driving to an area that still had power to rent a hotel room for the night. As we listened to news reports on the radio we learned that others were trying to make the same efforts of escape. All of the major highways were jammed and many people were running out of fuel and leaving their cars behind on the highways. It was a nightmare out there and I decided it was much safer just staying put. We made it through another day and woke soaked in sweat once again.
I headed out early on my bicycle to our local gas station / convenience store. The signs were still in place that stated “No power, No fuel”. I walked inside the little store there and noticed that all of the shelves were completely empty. I spoke with the owner who I talked with often when stopping there. He shared the information that he has been receiving over the past day that all of the gas stations in the area’s are going through the same problem. There is only one that is selling gas on the highway because they were smart enough to install an emergency diesel generator just a year ago. They still don’t have the ability to accept credit cards but are taking cash but have doubled the price of their fuel and are quickly running out.
I asked him what happened to all of the food items on his shelves in the store and he told me that he sold it to many people in the area on and IOU basis. He said he would rather have nothing in his store to lute given the angry nature of so many people he has encountered.
I got on my bicycle and headed back home once again and turned on my cellphone to see if I could get a signal. Still nothing. I had to go to work but didn’t even have a way to contact the job and let them know that I had no fuel in my car to get there and couldn’t even make it to a gas station to purchase it if I could find one that is operating.
I thought about what we had in the freezer and refrigerator and decided to make bacon and eggs for breakfast on the grill. I am so happy that I decided to purchase the model with the side burner along with the fact that I always kept a second tank of propane available when one runs out. We decided that it was more important to start cooking the foods that would soon go bad first then rely on can goods. I noticed that it felt a little cooler today even though the thermometer was still showing 97 degrees. Either there was a small breeze in the air or it may just be my body getting used to the heat. We sat in the yard most of the day and listened to the radio and talked with neighbors. People were helping each other out and it was amazing to me to find out just how many were not prepared at all. Two families asked me it it was OK to use my grill to cook their food in which I offered after learning that they had no way to cook it. We shared stories and concerns and I quickly learned the value of conversation in times like these.
As the next few days passed our food supply was dwindling down but slowly things were being restored. I finally had some bars on my cellphone but with close to a dead battery and no way to power it I only used it to make important calls. I continued to meet new people in the area and also shared great lengths of conversation with them. It seems that it is so much easier to talk with folks when you don’t have the pressure of time pushing you to the next task ahead.
Eventually the day came where the power was restored with a jolt. The light went on, I heard the hum of the air-conditioning unit as it fired up and the refrigerator hummed along with it. I made it to the gas station and filled up and headed back home. Yea I could of went to work as it was only close to noon, but there was something that drew me back home again.
The little community that gathered during the course of the day starting disappearing as families stayed inside and enjoyed the comforts they are so used to. The power was back on after 7 long days and life is restored to normalcy.
A week later I am back on schedule and things are back to where they were before the storm but there is an empty hole inside of me which I found was hard to fill without finding the simplicity of community which happened during this week of devastation. The new friends that were made while relying on the basic principles of survival always yearn in my heart. We came together in a primal way to share to much to care for one another. This is what I believe to basic human instinct and even in a world of horrors it is my firm belief that most will always act in this way as a community.
It is sad when I think that we are all back in our roles of life and barely have time to just wave in passing each day. I learned a great deal about many things when it comes to being prepared for events like this and I could go through each one in the list, but I believe that the greatest lesson I learned was that of the simplest forms of how much we all rely on each other. It is during the bad times that we find so many good things.