As September came to a close and we are into October, the leaves are starting to show their vibrant colors before they turn brown and fall to the ground. While I love many things about fall, including taking breaths of crisp fresh air, cooking soups and casseroles, and viewing the breathtaking scenery, it does mean the dreaded winter months are coming.
The year 2011 was a crazy year for extreme weather in the Northeast. In late August, we were hit by Hurricane Irene which caused widespread power outages in Connecticut. On October 29th, our state was hit with about a foot of snow after a Nor’Easter.
In our family’s case, we bought a generator in line with hundreds of people at Home Depot prior to Hurricane Irene. We still talk about how lucky we were to get one that day. After all that preparation, we did not lose electricity during this storm. The generator did not go to waste as our family members used it after they lost power for a week following that storm.
The day the October snowstorm hit, we lost power around dinner time and did not get our electricity back for another 8 days. We were somewhat lucky compared to others, who were without power for 11 days. Because the leaves did not completely fall off the trees, the snow weighed down the branches to the point where they snapped, causing havoc on our power lines and our roads. There were roads shut down for days because of the vast amount of tree damage. We were in a state of emergency. We did not have to go to work for a couple of days. They cancelled school for a full week. Halloween was even cancelled in our town. Driving through the neighborhood was empty, surreal, and dark.
We were very thankful we were able to send our children to stay with their grandmother because she had electricity and heat in her home. We were not able to join our children because we needed to run our sump pump regularly with our generator to keep our basement dry. The generator also gave us the ability to keep our refrigerators cold, to use a space heater, to heat food in our toaster oven, to boil water using our rice cooker, and to make our morning hot coffee. The day we lost power, I made a huge pot of chili which served us very well during the week. For bathing, my husband showered at work, while I bathed in the bathtub using manually heated water, soap, and a cup. Our only connection to the real world was the battery-powered AM/FM radio my father left in our guest bathroom when he stayed with us. My father does not realize his habit of listening to the news in the shower really helped us out during this emergency. We were so thankful our local TV station simultaneously broadcasted their news programs on the radio, which gave us important information.
Through our experience, my husband and I learned a great deal about survival and not taking so many things in life for granted. We saw people at their best; helping one another by shoveling out cars, offering hot showers, cooking meals, and offering transportation. I am particularly grateful for my co-worker, who filled my truck with firewood to keep my house warm. Once we got fire in the fireplace on day 3 or so, my attitude over this situation immediately brightened. I became impressed with the skills we gained through living with less. My husband and I spent fire lit nights playing cards and listening to the radio. One night, we even had a friend over for chili-fries and beer.
We did have one scary moment when our carbon monoxide detector woke my husband in the middle of the night. I slept through the alarm and remember my husband abruptly waking me from a deep sleep, explaining we had to go outside. Thank goodness he changed the batteries on the carbon monoxide detector that day. This incident happened the one night we decided to let the generator run overnight. The generator was far enough from our home, but the wind shifted directions, causing the exhaust to blow toward the house.
In my opinion, the best time to start preparing for the winter is when it is nice outside. It is much easier to get ready in advance to avoid empty grocery and hardware store shelves. The one store I found to have everything I needed when most other stores were empty, was Whole Foods. I believe about 2 days after the storm, they had water, batteries, and a plethora of canned goods.
Honestly, I am hoping we have an easy winter with snow that only falls on days when I do not have to go to work. I also hope the weather we survived during the year 2011 is a once in a lifetime experience for all of us. As people remind me ever since I moved here, this is New England weather.
If you learned important lessons from surviving any extreme storm, please feel free to share your experiences so we all can learn from them. For tips on how to prepare for the winter and other dangerous weather, click here.
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