Sandy visits the Jersey Shore - A Personal Story

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Sandy visits the Jersey Shore - A Personal Story

Last August, when Hurricane Irene was coming, we were under mandatory evacuation. We were told that if we chose not to evacuate, we should write our Social Security number on our foot so they could identify the body.

It cost us close to $500 for a motel room on a summer weekend at the shore, meals, pull the boat, etc., for what turned out to be a nonevent. So when Sandy was coming, we and 50 percent of the residents of Brigantine decided to ride out the storm right here at home. Besides, where could we go that was guaranteed to be safer? No one was safe from Delaware up to New York. We had stayed here for Belle in 1976, had survived numerous flooding events, and weathered many a good nor’easter. Sandy was only a category 1 hurricane. Ever since Katrina, we thought, the news media hype up all weather events.

The first high tide at 8 p.m. on Sunday was nothing. A good sign. When I woke up on Monday morning, there was water in the streets. OK. I took lots of pictures of what I thought was the high tide, but it kept coming up for another hour and a half, and came higher than it ever had before. Not a good sign. But I was having fun sharing posts on Facebook and watching the news on TV. Suddenly, we heard a popping sound, saw flashing lights, and lost our power. Not so much fun anymore!

The wind kept the water in the streets from going down, so when the evening tide came in, it combined with the floodwater from the morning. We watched it get higher and higher. We thought our cars were out of harm’s way, but we watched it creep up and up on them. Darkness descended, and we could see nothing. A flashlight out the open door showed that the water was about six inches from coming right through the front door. Panic struck (me, not George. He was playing his Nintendo DSXL, oblivious to it all.) I started putting stuff up high, carted some food and candles and matches upstairs, paced and hyperventilated, and generally annoyed George the whole time.

A phone call from a neighbor helped, by informing me that this was the worst. Sandy had touched land. Soon the eye passed over us. It was very warm; there was absolutely not a breath of wind or drop of rain, and the full moon lit up the outside almost like someone had turned on a light. We could see everything – and it was frightful.

We were totally surrounded by water. We had about three feet in our backyard, which had never seen floodwater before. Next we heard the sound of running water, like a waterfall. Did we have a broken pipe? Unlikely. We figured out that the floodwater had reached the vents in the foundation and was breaching the crawlspace.

After the eye passed over, we would be getting the wind from the other side of the storm, going in the other direction. Great news! It would push the water back out to sea. As the bay started to recede, we knew the worst was over and we had survived it. But the adventure was only beginning.

The water had entered both of our cars. There was swamp grass all over the lawn, and mud all over the sidewalk and driveway. Lucky for me, I could wear a pair of Christian’s old mukluks from his Boy Scout days. (This is why I am a packrat!) We had no power, landline, TV, Internet or portable radio. We were cut off from all information from the outside.

George’s car started, so after waiting for the water to go all the way down, we went out to find no businesses open and people emptying out their flooded garages in what looked like a giant yard sale all over the city. Well, one store, Joe's Seaside, was open (cash only) with no power, so I was able to stock up on chips and Entenmann’s – comfort food. Our freezer was full of real food that was rapidly defrosting; I didn't need more of that. George got some generic brand of cigarettes, and we were all set.

We were without power from Monday until Friday. I knew that we had no electric, but no matter how many times I opened the pantry, I always – each and every time – flicked the light switch. Duh! And I was always shocked when I opened the refrigerator and the light didn’t go on.

We have a gas fireplace for heat, we could light the stove with a match, and our water heater kept working, so we had hot showers. We had plenty of candles and battery-operated lights, so we could see OK. But the nights were very long and boring. I dug out a Gameboy Color from Kim’s room, found some batteries, and that and lots of books and magazines kept me occupied.

Before the storm, I had loaded the freezer with big Tupperware containers full of water, so I had big blocks of ice to keep the food cold. It worked quite well. My cell phone held a charge for the first three days, but it started to get very low by Thursday, so I kept it turned off in case we needed it for an emergency. This, of course, put my son and daughter into panic mode because they could not reach us. My daughter is with NOAA; her ship was docked in New London. My son's house in Egg Harbor Township never lost power. My sister stayed at the Margate Towers on the ninth floor and also lost power. We got a few text messages out to each other. I missed my morning coffee so much that one day George painstakingly poured boiling hot water into a K-cup to make it for me. So good!

A huge event was when we got mail on Thursday. I was so excited: contact with the outside world! Even bills would be OK, because it meant there were people out there. (And bills it was, all from our recent New England vacation!) On Thursday night, we watched as the power came on all around us – everywhere but us and about six houses on our block. Finally, on Friday, the TV popped on complete with cable, the phone had a dial tone, and the Internet was back. Just like that. Heaven!

The first thing I did was make a cup of coffee and turn on the news. It was so exciting to have a refrigerator and a freezer (with lights), a dishwasher, a plug-in for my cell phone and ice cubes. Never, ever, take power for granted. It is a wonderful thing to have.

I was starving for news. After seeing the devastation all around us, I knew that we were very lucky indeed. I knew why all of you were so worried. Thank you for your calls, emails and prayers. So now I want to totally cross “survive a flood” off my bucket list. Hopefully, never again! Stay dry, everyone. Stay safe!

Sandy visits the Jersey Shore - A Personal Story

Sandy visits the Jersey Shore - A Personal Story

Sandy visits the Jersey Shore - A Personal Story

Sandy visits the Jersey Shore - A Personal Story

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