Admittedly, I missed the “center” of Hurricane Irene. Rather, I missed the heart of the storm. I made my way west to Pennsylvania, not to bug out, but to a good friends bachelor party. The upside is that I was going to be west of Irene. The downside, if there is one, is that (in some weird way) I wanted to experience the hurricane so that I could justify some of my preparations, such as water, power, food, etc. That said in hindsight I am glad I didn’t have to.
So what did I encounter. Well, 100 miles west of where I live winds were still 50 — 60 MPH. Rain came down in sheets. Flooding was still prevalent. Eastern PA still received almost six inches of rain on Saturday night. I didn’t get in my truck to head back east until about 2:00 p.m. I had been corresponding via email with a neighbor prior to that. He mentioned there was about a foot or so of water on the street, and that it was closed to traffic, except emergency vehicles. By jumping in my car at 2:00 p.m. I figured I would take my chances with the 90 minute drive ahead of me. What I didn’t expect, however, were a few of the following events.
First, I‑78 East in NJ was shut down at exit 43 because of flooding across the highway. Traffic was backed up past exit 41. Luckily, I was 1/10 of a mile from Exit 41 which was the exit for Route 22. I thought this would be great, I could bypass the flooding. So naive I am. Route 22 was riddled with starts and stops because winds were still in the 40+ MPH range, and there were down trees all over the highway. Start, stop, start, stop for miles. My 90 minute trip home increased significantly.
The closer I got to home, the more side roads I had to take. I immediately started noticing side road closures. I wasn’t really going slow enough to get a good glimpse of why. I figured it might be flooding. I got closer to home, and noticed trees leaning in more toward the road than they had the day before. No doubt the wind helped move them more easily since the ground was saturated. If you know much about large trees in a suburban environment along the street, many of them have very shallow roots. I’m assuming that many of them will have to be cut down before the eventually just fall over onto a car or a pedestrian.
At that point, I was starting to get concerned. What if I cannot get back to my apartment? “All my preps are there,” I thought to myself out loud, “Apparently this is a big hole, because I don’t have anything cached anywhere.” Not that I needed anything immediately. I took extra cash out of the bank, gone to a restaurant, bought some food, whatever. I could have temporarily gotten a hotel room for the night. I could have driven to my primary BOL, but that was two hours away. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get home. I continued driving around until I parked in a spot about 1/4 mile from my place. It was the only free spot I could find. I walked down to the police sergeant, told him I was trying to get to my apartment, and he suggested that I walk down and take a look but he thought it might be a couple feet deep. I walked down to the intersection and found it was about a foot deep, and that I could make it through. I walked back to the officer, and asked if he would let me though. He agreed when I explained I had 26″ of ground clearance on my FJ Cruiser.
When I finally got home, and my bag up to my apartment, I got the low down on the day. The National Guard had been dispatched to evacuate the street perpendicular to mine as it was so flooded from one of the nearby rivers. The picture here is that street and is only 300 — 400 feet from my front door. The National Guard had been going back and forth all day. I saw several Deuce and a half’s and many Humvee’s on the road since I had been home, and on the ride home.
Once home I learned a few things. One the gas line could have been knocked out because of all the water, the power had been out a couple of times, and you could not flush the toilet for some time because the sewer was overflowing.
So what did I learn?
There were a couple holes in my plans that I immediately noticed that frankly never occurred to me when I had the moment to stop and think…
- First, the Get Home Bag, may be no good if you cannot get home. Your preps are no good if you cannot get to them.
- Second, no matter how calm you are, some sort of isolated or not so isolated civil unrest can happen when you least expect it. I guess tempers can flare quickly when you are slightly displaced from your normal lifestyle.
- Third, I might have better served to shelter in so I didn’t have to deal with trying to get home though street closures, flooding, etc.
- Four, I need to stop putting off buying that porta — potty for the apartment, and just put it in the bottom of a closet in the event I ever need it.
- Five, I wasn’t too worried about food, power outage, water, cooking, hygiene (for the most part, see the porta potty comment above), entertaining myself, light in the evening, etc. I was prepped. It felt very good not to have to worry about those things if the power went out again, or if the gas went out…
In the end, however, the flooding subsided, the street was opened, and life seems quite normal. The river near my apartment crests tomorrow, so we will see what kind of havoc that wreaks in the next 24 — 48 hours. Much of northern NJ is still under some sort of flood warning.
What I didn’t see, and what I expected to see were CERT volunteers. I didn’t see any. I thought that odd… In hindsight.
Not to split hairs but you don’t live in a suburban location. That’s urban! Maybe not as urban as say Queens or Brooklyn but still very urban.
LOL. You may be right, MasterPo. Compared to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, etc. It probably is splitting hairs. To me the definition of Suburbs means “not in the city.” But you could be right…
If you can casually toss a baseball and break your neighbor’s window that’s urban.
If your best throw doesn’t even reach your neighbor’s yard that’s suburban.
And if your neighbor’s window is a mere speck down the roaf, if you can see it at all, that’s rural.
Nice rule of thumb!
That’s not strange at all to want to be in the thick of it. People pay big money for an adrenaline rush. And if we don’t have actually emergencies to test our preps we run drills. If you train to fight long enough, you’ll start wanting to test your horns. You weren’t home, but with every problem, comes opportunity. As you pointed out, you learned several important lessons.
You’re right that small-scale unrest or lone troublemakers can reach you anytime or anywhere … even small towns have bullies and drunks. Is pepper spray legal in your area? I carry an ASP Key defender in my EDC and an ASP baton in vehicle as less-lethal increments on the use of force contiuum and for vicious dogs.
Perpper spray in NJ is illegal I think… I will have to check. Honestly, I am not sure and I never remember seeing anyone with any…
Thanks for the thoughts. It’s nice to see a frank and honest evaluation of one’s own preps especially when put through a disaster.
Since I live in Houston, I am used to hurricanes and evacuations as well as navigating rain-swollen streets.
One thing I would suggest is having supplies for a minimum of 72 hours in your vehicle at all times. If a hurricane is headed your way, you have plenty of time to get preps and get the hell out. After the storm hits is too late. Having a pre-plan for a evac given 72 hours notice is great to have. That pre-plan should also include securing your property from flying objects.
Where I live now, I would go to my house and ride out any storm Cat 3 or lower. We would get a lot of rain and wind, but I would be better off with my preps than on the road, stuck in traffic.
PrepperJim — Thanks for the advise. Hurricanes were foreign to me until this past week… Thanks bud!
That was the best personal narrative on the storm I’ve read yet. I’m glad you didn’t get hit too hard by the thing, and your “after action” report is one I’ll read several times. Good information.
FYI — Was told 3rd-hand that in some of the towns in upstate NY with heavy flood damage from the storm State Troopers and local Sherrifs are road blocking the main roads in and checking drivers licenses for the address. If you don’t have an address in town you can’t come in or pass through. The stated reason is to prevent “tourists” and gawkers looking at all the damage. I presume if you own property in the area and have some other proof of ownership (like a tax bill) you can pass too.
Can’t verify this however.
If true, just imagine how it might be in other small town all over the country after a major SHTF event with millions of people hitting the roads to get away from the turmoil in the urban areas! :-O