About 400′ from my apart­ment. Click to see larg­er image.

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.

When I came down the main road to my house, I found the inter­sec­tion near my apart­ment to be closed because of flood­ing.  I was turned away by the police sergeant with no direc­tion how to get home.  Sigh.  I fig­ured I could take a side road, and as I was slow­ly dri­ving in the direc­tion I had just come, I noticed a large num­ber of peo­ple walk­ing around. I fig­ured the pow­er must be out too, to have so many peo­ple just walk­ing around, sort of aim­less­ly with their fam­i­lies, friends, etc.  I was now dri­ving by a park near a very res­i­den­tial area about 1/4 mile from my home.  streets were again blocked and the roads looked like lakes with lake front homes right on the edge of them.  I asked some­one how deep it was and she said that in some spots up to your chest.  In some cas­es it looked like it.  I con­tin­ued tak­ing turns where I could, and more street clo­sures.  In once case, I came up to an inter­sec­tion and there were some angry bel­liger­ent peo­ple argu­ing in the mid­dle of the street and inter­sec­tion.  I said to myself, “ten­sions are high already?  Please don’t let me get sucked into this now, I just want to get home.”  I even­tu­al­ly got by, but not before I thought I was going to see fists fly.  I was thank­ful that I was able to get by with­out some­one tak­ing anger out on my truck or me.

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…
What did con­cern me, how­ev­er, is see­ing the num­ber of peo­ple out dur­ing the ear­ly evening, and won­der­ing what kind of riff-raff might be out after dark in the event the pow­er did go out again.    Would light from my LED lantern, or the recharge­able lawn light­ing that I use for emer­gency lights.  I high­ly rec­om­mend them.

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.

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