A con­tribut­ing writer to the Sub­ur­ban Sur­vival Blog, and lives on Long Island hit hard by Hur­ri­cane Sandy.  I’ve asked him for his post mortem recount of the hur­ri­cane, what worked and what did not work for him dur­ing the storm, pow­er out­age, and over­al dis­as­ter here in the North­east. 

By the time this is pub­lished hur­ri­cane Sandy will have past the north­east.  As with hur­ri­cane Irene back in late August 2011 how bad­ly it impact­ed you depend­ed on where you lived. Many areas were total­ly dev­as­tat­ed! Oth­er loca­tions got by with minor dam­age only. From my point of view on the South shore of Long Island about a mile from the bay, it wasn’t so bad.

  • We didn’t lose pow­er longer than an hour.
  • We didn’t have any sub­stan­tial house dam­age.
  • We didn’t run out of sup­plies or go with­out for days.

(I know oth­ers clos­er to the bay weren’t as lucky. Our thoughts are with them.)

Although I felt very pre­pared since Hur­ri­cane Irene had exposed sev­er­al gaps in my preps that I have been work­ing to try to close. Now when hur­ri­cane Sandy came I was even bet­ter pre­pared. But still room for improve­ment.

The fol­low­ing is a post mortem review of what worked and didn’t work from the point of view of improve­ments in my prepa­ra­tions since hur­ri­cane Irene.

The Good (what worked)

Gen­er­a­tor – A few weeks before Sandy I final­ly got a genie. Hur­ray! Not a big one. Just 2500 watts load (3250 peak). But I could run at least our fridge and upright freez­er on it with a few hun­dred watts to spare. Didn’t need to use it this time for­tu­nate­ly. But I am look­ing to upgrade to one at least 5000 watts and lit­tle more portable (with wheels) over the win­ter.

Gaso­line Stor­age – I had some gas stored with sta­bi­liz­er (Pri‑G) for the gen­er­a­tor. Enough for at least 24 hours con­stant use. Would have liked to store more but there is the real­i­ty of safe­ly stor­ing it, as well as the cha­grin of the wife. It was a rea­son­able com­pro­mise giv­en the like­ly nature of this threat.

Propane – I picked up 2 new/full 17 pound tanks for the grill to cook and boil water (if nec­es­sary).

Food – Had lots more in stor­age since Irene, freeze dried as well as com­mer­cial canned items. Enough for com­fort­able sev­er­al days, much longer if care­ful­ly rationed.

Water – Also had lots more in stor­age, both com­mer­cial bot­tles as well as some longer term treat­ed water from the year before.

Ham radio – My HT worked very well. At least enough to con­nect to net con­trol on the local repeater. Even after the storm passed I was able to get updates from the com­fort of my liv­ing room.

Com­pute data – I was able to back­up every­thing I deem cru­cial (e.g. finan­cial records, cer­tain doc­u­ments, pics of the kids) to a USB dri­ve. Could eas­i­ly unplug and take it with us if we had to bug out.

XM Radio – XM/satellite radio was very handy. I had con­sid­ered can­celling my sub­scrip­tion this year but glad I didn’t. The net­work was still up even when cable TV was offline for days. Was able to get news and updates with­out rely­ing on local net­works and ser­vices. I have a portable Sam­sung unit I can move between our cars or use inside the house (exter­nal anten­na out the win­dow).

Mis­cel­la­neous – Med­ical, heat, clothes, tools, emer­gency repair sup­plies, defense (if nec­es­sary) – all bet­ter than a year ago. Still have more to add but I was com­fort­able giv­en the nature of the threat.

The Bad (what didn’t work)

Gen­er­a­tor – Not that it didn’t work. But as pre­vi­ous­ly said I hope to replace my gen­er­a­tor with a bit larg­er one (bet­ter more watts than few­er).  Also should have a spare spark­plug just in case.

Fuel – The fuel short­age for at least 2 weeks after­wards was total­ly unex­pect­ed. The Sun­day after the storm I spent 9 hours at two dif­fer­ent sta­tions just to get a10 gal­lons. I should have stored more in advance while still keep­ing safe­ty and the wife in mind. Then again, can’t full every con­tain­er each time a storm is pre­dict­ed. This kind of event was total unprece­dent­ed in my life.

Evac­u­a­tion — “Bug out” would have been an issue. Not very well orga­nized for a quick grab-and-go. Need to work on it but that involves the wife who isn’t 100% on board with prep­ping (get­ting more so but slow­ly).

Radio – In spite of year going by I still don’t have a decent bat­tery AM/FM/Weather/maybe SW radio! The ones that I see in stores are either real cheap noth­ings or very expen­sive small plas­tic box­es. I just can’t bring myself  to pay $80-$100 for a plas­tic square the size of a cig­ar box! I know I need some­thing but don’t know what.

Water purifi­ca­tion – If we did run out of bot­tled and stored water I would need some way to puri­fy more water. Could boil it on the gas grill (maybe) but don’t want to waste the propane. I have some water purifi­ca­tion tablets but need a bet­ter fil­ter sys­tem like a Berkey. Also need to get the rain water cap­ture sys­tem installed next year.

San­i­ta­tion – Need some kind of human waste dis­pos­al or at least san­i­ta­tion sys­tem. Keep­ing the  bath tub full isn’t a longer term plan. Dig­ging a latrine isn’t prac­ti­cal in my area, much less dur­ing a storm or in the mid­dle of win­ter.

Ham radio – I need at least one more spare bat­tery for it. A roof mount­ed anten­na would be even bet­ter.

Com­put­er – Need a UPS unit for my desk­top. Not to keep it run­ning for hours but enough to bridge the occa­sion­al pow­er “blips” and enough to safe­ly shut down if there is an out­age.

Defens­es – Although we did not specif­i­cal­ly have any issues, tem­pers at some gas sta­tions did run high. If food had also been scares for a while it would have been much much worse. Need to improve defens­es.

Murphy’s Law in full effect! – As luck (bad luck that is) would have it my SUV gave me trou­ble just as the storm approached! Noth­ing I could do about it then but it was unre­li­able to the point of con­sid­er­ing it a “dead” vehi­cle. Don’t know what I could have done about it. How many parts can you store? Not to men­tion the tools and knowl­edge to diag­nose and fix it. In the mid­dle of storm, not so easy.

But I think the MOST impor­tant les­son learned/re-enforced: Pre­pare well in advance!!

In the days before the storm you couldn’t find a flash­light or D bat­tery any­where, lit­er­al­ly. And gen­er­a­tors where gone too. Same with gas stor­age cans. Glad I had plen­ty well in advance. But too many peo­ple not only didn’t have these before (what’s so “crazy” about hav­ing a cou­ple of flash­lights and 2–3 sets of spare bat­ter­ies all the time??) but they wait­ed too long to try to find them.

Epilog (2 weeks later)

Food, espe­cial­ly the per­ish­able items such as meat and dairy, slow­ly came back into the main super­mar­kets. Took about 10 days though small­er gro­cers did have fresh items much quick­er. Still not com­plete­ly back to nor­mal how­ev­er.

Gaso­line remained hard to find for at least 2 weeks after­wards. Ten days after Sandy the pow­ers that be in New York State final­ly imple­ment­ed an odd/even rationing pro­gram like had been put into effect in New Jer­sey a week before. It did help with the lines a lit­tle, though enforce­ment was lax. But the price of gas remained very high, up as much as 70 cents more per gal­lon (cash) pre-Sandy. I was able to get a heat­ing oil deliv­ery a week after­wards at con­tract price.

Dis­as­ter relief efforts – Red Cross, FEMA etc. – con­tin­ued to dis­trib­ute food and water. But many local efforts were ham­pered by gov­ern­ment red tape and knee-jerk poli­cies. It was report­ed that May­or Bloomberg of New York City didn’t allow tons of donat­ed food to be dis­trib­uted because the fat and salt con­tent of the food couldn’t be “ver­i­fied”! I’m sure peo­ple cared so much about fat and salt while starv­ing!

Accu­rate crime reports as it relates to issues of food, water and fuel were hard to come by. There were a few con­firmed reports of shoot­ing and gun­fire at some ser­vice sta­tions most­ly in the city as well as loot­ing in the hard­est hit areas. Lots of sto­ries and rumors about more vio­lence but I couldn’t con­firm any of it. Didn’t see any myself. But for what it’s worth I brows­ing in a cou­ple of gun shops a week after­wards and they were packed with cus­tomers.


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