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16 Things I Learned From Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was no joke.  I have never experienced a storm like this in my life.  While I’ve heard of hurricanes occurring in places like Florida and the Caribbean, I really didn’t know what to expect.  Now that I’ve been through one, I know to take it very seriously if we ever get hit with another one.  As many of the communities continue to clean up and re-build after Sandy, I wanted to reflect on some of the things I learned from hurricane Sandy.

Heed the warnings – days before the storm hit, local government officials took to the airwaves to let us know that this would be a significant storm.  It was even given a nickname – “Frankenstorm”.  But some chose not to take the storm seriously and were severely injured or killed by falling trees.  Some of the injuries and deaths could have certainly been prevented if people took the storm seriously and stayed indoors and/or evacuated like they were advised to.

Downed tree a few feet away from my house.

Be Prepared – with such a big storm coming, we knew we needed to purchase a few supplies. Last year, after hurricane Irene, we lost power for a few days, and since we have a private well, we were without water because the pump which sends water from the well into the house is powered by electricity.  So this time around, we made sure we purchased lots of bottled water, non-perishable foods and batteries.

Make sure you know how to use your generator – After losing power for several days last year, we decided to buy a generator.  We purchased it sometime in January and never tested it out to see how it worked.  The day before the storm Philip and his brother rushed out to purchase oil and gas which it needed in order for it run.  When the storm hit and the power got knocked out, Philip was able to power up the generator, but for some reason it kept conking out every few hours.  This went on for a few days until he finally took the time to read the manual and learned that the generator needed to be vented order for it to run properly.  Once he vented it, it worked perfectly.

Our generator.  It's a Champion 6800 generator

Nearby businesses may be closed for days – it’s hard to imagine businesses being closed for days at a time, but that’s exactly what happened after Sandy.  Just about all the businesses including stores, and gas stations in the area were closed.  Garbage was not picked up, mail was not delivered  – everything was at a standstill.

Portable cell phone chargers are invaluable – when I attended Blogher back in August, my cell phone battery had just about died when another blogger came to my rescue.  She had a portable battery pack and gave my phone a little boost of power to get it back up and running.  Shortly after that, I purchased my own external battery pack.  This power pack allowed both Philip and I to charge our cell phones numerous times on just one charge which was extremely helpful.

Even thought your cell phone is charged doesn’t mean it will work – cellular service was almost non-existent.  We tried to make calls and they either didn’t go through, and if they did happen to go through, the call would be dropped within seconds.  Although we both had smartphones which allow us to get online, after Sandy our smartphones were reduced to “dumb phones.” Trying to access anything online was torturous because it was so slow. Texting seemed to work well though.

I kept getting this connection error

You may incur overage charges – Philip and I relied heavily on text messaging to check in with our friends and family and as a way to communicate with each other. A few days after the storm, Philip received a text from ATT advising him that he had surpassed his texting limit for the month and would incur additional charges.  We were outraged and complained. I’m guessing we weren’t the only ones who were upset because a few days later we received another text stating that any overages incurred up until the end of November would be waived.

Gas stoves need electricity to work – We have a gas stove. However, the mechanism which lights the burners on the stove is powered by electricity.   We found an easy way around that though by using a BBQ lighter to fire up the burners.

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bbq lightera

Gas shortages can become a reality – Although we had gas in our vehicles, we needed to go purchase gas for the generator.  Since most of the gas stations in our area were also affected by the power outage, gas became pretty scarce.  We had to drive for miles to find an open gas station.  We waited on line for gas for about 90 minutes. Eventually, our governor declared that odd/even gas rationing would be in effect.  This meant that cars with odd numbered plates could only get gas on odd days and cars with even numbered plates could only get gas on even days.  This dramatically caused the gas lines to really become shorter and eventually as more people were able to finally fill up their car, the lines became non-existent. Next time, we’ll try to be a little better prepared and buy more of those red plastic containers and fill them up before the storm.The need for gas was very great.  Here you can see people waiting on line with gas cans

Not all gas is good gas – After driving so far for gas, Philip decided to top up his gas tank because we both had no idea how long this gas shortage would last.  On our way back home his car stalled.  He thought it was odd but didn’t really think anything was wrong with his car.  The next day, I drove his vehicle and it started bucking and losing power.  I would push on the gas and the car would not go unless I floored the pedal.  I actually got scared while I was driving it because I thought it would break down and leave me stranded.  I managed to reach home safely and at that point the check engine light lit up.  Philip consulted a with a few friends who advised him to purchase a few bottles of fuel treatment to throw into the fuel tank to improve the quality of the gas. Thankfully, the check engine light went away a few days later.

check engine

Washing machines can’t be powered by a small/mid-size generator – I planned ahead and washed all of our clothes before the storm hit.  Philip actually thought that the our washing machine could be powered by the generator, but we discovered that it couldn’t.  Good thing we had enough clean underwear to last us quite a few days.

Schools may be closed for days – Z.E.N.’s school was closed for 6 days because of the storm.  I did some impromptu home schooling for those 6 days, but keeping him occupied was not an easy feat.

Power may be out for an extended period of time –  Our power was out for 9 days.  Nine.Long.Days!  We did have a generator, but it could not power up our whole house. We used it primarily to: power up or refrigerator so that we could preserve our food; power up the water pump; and power up the heat along with a few lights.

Generators are LOUD – many of our neighbors had generators as well and boy are those things loud.  Most of us shut them down at night, but there were a few who kept them running all night.  Let’s just say I didn’t sleep for a few days because of all the noise.

Not happy with loud noises

This too shall pass – I knew that conditions would get better, and life would eventually get back to normal but that it would just take some time.

Many people were worse off than we were – we really didn’t incur much damage to our home.  A small section of our wooden backyard fence was knocked down, but that was it.  Once we were able to connect with the world again we learned that thousands of people were not so fortunate.  So many people lost their homes and all their belongings.  In addition quite a few people died as a result of the storm including two little boys.  Hearing these stories of devastation caused me to reflect on how lucky we were and reminded me that I needed to count my blessings and stop complaining about the minor inconveniences caused by the storm.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the author

Diane Nassy

Diane is a New Jersey-based writer and blogger. She is a wife and the mom of a 9-year-old little boy. Through her blog, she wants to inspire moms to find Zen in their lives while offering practical tips and other valuable information to help families deal with everyday issues. Check out Diane's Google+ profile "

25 Comments

  • You never know how bad a hurricane is until you have to deal with it. I never imagined when we lived in NJ that I was going to have to deal with a hurricane. I left NJ a week before Sandy hit but was there for Irene. It was a complete disaster – we were without power for something like 19 days. It was such a horrible experience. Even though we are back in Kentucky now, we still have the generator my inlaws purchased for us as an ‘insurance policy’

  • This is such a helpful post. I hate that you had to experience this. I have friends in bot NJ and NY that were without power for 2 weeks.

  • What a great post! Until you are in the situation, I’m sure there are many aspects that wouldn’t have been realized until it’s too late. Thanks for posting this information, I’m sure it’ll be a savior to someone someday.

  • What a scary thing to experience. Nine days is such a long time without power. These are great reminders for everyone!

  • And then we had that nasty snowstorm to boot! I’m going to stay storm ready all the time now. Great tips! Thank you!

    • Oh yeah, we lost power again for about 6 hours the night of the snowstorm but thankfully it came back up quickly!

    • I didn’t know how to work it at first Melissa. Right after the storm my mother in law got sick and we all rushed to the hospital. She was being kept for observation and hubby stayed behind. When I got home I had no idea how to start up the generator and had to ask our neighbor to start it up for us! I know how to work it now though.

  • This is an awesome post. Such valuable tips for those that haven’t been through this and to educate them to they can be prepared. I shared on Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word.

  • Excellent post, so many things to think about that I never thought to consider before. Still glad that you are all safe and made it through with minimal damage.

  • What an amazing post filled with tips I would have never thought of… Thank you… I am sharing this with everyone I know.

  • I can totally relate to your list. I wish I were more prepared, but we were lucky that we didn’t have more damage like others did. By the way, I didn’t know you could buy bad gas. I thought all gas was the same. Scary!

    • The speculation is that the gas station owners were unscrupulous and added water or something to the gas to make it stretch. Philip’s vehicle worked perfectly before filling up and after all the gas that we purchased there was depleted from. I have never seen a man want to waste gas as much as he did on those days. He just wanted to get rid of it!

  • Definitely great tips to remember! I know for us not filling our cars up with gas was a bad mistake. We were stranded in the city with no public transportation & too afraid to use the 1/4 tank of gas we had left. Glad you guys are all okay now!

  • I learned that it gets cold at night in mid November, and having a generator does little to help without some electrical knowledge.

    Those most prepared had hired an electrician months or years in advance to wire a port to plug the generator into. You can control where the electricity goes by opening and closing circuit breakers.

    Others had enough knowledge of electricity to hot wire their furnaces. I prefer a little cold to burning down the house with novice wiring.

    • So true! Our neighbor who works with generators helped hubby hard wire the generator to the house during the summer. They installed some sort of electrical box on the side of the house, I think it’s called a transfer switch, so when the power went out, hubby manually switched the power from regular electricity to the generator.