Dear friends and family,
Please excuse this slightly impersonal note that I’m writing to all who have sent us a note of concern about Hurricane Sandy. It would be an understatement that we have been busy. The past week has been a physical and emotional roller coaster – haste, anxiety, fear, fatigue – and we have only scratched the surface on recovery.
Most importantly, we are fine. We survived. The house survived. And the boat survived. Beyond that, though, we are in for a lot of work to get to where we were a week ago.
The present state of affairs. Little Silver, Rumson, Sea Bright, everywhere I can see is dark, totally dark. It is eerie to drive through the center of town, past the train station, through the neighborhoods, and see everything dark. Only today (Thursday) have we seen any cell phone coverage here though we did have a little yesterday when we visited Becky in Atlantic Highlands. Our street is like a gated community with a police officer at the entrance to the point last night to keep out all but residents. I Just discovered that my FIOS Internet connection works even though my FIOS phone does not so this is coming to you via my laptop, not my smart phone, which I can’t type on anyway.
The storm. We did not evacuate though by 7:30 pm Monday we wish we had. It was the worst that we have ever experienced, far worse than 11 Dec 1992. The scariest moments were when was we heard loud, deep thuds from something hitting the foundation, either a wave, timber, piling, etc., causing the whole house to shake. At that point there was nothing more we could so we took the ostrich approach, went up to bed and I put my head under the pillow. Thankfully, whatever was hitting it did no significant damage. My mom went kicking and screaming on Sunday to Becky’s for a few days but is now home again with us.
Damage. We were lucky, very lucky. A few cellar windows and one cellar door and frame were damaged. Front and back steps were beat up and displaced.The cellar flooded to about four inches below the floor joists, that is, about one foot below the first floor. It is a terrible mess with wood, workbenches, debris, mud, silt, reeds everywhere. I got the water out yesterday but it is still wet and mucky all over and will be for days.
Conditions. We have no electricity, no heat, and until recently, no communications with the outside world. A very isolated feeling. We are eating by candle light and oil lamps. I have a generator but I can’t connected it to the main panel yet because the panel and all of the electrical boxes in the basement were submerged. It is running the fridge, sump pump, and now the network, all via extension cords. It’s on its last last tank of gas right now. Hopefully we’ll have more tomorrow as my neighbor’s son is planning to get up very early to try to avoid two to three hour lines at the few stations that are open and agreed to fill several jugs for me. We have plenty of food and I just stocked up on wine shortly before the storm. A neighbor reported that our local A&P was open but stocks were limited to mostly non-perishables.
Devastation right here on the point is unbelievable. My next door neighbor had water two feet deep on his first floor. Same story for probably half the houses on the point. Further east from us all the houses on the south side had their back walls badly damaged or completely destroyed by wave action, pilings, docks, etc. In a couple of cases you can see right through the houses. Whenever I’m feeling glum about all of the work we have to do I think about those people. That’s why I say we were lucky.
Dock is a mess, mostly the same kind of mess as has happened many times before. However, my neighbor’s piling is skewered through the float, which floated up and over my pilings. I’ll either have to have a crane hoist it up or cut it out. Neither is terribly attractive but I’ll probably cut it out and make the repairs later. I’ve accounted for most of the pieces of the pier and finding wood for the rest will be no problem.
Yard is also a mess with a huge mat of reeds and lots and lots of wood, some of it are large pieces. We’ve been through messes like that, too, though not with the amount that we now have.
Preparation. The good news is that we had many days of advance notice. Wendy and I stripped the boat and dropped the mast on Friday and my neighbor towed it home for us on Saturday. Wendy and I, with the help of two of my friends from AT&T plus Becky, moved just about my entire wood and machine shop, power tools, hand tools, even most of the big, heavy stationary tools, the clothes dryer, and much more. It is all spread out between the music room, foyer, dining room and kitchen, but the tools are accessible, an important point now that recovery has begun. I also removed all of the electrical, electronic, and gas controls from the boiler so that I can get heat back without waiting for a service company. It was a huge amount of work and I’m grateful for the help I had. In hindsight, it was the wise thing to do. Any one event of filling a box with tools and carrying it upstairs took only a minute or two but saved hours to days of recovery work later.
Recovery. As of Thursday evening we have the kitchen-porch steps repaired, the basement pumped out, a small amount of yard work started, some materials recovered from neighbor’s yards including my wind surfers, the boiler hosed out, the main electrical panel and some of the electrical boxes in the basement cleaned. It’s small but it’s a start.
That’s where we are. We are all alive. The house is still standing. We have a little repair work to do and a huge amount of cleanup. Maybe we’ll be done by spring.
Bill & Wendy