Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Hurricane Sandy 2
Matt Seinberg

Our power was out for seven days. It felt like the longest seven days of my life, and believe me, I’ve had some very long days. Nothing has, or ever will compare to what we went through with Sandy.

To call Sandy a devastating storm is putting it mildly. Entire beaches and boardwalks are gone, only to return if millions of dollars are invested in them by the local, state and federal governments. Knowing at what speed the government moves at, it could be years before they are back to the way they were, and that’s only if another storm doesn’t come along and cause more havoc.

Certain parts of Long Island, such as the Rockaway’s, Oceanside, South Merrick, Freeport and Bayville were among the hardest hit. Some of those areas still don’t have power, and they don’t know why.

The state sanctioned power company, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) was created in 1985 with the sole intent of reducing the rates from a profit making model to a non-profit model. It has failed miserably, with its rates being among the highest in the nation.

I’m not going to rehash all the negative things written about LIPA in the past week, since it is so readily available to read on the internet.

The biggest criticism aimed at LIPA is the lack of communication between the company and the customers. During the week we did not have power did we get any sort of communication telling us when the power might come back on.

Homes across the street and the block behind us got power back two days before we did, and no explanation was given as to why. We heard the lovely sound of chain saws, and hoped that they would be on our block soon to cut down the tree that fell on the power lines and onto a garage and smashed it.

There were several grueling parts to this ordeal, with the biggest losing about $200 worth of food in the freezer and fridge. Then came the lack of TV and heat, which really affected us at night. All we could do was read with flashlights on our shoulders and use lots of blankets. Then daylight savings time ended, and by 5 pm it was pitch black outside, and all our minds could think of after a candle lit dinner is wanting to go to sleep.

There was no way I was going to sleep at 6 pm or 7 pm. I’d end up waking up around 5 am, and I didn’t want that to happen, so I had to manage to stay up to at least 10 pm. Some nights were easier than others, but they were all hard.

I was at the library on Thursday around 2 pm when I got a text from work telling me that the power was back on, and to come on down! Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it, as I had Melissa with me, and I wasn’t finished paying my bills online yet. I normally work 10-6 that day, and by the time I got home and changed it would have been 4 pm. It wasn’t worth it to go in for 2 hours.

I was off on Friday, and had a couple of appointments. One of them was getting a haircut, and both Lynn, the receptionist, and Beth, the haircutter, both noticed my changed mood. They have known me for many years, and could tell that I was not happy. While I enjoy being grumpy every now and then, I felt so beat down from the lack of power and heat that my bad mood was really showing.

When Saturday came around, I couldn’t wait to get out of the cold house and back to work, hoping like crazy the heat was cranked up. It was on, but not hot enough for most of us, so we had to ask for the temps to be turned up higher.

Finally, on Sunday, I get a text from Michelle indicating the power was back on! I did the dance of joy and felt my mood changing.

Oh, did I mention the gas crisis? No? Well, let’s talk about that. People with generators need gasoline, and they go through about 4 gallons every 9 hours. So if you shut it off at night, you need about 8 gallons to get through the day and keep the freezer and fridge cold, some lights and television on.

Some of the local refineries and depots were either damaged or lost power and therefore couldn’t produce or distribute gas. The filling stations also didn’t have power, so those that were open and had gas had huge lines that stretched for what seemed like miles.

I was lucky, and filled up my car the Sunday before Sandy hit, and I had 4 gallons in the garage for the snow blower. I ended up putting those into Marcy’s car so she could get to work.

New Jersey started rationing gas using the odd/even license plate system, and that cut down on lines and hoarding. New York finally did that this week, and it helped tremendously.  I was able to fill up first thing this morning and gladly paid $4.299 a gallon for that privilege.

Just when we thought it was over, we got pummeled by a nor’ eastener. This was supposed to be mostly rain, but it ended up being 4-8 inches of wet snow. This brought down yet more power lines, and plunged many people back into the dark. There is only so much people can take, and this pushed us all to the brink of insanity.

Because I put all the gas in Marcy’s car, I didn’t have any for the snow blower. So I sent the kids out to shovel the walkway, driveway and sidewalk. A 54-year-old man should not be shoveling wet snow. That’s a heart attack waiting to happen.

I couldn’t stay home from work again, I’d go mad. So as soon as I could get the car out of the driveway, I was gone.

If you think losing power is bad, talk to the people who lost everything to flooding. I talked to 6 people about this, and they are resigned to the fact that they have to start over again. One couple is having their home redone immediately and should be back in within a month or two. Two other women I spoke to said it will be six or seven months before they are back in their home.

Much blame has been put on Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and deservedly so. They had plenty of warning to get ready for Sandy, and they wasted it. They are not utilizing all the work crews correctly, and they got help from many outside companies and states. Let’s face facts, the repair crews that come into to do these repairs don’t work for free and they should be used in the most efficient manner.

I can only imagine how much our rates are going to go up in the coming months to pay for the clean-up and repair of Sandy. It’s time for our state government to take a close look at LIPA and see how they can be made more accountable for their actions, or lack of. Maybe it’s time to bring in a private contractor to run our electric utility system.

I’m just now getting back to my regular sleep pattern, and life is almost back to normal for us. Unfortunately for many people, their lives are changed forever.

Click here to read part one of this series.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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