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Surviving a hurricane

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Surviving a hurricane

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Many of our clients were affected directly by Superstorm Sandy. It has put a whole new meaning to counting my blessings. Seven months later, we are still undoing the changes she made, but so grateful that we are safe and in our home.

Double rainbow

We moved to our dream home on the Raritan Bay in April 2012, just six months before Sandy arrived uninvited.

We had left a lot of our belongings in the basement figuring that we had plenty of time to sort through things and place them exactly where we wanted them. To prepare for the storm, we spent hours moving things higher in the basement so they would be safe. We had done little else in the way of preparation because everyone kept telling us that the sea wall directly behind our home had never been breached. I realized that we might have been too sure about our safety when our neighbors across the street started boarding up all their windows…

At about 1:00 PM on the afternoon of 10/29/2012, our neighbor who uses his home as a vacation get-away called to see how we were doing. He generously invited us to his home further north and inland if we decided to leave. That turned out to be a blessing. Within an hour, the usually calm waters of the bay looked like the middle of the Atlantic Ocean…tall white-capped waves were crashing; the wind was howling. It was frightening. I knew we had to leave.

For anyone who has never had to leave your home, and everything you own or treasure, in a moment’s notice, it is a very unsettling feeling…to say the least. I threw some things in an overnight bag, including some sheets and towels, so our friends wouldn’t have additional laundry to do. All I cared about at that point was getting my husband, my cocker spaniel, and me to safety. No…I didn’t pack jewelry or important papers…or even computers; I didn’t give them a thought!

If you had only minutes to leave your home, what would you take with you? Would it really include computers and other “stuff”? Or would you just get yourself and your loved ones to a safe place?

We left just before they closed the Garden State Parkway…we would have been trapped if we had left any later.

As we drove north, the wind pulled our car in all directions. Trees were bending with the force of the wind. Many streets were already closed due to downed trees or power lines. It was surreal. We wondered how much safer we would be at our friend’s home that was surrounded by many beautiful trees…

Just as we finished dinner the power went out. I quickly bent down to reach for my frightened cocker spaniel…and hit my chin squarely on top of a wood chair. I didn’t say a word about it; however, it ached and I had purple jaw for weeks afterwards…I slept little that night listening to the storm howling, the windows rattling, and wondering if our home was still standing.

The next day, when we went outside I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I was shocked to see all the fallen trees and damaged homes. I could not wait to head back to our home and face the aftermath of Sandy. The ride home was nerve racking…

As we arrived at our street, the first thing I noticed was that our home was still standing and none of the trees had fallen…a miracle in itself. Reality set in as one of our neighbors was hollering that we had all lost everything! I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “We are alive!” He said, “Oh yeah…well that…!” Another neighbor informed us that we no longer had a pool. Oh well…

We started to take in the sights around us…our neighbor’s two sheds had floated across the street and sat on the corner of another neighbor’s property. The sheds contained the generator he had made ready in anticipation of having no power; so much for best laid plans. Several neighbors’ cars had floated out into the street. And the mud…what can I say about the mud? It was deep, thick, and everywhere! There were piles of some kind of straw-like grass all over our once green and lush property; plants in front of our home were smashed in the mud.

As we walked around to our backyard, we saw that indeed we no longer had a pool. Our above ground pool was battered and broken. What was left was filled with that straw. So, on top of everything else, an additional 12,000 gallons of water had been let loose into our yard! Our decks were bent and lifted off their pilons…and yes…more straw…The garage door in the back was pushed off its tracks and into the basement; the front garage door was tipped at an angle.

I went inside to face more of Sandy’s “redecorating”. Our living area is elevated; it starts on the second level of our home. As I looked around, I started to think, “So far, so good.” I went into our kitchen and opened the door to our above ground basement. I took a triple-take, unsure what I was seeing. I then realized it was the top of a bookcase! I started to step onto the first step and noticed the carpet on it was soaking wet; I saw mud on all the stairs and grass on the walls. I couldn’t go into the basement because of all the water and unidentifiable “stuff” in the way. Insulation was eerily hanging, dripping wet, from the ceiling. Nothing was where we had left it.

I kept hearing water running somewhere in the basement. We realized that our hot water heater had been knocked over and the water pipe leading to it had snapped…water was still pouring into our basement. We couldn’t get near it to shut it off, so we had to shut off the water main to our house. So now we had no power, no heat, and no water…wonderful…

However, my husband, my dog, and I were safe and alive. That’s all that mattered. I was truly grateful for that.

What are you most grateful for? Are you too busy to even take time to think about that? We should all make the time to count our blessings often…it can all be gone in an instant…

pool before pool after

Jane Heron RN, BSN, MBA is a legal nurse consultant employed by Med League. Contact her about your cases at 908-788-8227.

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