If you live in New Jersey, you may recall over the past year experiencing a few storms right in a row, all occurring over the fall season.  

The first was the brutal October Chill  (10/29/11), a major rain/high wind storm which turned into an ice/snow storm knocking down historical trees over 100 years old and bringing local towns to a halt with no power for over 8 days in some areas. Numerous large ornamental trees were literally split in half under the weight of the snow that coated fully leafed trees.  Combined with high winds, this weight was too much even for large trees to bare, which split and fell.  Major limbs crushed smaller trees and shrubs below them.   Residential homes, businesses, and grounds were all impacted in the areas.  Halloween was postponed, and then officially cancelled due to unsafe power lines and down trees all over the streets and roads.  Kids were climbing the walls and resorted to trick or treating in their own family pantries as some families could not even get out of their own homes for days at end.

That storm fell a year to the day of Hurricane Sandy (10/29/12).  But two more storms which preceded the October Chill  were the non-forgettable lightning storm with damaging winds and rains (8/15/11) and Hurricane Irene (8/29/11).

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A helter/skelter lightening show not initiated by Magician David Blaine rather a natural disaster which knocked down town trees and limbs that were barely hanging on from prior storms.  Basements were flooded by heavy rains, power knocked out, transformers dead, and the local towns that we were once cheerful and busy came to a creepy halt till our homes basic amenities were up and running once again. 

Then, not even ten days later Hurricane Irene came with gust and notice, and although 1.4 million households in New Jersey were affected with lost power, so many homes were flooded beyond belief.  The rush of water flooded basements and overflowed rivers.   I recall the heavy downpour of rain which did not stop for well over a 24-hour period.   So many more communities were shut down and devastated by Hurricane Irene that we all thought we had seen the end of the ‘big storms’ for this decade.

I had the pleasure, if you can call it that, of being hit by all three in such a short window and wasn’t sure if someone up above was playing games with me.  By the time I would begin to repair the first series of household repairs, I was starting on the second round, then the third.  Who would have thought about sub pump insurance or flood insurance when you lived in a high area and these natural disasters were far and in between the traditional household insurance one typically carries.  The damages always had a bit of a different twist but were significant nonetheless from sub pumps, to black mold, flooded basement multiple times, to finally investing in the best invention ever! – A hydraulic water sub pump system connected to the city sewer line.  Why didn’t I learn about this sooner?  Well, it certainly would have saved me some big bucks in home renovations over the years and less stress but it saved me with Sandy.

From carpet replacements, loss in electrical equipment including appliances, computers, and related IT equipment, and almost a dozen large trees which fell and hit either the sides of our home, to a huge bolt of lightning which split the driveway from the bottom to the top, smack down the middle.  It was a sight for sore eyes, yet I persevered and fixed it all, as most homeowner’s would do and learned to accept these cards that were being dealt, and was thankful that no one was hurt during the demise. A few years earlier I had even experienced golf ball sized ice pellets hitting the shingles of the roof and ripping them off the tarp, adding divots to the car outside, putting complete holes in the window screens and siding.  I was use to storms and homeowner repairs but thought the worst was over.

Now with Hurricane Sandy here, I found myself listening, preparing, being attentive, more focused than ever before.  I realized this is real and I must prepare my home to be safe for the welfare of myself and my children (and our dog).  While my teens rolled back their eyes and looked away, I charged ahead.  I am a believer in faith and in God, and in what he may have in store for all of us. We must ‘buckle-down’ the hatches as I use to say when I set sail on our Serendipity 43’ sailboat on the Great Lakes of Michigan from the Detroit Boat Club, to Harbor Springs, and in Mackinaw Island.  Then a few years later, on a 50 footer with friends in the Boston Harbor throughout the coasts of New England, you learn to ‘rise ‘n shine’ but you also learn to ‘buckle down’ during a day of competitive sailing when the days weather can turn at a dimes notice.  You learn to believe and listen to your ‘weather alerts’ and take life a bit more seriously, (especially after the loss of a loved one).  I lost my Skipper, my first spouse, the Captain of that Serendipity 43’, to a senseless automobile accident, and took life events more true to heart thereafter.

We watched the trees sway from left to right, and back around, and side- to-side, as Sandy’s gusts grew from 30 mph to upwards of 70+.  Leaves blow, to and throw, branches tossed aside, with grander gusts of Sandy storming in with a swirl.  I started to film the storm but even my video camera died and when the power went out and all we could do was listen to the eerie sounds of Sandy surrounding us, creeping by, without a whistle, just a loud blow.  The squirrels and birds had nowhere to hide; they were lost in the dark, just like we were.

We listened to the television till we lost power and then turned on the emergency radio.  We were prepared with the Mayor’s ‘to go’ bag and filled our tank of gas, uncertain why, as we didn’t have time to travel anywhere safe.  We camped around the fireplace, listened to the howling of the wind sore across the east coast from the shores of New Jersey all the way to Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.   When I learned that Sandy had reached the Midwest, TWC (The Weather Channel) didn’t predict it would surpass Pennsylvania but it had now stretched as far west to the Great Lakes.  50 knots on Lake St. Clair & Lake Huron, 11’ – 24’ waves gusting in all directions with rain blowing in the dark, Sandy blew over, under, thru, across and beyond the grandest of Hurricanes to ever hit the United States of America!

48 hours later I saw the devastation on a neighbor’s television and was astonished.  I was listening for two days on the radio and while the Governor’s description seemed vivid and descript, nothing could make it more surreal than seeing it with your own eyes.  It was heartbreaking and unbelievable to learn that this Hurricane had exceeded 2.4M households with loss power, double that of Irene, and we had not finished counting, that was nothing in magnitude to the damages.   I thought of the many friends and colleagues I knew that lived along the shorelines of the Tri-State area.  For over twelve years now I have traveled across these roads, learned my way around towns, and have enjoyed the scenic areas of these states.  It will take many long hours, days and people to rebuild.  It will take strength and encouragement and yes, time to grieve for personal loss.  The emotional toll will have its place and I have learned by finding something positive, you will persevere.  Whether it is a special memento, a person to lean on, a resource, an organization or foundation to provide you the support you need, or simply the warmth of a new home or a pair of shoes, you will find that peace and hope.

As I sat in the dark by the fireside in my warm home in New Jersey, I thought of the less fortunate and prayed and was left with questions of despair while others may contemplate family, home, rebuilding, relocation, and think about all future options.  What we do know is that we can help our neighbors across America, the sun will shine and there is brighter tomorrow.  One has to wonder, is this a similar pattern to last year’s cycle of storm destruction or will this become “the” Hurricane of the decade, renounced for all to remember and log in history as the last devastating storm for the season?

Well, let us hope for the latter.  I know we’d all like to throw in the towel and maybe not set sail any time soon but home sweet home sure sounds good!