Posted by: Debbie Abrams Kaplan | November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy – day 5

Lots of thoughts as we enter day 5 post Hurricane Sandy.


In spite of some looting we’re hearing about down the shore, the community response has been heartening. Our synagogue, which lost so much during Hurricane Irene (flooded basement resulting in $150,000 in damage – none covered by FEMA) was fine during Sandy. The building has been open to congregants and community members needing a place to recharge (physically and spiritually), warm up, and places for the kids to play.

We’re hearing about neighbors sharing power from generators, with cords run from one house to the next. We’re hearing about friends cooking for elderly neighbors who don’t have power (nor natural gas) and who refuse to leave their homes. They’re bringing over warm meals daily. Mentioned in a previous post, my writer colleague Cynthia Ramnarace, who has extensive damage to her Rockaway home, has had numerous people stopping by to offer help (including the Mormons).


After hearing reports that some grocery stores were open, Mark ventured out (more of an “adventured” out because of the driving conditions) and was able to get more milk, eggs, bread, apples, fresh fish (no, not from the shore, but from Alaska) and rotisserie chicken. We haven’t restocked our ice cream yet.

Stores/restaurants like Target, McDonald’s yogurt stores, locally-owned franchises like Bath Junkie and others are allowing people in to recharge devices. Target set up tables with power strips and said no purchase was necessary, stay as long as you like. A friend who couldn’t make it into the city for work yesterday posted a photo from McDonald’s of all the power cords and computers and people working. It looked like a scene from Starbuck’s, though the caption was “would you like fries with that?”


We’re sad to hear that Sandy Hook, a national park on the shore that Dori especially loves, took a big hit and may not be open next summer. It’s so hard to look at pictures and read the stories of homes and businesses lost. They just make me cry.


The annual November New Jersey Teacher’s Convention, which gives us 2 days off of school while some teachers attend, was cancelled for the first time in 158 years. It’s supposed to be held November 8-9 in Atlantic City, which suffered a lot of damage. The kids get those days off school, but now our town has reinstated them as school days – if there’s power. While this is totally logical (and means we’re back to using up our 3 snow days for the year, but not owing any), we have family coming in town to visit then and expected to have that time off I’ll call you today, Susan).


The trifecta is what you want in your house. We’re exceedingly lucky to have all three. As mentioned before, our town is 90% without power still, and they’re in the process of cleaning (cleaning the sensitive metal areas with toothbrushes) the sensitive switching equipment that got hit with mud during the tidal surges, before power can go back on. That in combination with downed lines (50 houses in town got hit with trees, not to mention the many many other trees that missed houses but didn’t miss the power lines).

Some in our town don’t have water. We were told to expect little or no water pressure in some parts of town and indeed some have no water at all. We’re also told to conserve water because the town’s back-up generators are using water. Also they need electricity for pumping, which we’re lacking. Of course other towns may lack potable water for other reasons.

As for internet/phone, some in town with power still had internet/phone/TV knocked out – especially Comcast users. We almost switched to Comcast recently because our Verizon contract was up and they raised rates again – even with another signed contract. We grudgingly stuck with Verizon and still have service. Phew. I’ve heard reports of Verizon trucks around town, so apparently we dodged a bullet with that too.


It’s been fascinating seeing all the storm development and following recovery efforts online. I’m not a big TV watcher, but have been glued to Facebook and Twitter. As the storm developed, I was following my colleague Jen Miller, a NJ shore expert with lots of contacts. She was retweeting photos and news. At the urging of another NJ writer colleague, I subscribed to posts from Bob Burger on Facebook, who predicted the severity of the storm and reported frequently on its course while in the midst of it. He ended up losing power and cell service, but his on-the-ground posts continue to be worthwhile to follow. If you’re on Facebook you can subscribe to him without ‘friending’ him, and if not on Facebook, you should still be able to see his public posts.

Our town’s twitter site has been helpful too, though they send out a slew of posts every few hours and not in a steady stream. Twitter has been great for finding out quick news from around the area, including what stores/gas stations are open, situations with the power lines, who else to follow for other types of news, who is need of help, etc.

The other helpful sites are the hyper-local Patch sites. These are AOL’s attempt to get into the community in a way that newspapers can’t. And because they’re online and not on the regular weekly news cycle, they can bring breaking local news that no one outside of town cares about. Our Patch is one of the first places we check when something local happens, because that’s the editor’s sole job – to cover this. We’ve gotten stories about what stores are opening, updates from the mayor, lists of warming stations in New Jersey, and hyper-local updates from other towns that may be of interest.

We’re getting a lot of robo calls from the school district (on cell and home phone – plus emails of the same), which informs us not only of closed school dates, but alerts from the fire department not to run generators in the house because of carbon monoxide fumes, and the cancellation of Halloween. This has been a good community resource for information. That said, some friends have no cell/internet service, but can receive texts. So I’ve been texting some of them when we find out about school dates so they stay in the loop.


There’s a lot of talk about how the wait/lines to get gas is reminiscent of the 70s gas crisis. The problem is that some stations don’t have power and can’t pump. The NE refineries either shut down or cut back before the storm hit. Four of the six affected by Sandy are operational again (fully or partially), and the other two aren’t (one is very large). We filled up our tanks on Sunday, before the storm began, and are hesitant to drive anywhere in fear that we’ll need to fill up again. We’re supposed to have brunch this weekend with family in North Jersey. Their power is still out and we’ve offered to host. However given the gas situation, we’ve offered a rain check because who wants to wait in those lines for gas when it’s not urgent?


These Brooklyn Torahs were flood damaged and will be repaired – photo is a must-see.


Our doorbell rang last night but no one was there. We thought it was a local kid playing a prank, as we’d gotten ding-dong ditched last week (I saw the kid running away last week). At least there wasn’t a pile of dog shit in a bag, set on fire on the door step. This morning Mark went out to get the newspaper and found a Ziploc bag of candy along with a note that we’d been “booed.” Like a chain letter, we’re supposed to hang up the little ghost on our door so others know we’ve been booed, and then do the same for 2 others, using the letters that were provided. Given our lack of Halloween, I found it very sweet.


Yes, another nor’easter is expected next week, maybe Thursday (the link says Tuesday night or Wednesday but other reports are Thursday) in Central and North Jersey. With SNOW. Our town may not  have power back by then. Temperatures in the 30s (it’s been in the 50s, which is already cold when you have no power) which will be awful for those without power.


I turned in a holiday story yesterday, unsure whether my editor was even online or in the office. Turns out the Manhattan office is only partially operational, but she can’t get there anyway because of transportation issues. A few hours after sending it in, she emailed back with an assignment – something relating to the hurricane.

Will post more updates as time goes by.


  1. Debbie – thanks for this update! I feel like there is a lot that we don’t know/can’t understand, living so far away. But helpful to get firsthand accounts. (My bro is in Long Island – no power, flooding in basement; so hard to reach him w/ cell service bad.)

    • Thanks Kara – it’s hard to know when posting is getting “old” for the readers, but it’s what I can do best from this end. Glad to know it’s well received. I hope your brother’s power comes back on soon and that he’s safe.

  2. I liked the Boo dong ditch! Great idea!

  3. Glad you and yours are okay… From some of your old PSC friends!!!

  4. Thanks for your updates, Debbie. The situation is horrendous. I understand that train service to NYC is opening but traveling is still extremely difficult. I hope it works out for Mark.

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