– Bruce Springsteen
There was no aurora rising behind Hurricane Sandy and I, rather it was merely a dark gloomy sky, darker than I had ever seen in my neighborhood. There were no porch lights or street lights interrupting the view of the NJ sky. There was also not a star to be seen, just cloudy eerie darkness…
The power went out at 7:15PM on Monday. My wife and mother-in-law (who we had convinced to stay with us to ride out the storm) were most disappointed that they would be missing Dancing With the Stars. What can I say?
It was my good fortune to have purchased a generator a few weeks earlier. Not because I was Nostradamus and had foreseen this storm coming, it’s just something I’ve always wanted to have for cases of emergency, tailgating, outdoor activities, etc. After hurricane Irene, I promised myself I would buy one, yet it took more than a year before I finally did so.
The weekend before Sandy’s arrival was spent in preparation. After having brought in all the deck furniture and anything else that could have become a flying projectile, I cracked open the still-in-the-box generator, did some minor assembly, prepared the engine and fired it up. Everything worked great, so I filled up the tank and went out and bought another five gallons of what would unbeknownst to me soon become like gold in NJ – gasoline.
Monday afternoon, I came home from work early, setup the generator outside, ran some extension cords in preparation and waited. When the power did go out, I sprang into action, starting up the generator and connected my sump pump, refrigerator, some lamps, a TV and kitchen appliances (coffemaker, toaster, etc.). Initially, we even had cable TV and internet, but that didn’t last more than an hour.
One interesting thing that I realized: the DirectTV Satellite service I have (just to watch Packers games, basically), will always work as long as you have some form of power. So despite cable being out, we had TV, which proved to be an emotional Godsend.
Soon the strongest winds came. Trees bent in unnatural ways. I was sure I would lose my tree that had barely survived a nasty Halloween snow/ice storm a year ago. Unlike Hurricane Irene, there wasn’t much rain. That was a big break for some local businesses and residents that had been flooded out by Irene. Some were just now getting fully back on their feet.
While the feared flooding never happened, trees and power lines were down everywhere in my town. I live about 20 miles due west of NYC, so I was not subject to the devastation that towns along the Jersey Shore or Staten Island suffered. I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures and videos on the news. Let me tell you, it’s worse than it looks on TV.
My town was a patchwork of power availability. Parts of town were fine, others would unknowingly be without power for over a week. I was one of those lucky ones.
As the days passed without power, gasoline became a hunted treasure. If you were lucky enough to have a generator, you tried to get your hands on some in any way you could. I borrowed extra gas cans from my brother-in-law who did not lose power. I had my son, who was driving down from Maine, buy a gas can, fill it in Maine and bring it to NJ with him. Five more precious gallons! I successfully siphoned gas out of one of my Jeep’s gas tank to fill some cans. When the cars started getting low, I sat in lines several hours long to fill them back up.
I can tell you it’s rather surreal to get up at 5;30AM on a Sunday morning, drive to the gas station and already find a line a mile long – and the station didn’t even open for 2 more hours. Only benefit was I did get caught up on reading the stack of magazines I had accumulated for a few months…
People got crazy. There were fights over people trying to cut in line. Eventually, local police, state troopers or National Guardsmen were dispatched to every open gas station (there weren’t many) to keep order. NJ went to an odd/even license plate rationing system, which helped shorten the lines a bit.
My focus on Friday Saturday and Sunday was filling every available gas tank and container I had in order to have enough gas to feel comfortable enough to run the generator all day Sunday – so I could watch the Packers.
Understandably, there had been some tension in the household during the week. To conserve gas, we were basically running the generator for six hours and then turning it off for six hours. There was no opening of the fridge allowed during the “off” time, and I strongly shot down requests for blow-drying hair or doing laundry. Those were both things that I felt we could survive without for a week or so. That did not exactly make me Mr. Popularity with my wife and daughter.
So as Sunday rolled around, how was I going to justify running the generator just to watch the Packers? I was contemplating how to broach the subject Sunday morning, when my daughter, who loves to play instigator, loudly asked in clear earshot of my wife if I was planning to watch the Packers game. before I could stammer out an answer, my wife simply turned and remarked, “Of course he’s watching the game. You think I don’t now that?” She then shot me an “you owe me one” look and went back to what she was doing. My wife’s a gem – God bless her…
So yes, I got to watch the game, but with no internet, I watched it like I (we) used to watch football, sitting in front of the TV without a computer. Admittedly, I did sneak a few tweets in from my phone, but overall, it was old school TV football watching. During that time, I forgot about our predicament. When the game was over, I jumped right back into power management mode and getting on the nerves of the ladies in my house.
As Monday rolled around, it was obvious we’d all had enough of this. To top things off, temperatures were dropping to the freezing level overnight and a new storm was headed our way mid-week. Rumors were flying everywhere, the worst being that we wouldn’t have power for another week.
Luckily, that didn’t happen. I came home early from work on Tuesday to replace a few shingles on my roof lost during Sandy (in preparation for this new storm coming). I decided to change the oil on my generator and while doing so, I heard a neighbor’s house alarm beep twice. I didn’t think anything of it at first and then it struck me – that would require power. I ran to the other end of the garage and flipped the switch – light! Joy! I texted my wife and daughter and there was even more joy. When both got home there were smiles and hugs all around.
We had survived. In reality, we really didn’t have it that bad. I’d call it more of an inconvenience – we were very lucky. There are many people who lost their homes or loved ones in this storm. People are still living in their flooded, powerless and heatless homes. I’ve made my donations to the American Red Cross – I hope you have too.
Many of the pier lights Springsteen refers to are no longer lit. They’re laying rusting in the salty waters of the Atlantic ocean. But one light that will never go out, at least from this writer’s perspective, is the light of Packer fandom. Whatever the circumstances, the Packers will always be a part of it. Till death do us part…
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.