Hurricane Sandy…Oh, What We Didn’t Know

hurricane damage, storm roof damage,

Lisa writes: Sandy…well that knocked us for a loop. Mary Dell and I live in Westchester County, NY and while we know we did not see the worst of the storm, and have in mind those who did, we are without heat, light, water, electrify, telephone, cable…you get the idea.  The beauty of a hurricane, if there is one, is that unlike say an earthquake, there is a bit of time to prepare.  And while we thought and read, studied and prepared, we found there were a few dos and don’ts that we missed.   (Thank you to Starbucks for heat, light and, most of all, wifi.)


Take the air-conditioning covers off of the outside units.  By doing this you will save yourself a trip outside at the height of the hurricane to retrieve covers which have turned into flying saucers. This will keep you safe, but you will miss the opportunity to feel like you are in the tornado scene of the Wizard of Oz, hopefully a once in a lifetime experience.

Stop by Target and buy an armful of new board games.  No matter how old your kid is or how jaded by technology, playing Scatergories or Bananagrams by candlelight will turn them right back into children again.

Locate your warmest pajamas, the ones you never wear, the ones at the bottom of the bottom drawer, before it is dark and cold.

Remember when you have lost all communications with the outside world, when the landline, cellphones, wifi and power are all out, if you pull your car up outside of a critical building (read your local hospital) their wifi will let you reconnect with the world.

Download movies onto your laptops and cell phones. Then go out to the car, use the car charger as a power source and pretend that your family is at a drive-in theater.

In a crisis like Sandy, with the right converter, your car is a generator.

Think of this as a gift of time. With technology and our busy lives we have few concentrated inward facing moments in our family’s lives.  Take advantage of this perhaps unwanted disruption which may be annoying but still a gift.


Underestimate the amount of beef jerky and tortilla chips teen-age boys can eat and that no matter how much you buy in preparation, they can finish it all before the power is even cut.

Forget to buy ground coffee; really what can you do with coffee beans in a power outage?

Forget to pile your cooler with take-out Chinese food.  Nothing wrong with eating it straight out of the container and peanut butter sandwiches get very old very quickly.

Assume that even your landline phone service will work.  It turns out that 70 mph winds destroy everything in their path.

And, by extension, don’t assume anything. This disaster will not be like the last one; it will be new and terrible in its own particular way.

Don’t forget when it is all said and done, when the frustration of no water, power, phones, internet, heat, roads blocked by trees we are here, well and grateful.



  1. says

    We had a wonderful week in NYC and left late Sunday night on last flight back to UK. Reading blogs like yours in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy gives us greater respect for all you Americans for the way you are so philosophical and take it all in your stride. Hope the clear up does not take too long. Love your blog.

  2. says

    coffee. COFFEE! I’d never thought of it. We grind 2-3 days worth at a time and haven’t had our power out longer than the coffee has lasted. BUT I will now be prepared.

  3. says

    we had no electricity for quite a while, and I am just curious–how do you make coffee with no power whether it is ground or not — I am sure the answer is going to make me feel stupid–but I have felt stupid before….

    • Anonymous says

      Nothing stupid – but I light my gas stove with a match, boil water, and use a French press for coffee.

  4. Anonymous says

    Also – don’t assume that generators run forever. Though ours is powered by (unlimited supply of) natural gas, turns out the motor needs oil every 48 hours, and the battery can actually die. We learned the oil lesson in that big March storm a couple of years ago. Learned the battery lesson this afternoon. See – you can still learn something new every day!

  5. says

    I hadn’t thought about coffee, either. Maybe I’ll pick up a French press. Ya never know when a snowstorm may cause a power outage. (Though in my 40+ years in Colorado, I recall that happening only…well…maybe never.)
    I’m curious about the car as a generator, though: Is it necessary to have the car run while doing that? Which would then mean the garage door should be open, right?
    I’m thankful you both did okay. Still praying and thinking about you all, as well as those faring far worse.

  6. says

    Glad to hear you’re all okay. Hope the lights come on real soon. And, you don’t even need a French Press…a Chemex will do. And, small containers of soy or almond milk don’t have to be refrigerated as long as you use them up in one shot.

  7. says

    Too true, all of it! Also, in a wintertime emergency, you can stay warm by putting up your family tent inside the house–good way to conserve body heat, especially if you have down-filled sleeping bags! :)

  8. says

    So glad all are well.
    I remember going through the quake of ’89 in the Bay Area. I was evacuated from my apartment and couldn’t go into work for days. You’re right; you can’t prepare for an earthquake, but now that I live in tornado country, I can certainly take the lessons you’ve offered here. Next trip to Target, I’m going to stock up on board games and beef jerky.

  9. says

    i’m glad to know you’re both okay. i finally bought a good flashlight for this storm. reading by candle light may look romantic but the flickering gets tiresome. the chemex is great in a storm. you can make the coffee while you still have power and it stays fresh tasting and it makes the best coffee when the power comes back on as well.

    glad you are safe.

  10. says

    After griping and whining for two days, I saw a clip on those poor people who got hit on Staten Island and in NJ and realized just how lucky we are…

  11. says

    I’m so glad that you ladies and your families are safe in your homes and especially that your families are doing well. I hope you get power back as soon as possible. We are in upstate NY so we didn’t get hit badly at all but our family in LI is in the same predicament as you. My memory of a Hurricane and the destruction of it’s aftermath is Hurricane Andrew. I was studying in Miami at that time and staying with family. I will never, ever forget what it felt like to hear the “stillness” of a hurricane and feel that tropical air pressure and of course waking up to find trees and debris strewn all over the place. So many communities just ravaged not unlike what so many people are going through now. Mother nature is just the strongest force there is…
    PS Like your reminder of stocking up on grounded coffee. Just as important as batteries : )

    • says

      FIrst thing on Tuesday morning I was out looking at the damage and ran into frantic drivers trapped in our neighborhood by downed trees desperately searching for coffee. Don’t let this happen to you!

  12. says

    Thank goodness for the french press! It’s keeping me going during the Hurricane aftermath.

  13. says

    One of the most useful items to have is a headlamp. Actually, I recommend each family member should have one. It leaves your hands free to work, you can just tilt your head to redirect the light, and you won’t keep misplacing it like you do (I do) with a flashlight. You can get them at REI or EMS.
    Another issue is remembering to take care of yourself while you’re busy taking care of everyone else. With no power or water, I was scrambling to find my kids a safe, warm place to stay, and bringing them food when I could find an open place. Navigating the roads was time-consuming and stressful, and I was just too tired to eat much. On the 4th day, a friend, seeing that I was unravelling, sat me down and made me eat. That old adage of putting your oxygen mask on first so you can help others holds true in these kinds of crises as well.

    • says

      Karen you are so right about the headlamps. I thought we had headlamps and of course once we lost power, I couldn’t find them. Think they must have been lost in a cave somewhere!

  14. says

    Lisa, even in a hurricane you manage to keep your unique voice and sense of humor – I got a good chuckle at the whole bean coffee. Here on the west coast I am just waiting for the “big one” to hit, it’s only a matter of time. I’m so relieved that you and your family are safe – if a little bored and overdosed on beef jerky – and I hope the recovery continues to be swift and uncomplicated.

  15. says

    Great list of Do’s and Don’ts. I had to laugh at the teens and Beef Jerky/ toritilla chips thing. My teens eat just for the sake of eating–can’t keep food here on a regular day. LOL.

    Cheers, Jenn

  16. says

    Lisa, great advice and I wish I had read this before we lost power for four days. The darkness and chill in our house was depressing, but the lack of coffee in the morning had to be the worst of all. On a positive note, I read two books by flashlight!

    • says

      Nothing good about the cold and the dark. The first morning my neighbors were all panicked because we were trapped in our roads because of fallen tress and Starbucks was inaccessible!

    • says

      I grew up in Earthquake country (Northridge!) and it is exactly the same, plus the cold weather.

  17. says

    A couple of storm survival tips from the Great White North:

    1. Stay warm with wool. Forget about all those acrylic or nylon sweaters, even the microfleeces. None of them will keep you as warm as wool. Stock up on sweaters, woollen socks, woollen hats, gloves, scarves. Layer them with cotton if you dislike the itch of wool next to your skin.

    2. If your family camps, you have some great survival gear on hand. Put your tent up in your living room. In addition to making a great play structure for the kids, it will conserve your body heat at night, and allow you to sleep more comfortably, without risk of hypothermia.

    3. Someone asked how to make coffee: if you have a camp stove and a couple of cannisters of propane, you’re laughing. Just remember to use it outside, or in your garage with the door open–you really don’t want to risk gassing yourself! And if you have a gas stovetop in your kitchen, you can light the burners with a match, rather than relying on the electric starter thingy. You can also use a barbeque with a side burner, if you have one. Trust me, you don’t want to go through an emergency sans caffeine.