Powerless twice this month, I'm one of 500,000 Northeast homes affected by storm

Storm Damage
A typical sight here now...Image by Tobyotter via Flickr

The Westchester hotel parking lot was filled with Mercedes and Lexus, with MD and DDS plates — hotel refugees fleeing their suburban homes after this weekend’s brutal wind and rain. The diner across the street from it was so full we could barely find a spot to eat breakfast. Our newspaper delivery man — God bless his work ethic — had braved six dark flights of stairs to bring us our New York Times and New York Post.

On Friday morning I watched the tree on our terrace, the sixth and highest floor of our 50-year-old suburban New York apartment building, rocking on its base like a metronome in 50 mph winds before we brought it indoors for protection.

We lost electricity at 7pm Saturday evening, just as we were starting dinner. We often eat by candlelight, but this was now a necessity. Reading required so many candles, (we did have a flashlight), we gave up and were asleep by 8:30. Makes you appreciate 18th-century life in a whole new way.

We’re very lucky to have a hotel three blocks from our home and the rate wasn’t terrible, so, for the second time — we lost power recently in a huge snowstorm, and shared a room there that night with my Dad, visiting from Toronto — we checked in there Sunday afternoon. I can handle having no power — but when it goes, our building also loses heat and hot water and the temperatures here are still in the lower 40s.

One night in a hotel, luckily for those who can do it, is an affordable adventure; two or three, plus meals out, quickly adds up.

One occupant of the room next to our practiced cello for seven hours, lovely at first, annoying after endless sawing and scratching. They had several dogs with them. The dining room, normally an elegant quiet space, was filled with screaming infants and restless teenagers. I had hoped to use the indoor hotel pool — but it was closed due to fears of a lightning strike.

The damage to homes, landscape and people is frightening and sobering. Six people have been killed, as my former Daily News colleague Russ Buettner reports in today’s New York Times:

The scenes of devastation in the New York area were so widespread that some compared what they saw to the worst of natural disasters. Nearly everyone had a storm-related tale, mixing inconvenience and a sense of wonder at forces that effortlessly ripped trees from the ground, roots and all. And there were stories of loss and tragedy.

By the time the worst of the weekend’s storm was over, at least six people were killed, countless vehicles and homes were smashed, scores of roadways were left impassable and more than 500,000 homes had lost power — many of them to face darkness for days to come.

On Sunday, the storm’s lingering effects — and the recovery it required — became clearer…

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Power Authority, called the storm among “the top five or six weather events that have impacted Long Island in the last 40 years.”

One of the many issues that is not receiving coverage — people who are ill, disabled and elderly who do not live in single-family homes. While news  reports and photos inevitably focus on the terrible damage done to private houses — trees crashing through windows and ceilings — millions of us here also live in multi-story apartment buildings. On our top floor, a 96-year-old woman lives alone, but usually has a a day-nurse and has a nearby daughter; we make it a point to check up on one another down the darkened hallways.

I’m under doctor’s orders right now to avoid walking and stairs until I get an injection in my hip — and had to climb down six flights of stairs to leave. The pain was so bad I wept, and I had managed to leave my codeine pills upstairs. Advil helped.

I am home now writing this on my desktop, tea freshly made, fridge humming, lights on.

How long will it be until the next time?

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