Lights Out – Hurricane Sandy – Part Three

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City


For those of you who have not read Parts 1 and 2 of my Hurricane Sandy story, you may want to read “The Rushing of the Water” and “Days of Darwin” to provide context. This is the continuation of what happened to me in the days following the storm.

Niagara Falls, In the Basement…

The second day after the storm, I still had no electric, but by then I also realized I had no heat or hot water. During the storm surge four feet of brackish sea water from the Hudson River flowed into my building’s basement…where my main electrical panel, furnace and hot water heater reside.

My neighbors found a guy who had a generator and a pump and he pumped the water from the basement.

This guy was very popular on our block in the days after the storm. Even while he worked on ensuring the hose pumping the water wasn’t filling with debris or mud (the bottom of the basement is a dirt floor) … people kept coming up to him and asking him when he’d be done so could he help them out. The guy was so decent, he only charged us a few hundred dollars to do the work, and the niagara falls of water that came out of the basement literally flooded the street again.

When we saw what the basement looked like after the water was pumped out, we realized all the systems needed to be replaced. And “all systems” meant the main electrical panels for 9 units in the condo association, new electric meters needed to be re-installed by the electric company, and 3 furnaces and 3 hot water heaters needed to be removed and replaced.

It seems that when your furnace sits floating in frigid cold sea water for two days it “don’t work no more.” Same for the hot water heater and electrical panels. And speaking of electric…

My Kingdom for an Electrician…

I’ll cut right to the punchline: it took us three weeks to get our electricity restored.

Finding the electrician and hiring him wasn’t the problem. We got competitive bids and got the contract going before the end of the first week after the storm. But there were fits and starts with the crew. They did not have all the parts they needed. And while under normal circumstances the right parts would be readily available, after an emergency mega-storm like Sandy, you can’t always find the parts you need in a timely manner. And so you wait until the parts are found… and you wait without electric.

After the electrician was done with his portion of the work, only then can the electric company come and replace the meters and finish their portion of re-activating the juice at the telephone poles. We were so frustrated because it took us 6 days of obsessive phone calls from many people in our condo group along with the activists among us (I’m not one) getting the local councilman’s office involved before PSE&G got a “bucket truck” dispatched to throw the final switch and turn the lights back on. Unbelievable, but true.

But I wasn’t there when they turned the electric back on. I was in California by then.

Since I’m fortunate to have the kind of job that allows me to travel, on the Sunday after the storm I was already scheduled for a business trip. And when I got to Newark airport, not only was it up and running, I was able to catch an earlier flight out of town…thanks to United Airlines.

I was excited when I landed and got to the hotel. You can’t believe how miraculous it feels to take a hot shower, after going six days without one.

But there was still the matter of getting the furnace and hot water heater replaced…



2 Responses

  1. Un-frickin’-believable. We don’t realize how much we rely on this stuff until it’s gone. I was without power for 24 hours recently (our annual super-storms here on the coast), and it was excruciating. Of course, I was keeping a lizard warm. And yes – he had to sleep with me or freeze.

    • It really was unbelievable…and I think the worst of it was you never really expect things to go that badly so it’s unimaginable and feels surreal when it’s happening.

      Sorry to hear about your own mishap, and I hope the lizard is well. (Is he Eddie Izard, the Lizard? :-D)

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