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How I Survived the October 2011 Storm or It's Not Fun Being Part of the Disaster You're Reporting

How I remember Storm Alfred.

 

To be honest, I was clueless.

I was in New York City attending a photography trade show. While having dinner with a friend the Thursday night before the storm, I first got wind of the coming snow on my iPhone. I can’t repeat here the first words that came to my mind.

The trade show was due to end on Saturday and every report I saw said the snowstorm wouldn’t hit until late afternoon. I decided to cut short my time at the trade show on Saturday and just attend a morning seminar then catch the train back to New Haven.

That morning I walked out of the Javits Center at about 11:30 and saw big wet snowflakes coming down. I thought if it’s snowing in New York, which was supposed to be on the periphery of the storm, Connecticut had to really be getting hit.

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I hustled to Grand Central Terminal, caught the train and looked out the window seeing the station at 125th Street in Harlem covered with snow. When the Metro North Train got north of Greenwich, the power went out and we were stuck on the track for more than an hour. Eventually the train restarted and we got back to New Haven.

What followed as I pulled out of New Haven's Union Station was white-knuckled drive north on I-91 through a Nor’Easter. I let tractor trailer trucks lead the way through the snow for me. As I got off I-91 to go to my home in Bloomfield, I kept getting rerouted by huge tree limbs laying on the roads. My last block home was made interesting by the blue light of arcing transformers in the neighborhood.

I was lucky, my power was still on and my apartment was warm. I went to bed exhausted listening to the sound of cracking and falling tree limbs around me.

On Sunday, after waking up, I ate breakfast and hit the road to see how the storm had impacted Windsor Locks and East Windsor. Some streets looked like winter wonderlands, except for the all of tree limbs, debris and wires strewn out the neighborhoods.

Officials in both towns were just starting to understand the impact the storm was having on their communities. Power outages blanketed both communities. Being able to report what was happening proved difficult depending what part of East Windsor or Windsor Locks I was in.

Both town halls, which provide WiFi that I regularly use, found their internet connections down. Depending upon your carrier, cellphone service was spotty in some sections and the wireless card for my laptop wouldn't work. I thought great I’ll just go home and use my internet connection there.

When I got home, the power was out. It was weird because since I’ve lived in the neighborhood whenever power was out everywhere else it was always on in my neighborhood.

My power would remain out for about five days. My only saving grace was having a gas stove. I could cook soup and other canned goods, boil water for tea, mini baths and clean the dishes. I became real familiar with cold pop tarts during those days.

As I and my Patch colleagues reported on the storm, most of us were without power. The company let our boss rent a conference room at a hotel in Springfield where we could recharge all of our equipment, use the shower facilities if we wanted, and we could expense hot meals at nearby restaurants.

I spent a lot of time in emergency operations centers, town halls and just driving around talking to people. Despite the hardships everyone was experiencing most people seemed upbeat. There must be something to shared suffering that brings out the good in a lot of people.

Many people went out of their way to help others. It was uplifting to report on such things.

It was definitely a weird experience to spend all day reporting and writing about other people’s difficulties with the storm, then coming home to a cold dark apartment. I would use my company laptop to access the internet with its wireless card and communicate with friends until the battery drained. I’d use my personal laptop to watch TV shows and movies I’d downloaded until the battery drained then I would listen to my radio.

As I joked one night, I was sitting in a candle-lit room listening to jazz on the radio _ not by choice.

For some reason, the one thing that caught me off guard was not being able to easily get gas for my car. It never occurred to me that even our gas pumps are dependent on electricity. An older lady tried to cut in front of a line I was in and about 20 people started yelling at her.

When the CL&P trucks came late one night and started to recharge one of the power stations, it almost felt like being a kid sneaking downstairs and seeing Christmas presents under the tree a couple of hours before you were supposed to wake up.

As I told some friends on Facebook, I never thought I would be so excited to hear the sound of my fax machine turning back on at 3 a.m.



Kim Ray October 26, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I was without power for 11 days during this storm and it was a total nightmare! Who would have thought anything as freakishly as an October snowstorm would have so much impact on the state. I have since moved to Texas!!!!!! Ha.

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