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How Tropical Storm Isaias kicked my ass and what I learned for next time around

A tree that fell in my front yard during Tropical Storm Isaias Tuesday, Aug. 4 in Shamong, N.J.

Crash BANG BOOM! Anybody from Philly familiar with that clothing store on South Street? The erstwhile establishment named Zipperhead was where I purchased my first real leather biker jacket that I still rock today – wear and tear and battle wounds to prove it from many concerts I do and don’t remember.

This story isn’t quite going where you might expect it to, but “crash, bang, and boom” is what I heard last week, Tuesday morning, when two 60-foot trees fell in my front yard thanks to Tropical Storm Isaias. The storm hit South Jersey and the Pennsylvania suburbs hard, and here’s a brief synopsis of how it affected me personally.

Growing up in Connecticut, the first hurricane I can remember was Bob in 1991. Later, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, damaging so much property it was only surpassed by Katrina in 2005, which killed thousands and left much of Louisiana flooded, homeless and heartbroken. How about Hurricane Irene in 2011, leaving homes washed away down city streets as far north as Vermont? Then there was Maria in 2017 – a category 5 that devastated Puerto Rico and is stilled talked about today.

According to USA Today, at least nine people were killed when Tropical Storm Isaias hurled tornadoes, whipping winds and sideways rain across the east coast. Many places in Pennsylvania and New Jersey suffered the brunt of it, including where I live in Shamong, a small, rural town tucked away in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

I knew the storm was coming Monday night when my husband and I battened down the hatches, which meant putting away everything that might blow away outside. The first tree that fell Tuesday morning startled me awake. It fell – thankfully – away from the house, but landed partially into the road, blocking traffic. Shocked and scared, I scrambled for a raincoat and raced outside. I began dragging limbs that would budge free from the tree so cars could pass.

Moments later, I heard another “BOOM!”

DeHuff’s property in Shamong, N.J.
Root systems came out with the trees Tuesday, Aug. 4

A tree of equal proportion fell in the same direction – towards the road. My husband urged me to stay inside. I just watched and listened from my windows. The power had been out for who knows how many hours.

Because we have a well water system, and our electrical supply is not hooked up to it, that meant we were without water, too. Atlantic City Electric relayed that it would be a week or longer before power would be restored to our area.

Luckily, we have a generator, which powered our refrigerator, freezer, a fan inside the house and charged our phones. We still lost half the food we owned. When it got dark, we walked around the house with headlamps on. I guess you could call it “glamping.”

We lived with no electricity or running water for three days. The adage: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” – yea – that’s only good for about one day, if you catch my drift. It gets pretty nasty after the second day, when the house starts stinking, we’re getting thirsty, and realize we ought to prepare for a longer road ahead.

What began to worry me was not how we would fare, but rather our animals. We have a dog, cats and chickens. We had some potable water for them to drink, but not enough for an untold amount of time. How long will we be dumping water in our toilet tanks to get them to flush? How much more will be spending on bottled water to drink?

It really put into perspective the little things we take for granted like flicking on a light switch. You expect that light to turn on. When it doesn’t, day after day, it takes a toll on your brain and your body.

On Sunday, reported that more than 27,000 Jersey Central Power & Light customers were still without power. That’s six days after the storm hit. Tens of thousands were waiting for their lights, air conditioning and water to turn back on. Still, power companies were saying restoration would be days away. And to make matters worse, we in South Jersey are in the middle of a heat wave – temperatures in the upper 90s and being blasted with humidity.

During this time, while many of us in New Jersey were frustrated – even pissed – at the energy companies for not restoring power in a timely fashion, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light, an electric company that services a large part of the Garden State, said they were doing all they could with the resources they had.

JCP&L spokesman Chris Eck told “It’s impossible to build infrastructure that Mother Nature can’t destroy. The storms that have hit New Jersey in the past 10 years are unprecedented in their intensity and the scope of damage they’ve caused.”

I guess the moral of the story is: Prepping for emergencies is important. When you turn on your faucet or flick on that light switch, don’t take it for granted, OK?

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