Irene ‘Not So Bad’? Then Let’s Be Grateful

Photo by my friend & fellow photographer Eric Wertheimer

The next person who remarks that Hurricane-cum-Tropical-Storm Irene was over-hyped or who complains that those in authority went overboard with emergency preparations, you are hereby warned. Stay the heck away from me or I might have to smack you upside the head.

Some people just don’t know when to shut up and bless their good luck. Yes, it’s inconvenient to be evacuated. Yes, it’s a drag not be able to take a subway or train or plane when you want to. Yes, it’s a total bummer to wander down to the beach during wind gusts of 60 mph to watch the storm surge during high tide, and be turned back by a roadblock and a testy police officer. Pardon the heck out of anyone who is trying to save your life and avoid needless tragedy.

We’re all relieved that hundreds of people were not drowned or swept out to sea. But forty people, at last count, still died, from rising floodwaters or from being electrocuted by downed power lines or from the myriad other sorts of damage that Irene left in her wake. That’s forty families and groups of friends who grieve, whose lives will be forever changed, who will never take hurricanes and tropical storms lightly again, if they ever did in the first place.

Then there are the people who survived, but whose lives have been shattered by losing most or all of everything they own. How bad is ‘not-so-bad’? Just check out these photos of ‘Not So Bad’ Irene: Photos of Irene’s destructive force along the East Coast.

In little Rhode Island, it is estimated that 134,000 are still without electricity. That number was close to triple in Irene’s immediate aftermath, and included the office of the home care agency I work for until just this morning. As I’ve tried to contact my home care patients over the last few days, I can personally attest that hospitals, doctors’ offices and other healthcare providers are still, in many cases, operating without working landlines for office phones and faxes, that electronic medical records are still difficult or impossible to access, and that many roads are still impassable because of the number and large size of downed trees that have blocked streets, pulled down power lines and damaged buildings.

Some of our patients made it through Irene without structural damage to their homes, but still don’t have electricity. Some of them take medication that needs to be kept cold or use oxygen. For some of them, the power outage wasn’t a problem for the first few days, but as batteries run down and repairs proceed slowly, the power company estimates that electricity and phone lines may not be fully restored until this coming Labor Day weekend. So, some of them are now having to look for somewhere else to stay until then.

My colleagues and I are trying to see as many people as we can, while some of us are without power or have storm damage to our property or have to charge our cell phones in our cars in order to call them. I just had another of several conversations I’ve had with patients about negotiating an alternate route to their home to avoid the roads I usually take that are now inaccessible.

Nurses, CNA’s and others who work at nursing homes and hospitals are having to rearrange work schedules around who can get to work and who can’t. Pharmacies are trying to figure out how to get prescriptions to their patients. Some schools that were due to open are still without power, as are the homes of their faculty and students, and are having to reassess the date that classes may safely start. Even with power, school buses may not be able to get to certain streets to pick up children who need transportation. All of this rearranging is exhausting and time-consuming, and follows on the heels of the exhaustion and time we all spent preparing our homes and lives and work schedules before Irene hit.

Meanwhile, I have a 65′ tree in my yard. It wasn’t a very thick tree, thank goodness, but it broke off about 10′ from the ground in my neighbors’ yard, it’s broken end coming to rest on my back fence and extending to the gate by my driveway. I am grateful it did not fall on me, my car or my house. But now I am waiting while various parties try to figure out who is responsible for cutting it up and getting it out of there. It’s not going to be me, with my chronically sore, arthritic back and my miserable, radiation-fried right shoulder. And I don’t own a chain saw anyway. Initially, the landscape service for my neighbors left me a note offering to help. I called them back and left a message, but so far haven’t heard back from them. I haven’t gotten through to my homeowner’s insurance agent yet. The guy who installed and maintains my fence is a neighbor, but he’s also a firefighter, so he’s busy. And it’s still not clear who will pay for this clean-up. But it’s only a tree. It’s not blocking a road and my life is not in danger from its presence. I have electricity now. I can wait.

In the meantime, I was already tired and ached all over from cleaning gutters, and moving patio furniture, and putting the storm panels back in my screen doors, and making ice in case I lost power, and filling the washing machine basin so I could have water to flush the toilet, and hauling out the camp stove, propane and cooler, and clearing my downspouts, and getting batteries and groceries and gas in my car, and keeping my netbook and my work laptop and my cellphone fully charged. And that was all before Irene. Since Irene, I’ve been dealing with the aftermath. I’m very grateful that my neighbors along the beach were evacuated. I’m grateful that Irene’s hurricane status was downgraded by the time it got to Rhode Island. I’m horrified at the swath of flooding and destruction its flooding rains caused after it left here and moved northward and inland, wreaking havoc on my beloved Vermont, among other places. The photos at this link are from places I’ve loved and visited over the years. I’m glad it wasn’t ‘worse.’ Define ‘worse.’

When a hurricane doesn’t ‘live up to its advanced billing,’ we should all count our blessings. Emergency management is supposed to ere on the side of caution, not ‘convenience,’ else we have another Katrina mess on our hands. Folks who grumbled and whined about Irene being over-hyped should check out the photos at the links I’ve included, then grow the heck up, shut their gobs, and volunteer to help those for whom Irene was bad enough. How about I go rent a chainsaw — if there are any available — and you can help a cancer survivor get the fallen tree out of her yard? Since having cancer, I may get a little cranky, but I’m always glad to be alive.

Please click on the post title or the comment link below to post a response.

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 03:08 pm, filed under Health & Healthcare, Life & Mortality, My Work Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

14 Responses to “Irene ‘Not So Bad’? Then Let’s Be Grateful”

  1. I love this – I am in Fla where we are supposed to have Hurricanes, I have MANY friends & family in upstate NY who have lost their homes/businesses to Hurricane Irene, COMPLETE DISASTER. Over Hype- NEVER, those without damage should count their every blessing and maybe take a drive to help out those who were not so lucky.

  2. Yep, I’m with you on this one. I find that it’s in people’s nature to always dwell on the negative and complain. Whine, whine, whine. I’m also grateful to be alive and grateful the lives lost weren’t more. But when there is even one life lost, to me, it’s a tragedy.

    And I am also grateful this wasn’t a Katrina situation.

  3. Hi Kathi,

    “Not so bad” is intensely personal. If you have a job and you’re heavily invested in Apple, the economy is pretty darned good. If you’ve been out of work for a year and a half and you were heavily invested in Citicorp and similar “safe” investments, the economy is a catastrophe. Most people think that their situation is typical. Can’t see the WHOLE picture. Or, as “they” say, can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Likewise with the hurricane. My electricity was off for about 28 hours. The tree just barely missed my house. Just barely, but it missed. All in all, for me personally, not so bad. But not being blind to the devastation I see on TV, and on a lesser scale, in my own city, I’d have to say it is the worst I’ve experienced since Carol. I was only 4 y.o., but I will remember that terror as long as live.

    I guess “remembering Carol” confirms my geezerhood beyond all doubt. That’s bad. Or is it not so bad?


  4. If you’re a geezer, Alan, then so am I! I was born the year Hurricane Carol hit us, and was tucked into the basement with my mom and my godmother, while my dad was out trying to help restore electricity and telephone service to area customers. We lived in a coastal town in Massachusetts. My mother was never so glad to see my dad walk through the door as she was after Carol. I also learned about the marvelous properties of sump pumps at an early age!! When this is all over, you’re invited for dinner, Alan! 🙂

    Hurricanes are frightening, period. I happened to be in Florida during Hurricane Andrew, helping my mom, who lived in central Florida, so we ‘only’ had to endure floods, torrential rain and tornadoes. Blizzards are pretty scary, too, and up here, they are like frozen hurricanes. So are earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, and lots of other natural disasters. Mother Nature has certainly proven her might over and over in the past few years. We can never take anything for granted, can we? Like my own cancer, Irene could have much worse. And on both counts, I’m glad they weren’t.

  5. i have to tell you, in my experience, if it doesn’t have to do with NY or LA, it doesn’t get reported. so NYC didn’t get hit as hard as feared, therefore Irene was “overhyped.” it’s so narcissistic.

    we had the same thing here in nashville. we had an *actual* flood that was the most expensive non-hurricane natural disaster in US history. at the same time, NYC had a bomb *scare*.

    guess which story dominated the news?

    you guessed it. most people don’t even realize that we had a flood.

  6. Yup, CB. Sometimes the national news is useless and pointless when it comes to accurate reporting about the effect of real disasters on real people’s lives. I remember that flood, but heard more indepth coverage of it on NPR, not TV. One more reason I don’t watch TV.

  7. I live about 15 miles east of NYC so I was on the “wind side” of the storm. My friend lives in one of the “outer” boroughs. There was five feet of water in the streets. The only thing that mattered to the news during Irene was lower Manhattan and ground zero. As I understand it, there were “mini tornados” spawned and I am certain I was in the midst of one of these “events.” Three trees snapped in a straight line surrounded by mostly uprooted trees? There are 37,000 in my area alone still without power. I haven’t turned the television on since the storm. One drive around the block was all I needed. Plus, they are now getting all amp’d up with the “K” storm …… ugggg…. NYC is NYC proper. Manhattan is “The City” …. the other four are the red headed step children…..

  8. KAK it’s so good to see your post. I’m glad you’re ok. I have been thinking about you since Irene started her “trip”. And for those who say it’s much ado about nothing……tell that to those who lost friends and loved ones:(

    Great big hugs to you sistah-friend!!

  9. Kathi, we just moved to the water last month: Irene scared the living daylights out of me–they measured the wind gusts near me in excess of 80 mph and I felt it. I lost the water side of my roof shingles, a fence, had some leakage, but overall, it was watching the huge waves roll in and feeling the house shake, all the while–as we didn’t lose power–hearing on TV how lucky we were, and how mild it was.

    I work in oncology and my patients have not been able to shower for days, if they have well water and no power.

    My losses will get repaired. The fear will linger, but we weren’t lucky–it stunk and yes, we didn’t have to move to the water, and it’s the price we pay, but I’m seeing a lot of people pay for it who don’t get to see the Newport Bridge at night.

    The first couple of nights after the storm, the bay was dark. No houses with power.

    Oh, and I lost the one tree that grew in our yard. But my dog didn’t need her thundershirt, for some reason.

  10. Well said, Kathi.

    I completely agree with CB’s comment. Also, many familes have been devastated. What is the criteria for crossing over from ‘not so bad’ to ‘really bad’ anyway?

    I’m glad you are ok. Is the downed tree removed from your yard yet?

  11. Yes, Nancy. Those nice landscapers that left the note came back at the end of the following day and removed the whole tree! And it evidently won’t cost me anything. 🙂

  12. […] from Where We Go Now,  Anne Marie  who blogs at Chemobrain and Kathi aka The Accidental Amazon have all been writing on the theme of surviving hurricane Irene this past week and Irene also […]

  13. Kathi,
    You’ve really had a tough stressful time. I’m grateful your arm and shoulder pain was not mets, but the reality is, it still hurts. Put that on top of Irene, and you’ve got lots of stress. I can identify with that.


  14. What a delightful post! And what a friend you are, helping others. We do need to count our blessings, but also recognize that natural disasters are real, even if they don’t affect us in any way. I’ve got enough of my own natural disasters not to deny those of others.

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