The bread aisle at the supermarket yesterday. My friend Fee commented, “It looks like pictures from the old Soviet Union.”

People clustered behind barricades at the gas station, holding gas cans. It’s the gas situation now that is the most pressing. Rationing in effect. People strolling around with gas cans. Lines of cars as far as the eye can see (literally), waiting for their turn.

I still don’t have Internet. I am now in an Elks Club which has opened its doors to us lonely wandering web-less people. Haven’t worked in a week (office closed – it’s in Zone A) – and still no word when it will re-open. New Jersey took this thing head-on. We are still struggling. I have friends with no power. There are people with no homes. It’s getting cold, and we have another storm bearing down on us. I did lose power on Friday night, but it came back on. No word yet when I will get Internet again (or TV).

I have been through a ton of hurricanes, and while I have some hair-raising memories of listening to oak trees crack outside my parents’ house during Hurricane Gloria (the worst sound in the world), this one has been the most frightening. Or at least the storm itself. I’m not frightened now, it’s just kind of a drag, and I also feel very lucky that I actually HAVE a home, etc. But the night of the storm is what I am talking about. It was windy all day, garbage cans rolling down the street. The storm itself wasn’t supposed to make landfall until 5:45 p.m. I had my supplies, I had buckets ready below my windows (learned my lesson from Irene last year), and sat down to wait. You could actually feel things change, and I glanced at my phone for the time: 5:47. It got intense, almost immediately. I sat to wait it out. I monitored the buckets. At some point, 7 or 8, I noticed that my windows were actually coming out of the window frames. The wind was so powerful it was pushing the actual windows in. I sat on my bed and watched the windows coming apart. I nailed up tie-dye sheets over all of the windows, in case they crashed in – at least the sheet would catch the debris. It made it look like I was living in a crack house. The sound was bone-chilling. You get used to the sound of heavy wind, big gusts, all that. But you know when the wind starts whistling, and not just whistling in a long sustained tone – but dancing up and down the scales in an eerie unearthly way – you know you’re deep in the shit. It sounded like a pitch-pipe. Again, I know the sound from other hurricanes I’ve experienced. It is a sound unlike anything else. Sebastien Junger talks about the different sounds of wind in The Perfect Storm, and how fishermen intimately know the different sounds, the ones to dread, the ones that are no big deal. We had that pitch-pipe wind that sounded like freakin’ Hell for HOURS on Monday night, or whenever the hell the hurricane was. Time has sort of ceased being delineated. The house was shaking, and I was watching the windows come out of their frames. I lost power at 8:30 or so, and then couldn’t take it anymore and went and hid in the bathroom for the rest of the night. Reading Christopher Hitchens’ memoir by my Flashlight App. Listening to trees come down outside, and hearing my windows crack out of the frame in the other room. I couldn’t sleep. And I kept coming out to check the leaking situation (towels soaked, water dripping in buckets). But we made it through! It was a nail-biter, though. The aftermath has, of course, been far worse than the storm itself.

There are no traffic lights in my town, and still giant stretches with no power at all. No streetlights. There’s been a lot of chaos in terms of polling places for tomorrow (many places don’t have power).

I’ve read four books and seen about 15 movies in the last 6 days.

I was very lucky, all things considered. I’ve been volunteering. I also realized that this is the second time in one year that I have needed help from the Red Cross.

Still in limbo. I miss my family, but they are all doing well. Rhode Island was hammered, although they did not have the gas crisis as much as we are having down here. The sea wall was actually broken, which is just unbelievable. The thing was put up after the 1938 hurricane, and it is giant. This storm, of course, was worse than that one, and it was high tide that did the sea wall in. Wind schmind, it’s the storm surge that’ll get you every time.

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17 Responses to

  1. Dan says:

    Glad to hear you’re doing ok.

    The thought of my windows exploding inward would terrify me.

  2. Greg says:

    Glad you’re doing okay, Sheila. My parents and sister in Connecticut barely got touched, luckily, but the freak winter storm they had last year gave them an even eerier sound than that whistling wind — the sound of branches snapping off trees in the middle of the night. And I’m not talking about twigs, here. I’m talking leaf-heavy widow-makers. My dad said it was the worst sound he’s ever heard. Plus, they lost power for nine days, and my nieces couldn’t go trick-or-treating because of all the downed power lines.

  3. Sheila says:

    Greg- both sounds are hair-raising as I mentioned in the post but I find the pitch-pipe wind to be far more frightening.

  4. Sheila says:

    And yes Halloween was canceled!

  5. bybee says:

    So glad to see you online! We had a typhoon here a couple of months ago. What I really hated was that my apartment is on the 12th floor and I could feel the building swaying.

    • Sheila says:

      Bybee- so frightening!! Still no Internet but its easy to be patient when I look at places like Long Island or Staten Island or the Jersey Shore!!

  6. Alessandra says:

    I don’t comment much, but I just wanted to say I felt relieved to know you’re ok, when I saw the first post after the storm. When I heard about the hurricane I just hoped you’d be safe.

    And I have to ask: how is Hope?

    • Sheila says:

      Hope is awesome, thank you for asking! She is such a chill cat! Curled up with me in the dark bathroom, totally unperturbed!

  7. Melissa Sutherland says:

    Hope is a trooper and so are you. I know that whistling sound. Have lived through it more than once. Here in Keene/Swanzey we were lucky. I loved living on the 20th floor of Manhattan Plaza (West) for almost 20 years, but there is nothing like a big storm when you are up that high. You know the building is built to sway, but until you’ve felt it…….
    Take care of yourself. Hope tomorrow goes well. If it doesn’t I may have to leave the country. (How many times have I said that? hahaha)

  8. devtob says:

    Glad you’re safe, and able to chronicle the aftermath in your inimitable, multi-media way.

  9. Cara Ellison says:

    That image of the empty bread shelves just sends chills up my spine. I’m so glad you and Hope are safe, and I hope you get the comforts of life back soon. You are in my thoughts. If you need anything – ANYTHING – please let me know and I’ll move heaven and earth to get it to you.

  10. Kate P says:

    “pitch pipe wind”–YES. That’s exactly what I was hearing and the sound was torture. How you withstood that AND seeing the windows come apart–I can’t even imagine. My cat was a very calming influence during the worst of the storm, so I am glad you had Hope with you.

  11. So glad you are okay, all things considered. I’m a Florida lifer so, while I feel for the victims of any natural disaster, I always feel a little more kinship with anyone who faces a hurricane/storm. Can’t believe you are still blogging….You are wa-y-y-y-y-y more dedicated than me!

  12. Courtney says:

    I am relieved to hear you are okay, Sheila, even if okay means something different than it did a week or so ago. Your blog is a tremendous source of joy and education for me! I’ve lived through a couple of hurricances during my time in North Carolina but nothing like the footage I’ve seen from the East coast. My thoughts and prayers are with you – I hope you return to work and a new normal very soon!

  13. rae says:

    so glad to hear you’re doing okay. you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers.

  14. Desirae says:

    Only just catching up on this – really glad to hear that you’re okay.

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