By Bill Primavera
Nothing like strong winds closing down the functionality of a house to get you thinking about things that normally are pushed to the back of the mind by the busyness of TV, cell phones, Facebook and Twitter.
It’s especially inconvenient if you are a realtor, as am I, and the plan was to visit a home with a prospective buyer that may or may not have electricity by the time of the appointment.
Luckily, for the past five years, I personally haven’t had to worry about storms and losing electricity since we have a trusty generator. But before that, I was pretty much on my own.
Amusingly enough, at some time in the distant past, I wrote about how losing power for a night could actually be a charming, even romantic experience, especially when living in an historic home, which I did at that time, lit by candlelight and warmed by a fireplace.
However, recalling the week or so in 2012 that my family and I lived without electricity when Superstorm Sandy hit our town, I can remind myself that the experience was far from charming. I recall working by the light of a candle on my sixth night without power. Charm had turned to desperation. I was cold, cranky and, for the first time ever, resentful that my home had failed me as a safe refuge. But then, considering the misfortunes of others, I wasn’t as bad off as some communities that were without power for a couple of weeks.
Just as 9/11 deeply altered my perception of many things, such as a long-held desire to move back to the city, so had Sandy with her deceptively casual name, which wrought still more change.
That night when my home offered little more than a roof over my head and cold water to drink and with which to bathe, my mind was running on overdrive, filled with images of the storm becoming worse.
On the night Sandy visited, we considered ourselves lucky that we still had electricity. But then suddenly, there was an ear-splitting explosion on our corner, the result of a large tree crashing into a transformer on a utility pole. Looking out from our second-story bedroom window, we were treated to a fireworks display unmatched by anything I had ever seen on July 4 – certainly not within 100 feet of my house.
Then a burst of flame lit up the sky as bright as daylight, revealing that the telephone pole had been spit cleanly in two as wires snapped and flames broke out, burning brush on both sides of the street. The fire department was called and arrived to quell our fears that our house might be consumed by flames. We dodged the first bullet.
I had already pulled out my generator, bought the previous year for Hurricane Irene and, predictably, it didn’t work. So, we prayed that the rain would be kept at bay so our basement wouldn’t flood without an operating sump bump. That wish was granted, dodging another bullet. But, oh my, the wind.
The next morning, venturing out timidly from my home and walking up the street, I found that my block had been hit severely with massive trees strewn across the road like matchsticks in more than 10 places, and the power lines had laced the lawns in violent patterns.
But there was something stunning: neighbors that I hadn’t seen in years were out on the street, discussing their experience the night before and commiserating about the losses some had suffered. There was even one senior fellow whom I had heard incorrectly had passed away. Encountering him was like reenacting the Bible story of Lazarus. One home, hit squarely by two massive tulip trees, was all but destroyed.
We enjoyed the soft glow of candlelight and learned what it was like to tuck ourselves into bed very early, no later than 9 p.m., and sleep like logs. I enjoyed the luxury of morning meditation uninterrupted by a phone call.
For news, we listened to a battery-operated that was at least 50 years old. The only station we could get was WCBS 880, which told us what we needed to know.
After an electrician stopped by to install a generator panel, I learned how to coordinate the switch-over to generator power and took video of the process on my iPhone.
Other lessons learned in the dark:
When you dress, it really doesn’t matter if colors and patterns complement each other when the main objective is to keep warm.
Layering in clothing and bedding is very effective.
And, finally, with the excuse that shivering requires an abundance of extra calories, I ate my way through the storm and its aftermath, as I did again last week, pushing to the back of my mind the inevitability of having to suck in my gut on Monday when I button my pants.
Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.