Clyde's Corner on Volunteerism

Double Whammy!

Clydes Corner Double Whammy November 9 2012

Living in the Northeast (specifically the north shore of Long Island) has so many wonderful benefits: beautiful coastline, rolling hills, majestic trees, great restaurants, proximity to New York City, and good public services and utilities. All of these have been stressed in the last 12 days. Sandy paid us a visit first, and then on Wednesday night, we had our first snow of the season. And it wasn’t the pretty, white, fluffy stuff.

You may recall that several weeks ago I wrote about the pristine beaches of Long Island’s south shore where I walk to sooth my soul. The tranquility and beauty of which I spoke faced off with the brutal reality that nature can be very cruel and unkind. Before the storm, the gentle waves lapping on the shore were comforting and hypnotizing. During the storm, waves came ashore with a brutality and vengeance not experienced here in a very long time. The winds holding steady at 60 mph and gusting to 95 tore through the calm and created chaos and destruction. The water that we so cherish in these parts turned her back on us, and profoundly changed our lives for what could be years to come.

In my community the water advanced from the north and east with waves of greater than 10 feet in the normally calm Long Island Sound. With a full moon and high tide the classic “storm surge” pushed mercilessly towards corners of our towns and beaches that it had never visited. From the south, ocean waves registered 30 feet at times and ca
me ashore with violence and determination, taking homes, boats, businesses, and power lines with equal anger and force. The mighty oaks, cherry, hickory, locust, pine, birch, and maple were stressed beyond their capability to remain upright and took down power lines, Internet, phone, cell towers, and buildings. The howling winds in the dead of night were scary, and we assumed the outcome would not be good.   Having already lost power in the afternoon, we went to bed that night not knowing what to expect in the morning. Being so powerless and so without knowledge is a very uncomfortable feeling for a life-long BCP guy. The house moaned and groaned as the wind was unrelenting. Screens vibrated violently, the gutters screeched and they fought to hold on as the roof shingles tore free in some places.

The water became the enemy, the wind our foe. Trees and wires were down everywhere you looked, and power outages extended to 90% of the LIPA power customers on Long Island. The island was eerily quiet. The hum of an occasional generator broke the silence, but no planes flying overhead, no cars whizzing past, no people out walking…just wind and rain. We were without power for six days, but the unfortunate reality is that some folks will be without power right up until Thanksgiving. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Unreal. Unfair. Unfortunate. Devastating.

The public/private sector collaboration that we preach in our BCP doctrines, was very much needed, but lacking to a considerable degree. Were we all on the same page (power, cable, phone, town, county, state, federal)? I’m just not sure. The fact is that the power company is still striving (with considerable welcomed outside assistance) to bring power back to very large communities here. I don’t think there will be glowing reports about the response and outcome in the post outage reviews. Once again, those of us in this profession are left shaking our heads and wondering what else we should we be planning for.

This storm provides us with valuable lessons learned. On Long Island and in New Jersey, our way of life has been changed. Our beach communities decimated. Our boardwalks and beaches destroyed. Our homes damaged beyond repair or simply washed away. Not unlike Katina or the tsunami in Japan, lives were lost, homes and businesses destroyed, and planning and preparedness questioned. We know we can’t think of everything, but hurricanes and storms like Sandy do make appointments. We know 10 days out that something really bad is on the way. We can and should do better. Gasoline in very short supply for generators was our first “Aha!” moment. Or maybe buying a generator was the first. Perhaps it was having plenty of food, batteries, flashlights, and ice. Home and family preparedness plans became of paramount importance. We always say disasters are personal before they are professional. Caring for our loved ones comes before making sure the server is up and running. Make sure you have a good life safety BCP for your house and family!

We now know that so many suffered in these storms, experiencing direct hits from the powerful winds and rising tides. If it is in your heart, and you are able, please donate your time, energy or money to a good cause of your choice to help those impacted. This is a bad one. This is one for the recordbooks. Help where you can, and if it is your way to say a prayer or two, please do.

It is with a heavy heart that I write Clyde’s Corner this week. I recognize that we play such a small part in this universe, but every little act of kindness helps. And your desire to help where you can will be very much appreciated by those who lost so much and face so many challenges in the months ahead. To those of you impacted, my heartfelt hope for your speedy and complete recovery.

All the best,

Clyde Berger

cberger@driif.org
Director of Volunteerism and Vice President

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