Hurricane Irene Arrives (Day 4)

Read about the prep: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3

Saturday, August 27

Woke up worrying about my water heater. It’s in the flood-prone basement too and while it’s raised up on cinderblocks, still susceptible to water if my basement really floods. It’s gas too, which kind of scares me, for all its normal convenience. On the advice of a friend, I called Easton Utilities and they assured me that it probably had an automatic shutoff mechanism should the pilot light extinguish. That made me feel better — I didn’t want to have to preemptively shut off anything if I could help it.

Since it was just overcast and not actually raining yet, I ventured down to the open-air market. I wasn’t sure if it would be open and there were less than half the normal vendors (and those that were there weren’t set up as elaborately as they normally would be). I picked up some fresh veggies to have on-hand, a sugar waffle for breakfast and some smoked salmon salad for a sandwich for lunch.

Soon after getting home, the rain started, lightly at first. I hurried to put my car in the garage and then I showered so I could try and fill the tub with water for later, in case I needed it. I also filled my largest pots on the stove with filtered drinking water.

The only problem was that the tub kept draining. It doesn’t have a stopper — you pull up a lever that is supposed to close the drain. I tried setting a saucer over the drain, then a mug, then a bowl, then a towel covered by a bowl, then a canning lid covered by a towel weighted down by a bowl. It just kept draining.

Creative water storage, crowd-sourced on Facebook.

I crowd-sourced my problem on Facebook and received a number of suggestions including using cellophane and a potato. Finally, a friend suggested that I just fill the tub with other items filled with water. That set off a brainwave for me. I remembered these two storage units I bought at Walmart ages ago — they each have 3 huge plastic drawers. I emptied two of the drawers in the unit in my bathroom closet and filled them with water while I fetched the three drawers from the other unit, which was sitting empty in the attic. I was able to stack the filled drawers in the tub and felt much better knowing I had a stash of water for washing and for flushing the toilet, should it come to that.

After checking on the chest freezer, I noticed that one of the bags of water I had put in the day before hadn’t frozen completely, so I cranked up the cold on that unit and on the fridge upstairs (that was actually a recommendation from one of the emergency management organizations I’d been following lately anyhow). I also cranked up the a/c and turned on all the ceiling fans on high. If the house lost power, I wanted it as cold as possible.

At around 1:30 p.m., the radio station in Annapolis that I was listening to (WRNR) was knocked off the air because the City Dock area lost power. I switched over to WCEI here in Easton, which was providing regular updates from around the area. I checked outside and noticed at least an inch of standing water on the sidewalk out front. There wasn’t any water in the basement yet, but the wind and rain really started to pick up then. There were several rivulets in the basement just a couple of hours later (and a trickle running down my chimney in the attic). By that point, we’d had over 3 inches of rain in Easton.

Hurricanes make me hungry.

I kept a close eye on the Internet for weather and local updates. I heated up some of the Amish pork bbq for dinner and had it with coleslaw and corn on the cob (bought at the market that morning). And beer. I was strategically working my way through the beer in the fridge, in case power was lost. Then I could tap the wine stash.

The weather continued to get nastier and nastier. The puddles got bigger down in the basement, but there wasn’t a deluge, as I had feared. The chimney started leaking on three sides in the attic and also was leaking at its base down in the basement. I knew it needed a new cap, but the flashing would need to be looked at too.

Thankfully, I still had power. The lines on my street are buried. The last time our power went out, lightning struck something in the area and we were in the dark for several hours. I was bracing myself for a similar situation, which didn’t transpire.

At around 10:30 p.m. I was pretty exhausted and started to get ready for bed. I didn’t think I’d be getting much sleep — all reports indicated the worst was yet to come. I unplugged everything and stowed the computers and chargers under the tarp in the living room. I took my cell phone into the bedroom with me and also pulled in my extra jugs of water and food bag.

I’d read that you’re supposed to close all of your interior doors at the height of a storm. I suppose that’s so if a room sustains damage, the wind and water will hopefully stay contained in that room.

After closing the door to my room, I couldn’t hear much of what was going on outside, thankfully. The overhead fan also was helping to drown out the noise of the wind and rain. I had debated sleeping in a different room because there is a window at the head of my bed, but the really bad stuff was coming from a different direction. I figured I’d be okay.

I woke up once before midnight — I can’t remember what woke me up, but I went back to sleep shortly thereafter.

(to be continued)

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