Friday, November 2, 2012

After The Storm - We Have Ignition

About 5 minutes ago (as I start to write this at 2130) my wife and I were talking about how it sucks not to have electric power. My wife finished up with something like: 'I hope we get it soon'. Within about 30 seconds the lights came on and so too did the furnace. We have ignition and out spirits blasted off. Before that we had been depending on things like the jack-o-lantern, that I carved on Halloween night, for high spirits and light. I brought it in the house later that night, it made a great night light. I took the top off once inside, so as not to burn down the house when it was lit, and under the candle was lined with aluminum foil. Of course, I blew out the candle once we were about to hit the hay. No need for me to damage my house with a fire, the storm already did enough damage with wind.
Now, before I let my happiness about getting power back go to my head and down to my fingertips and into the keyboard in a really tasteless sort of way that shows little regard for others, let me also say: Today was the first chance I got to look at a newspaper since Monday. I listened to a few news reports about the storm and its aftermath, to date, on my car radio but did not want to kill my battery or waste gas by running the engine too much. (Portable battery operated radio going to top of prep list - heck we had everything else we needed except maybe a generator.) I had even driven into Harlem in northern Manhattan to pick up a turtle from someone on Wednesday afternoon. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Queens-Midtown Tunnel were closed because they had just finished pumping over 250 BILLION gallons of water out of them, so I took a bridge. (Next day you had to have a minimum of 3 people in your car to cross into Manhattan.). On my drive, I just did not see all that much devastation. But I did hear, on the car radio, about the woes of others. All I can say is holy blowhards Batman that sure was one hell of a nasty wind.

The people of Staten Island (one of NYC's 5 boroughs), of Breezy Point, Queens (a neighborhood in Queens which is another of the 5 boroughs, Breezy Point is essentially the end of a narrow strip of land, much resembling a barrier island except the other end is connected to the mainland) and to the folks o Long Beach just to name a few - have been devastated. I have heard that up to 100 homes burned to the ground during the height of the storm in breezy Point. Many, many homes on Staten Island were destroyed and others badly damaged, Long Beach (in Nassau County on Long Island just east of the NYC line) was hit very hard also with a multitude of homes destroyed. The story is going to be likewise for many homes and businesses in many locations along the south shore of Long Island.  I also saw that southern NJ was badly hit. In total so far, 109 lives have been lost. What a shame in today's day and age, when we had so much advance warning of the storm headed our way.

My biggest surprise was the lack of photographs in the newspapers. Yeah they had some but not as many as you would think considering all of the devastation they are writing up in the papers and talking about on the radio. I have not seen any television reports yet, I will watch the news after I finish this entry. Well, there was really one bigger surprise, that our power came back on so quickly. Last year, after Hurricane Irene, it was on in 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 days as I recall. You can check my blog posts from back then if you want to search them out, I am sure I mentioned it then. This year though, there was a major difference from last year - there was not even one local, or loaner from afar, power company truck anywhere to be seen in my village and no power company workers either. Less trees seemed to be down right around us but many were down in adjoining villages and while less than last year there were a fair amount of them down in our village. I even asked the sanitation guys, yesterday, if they had seen any power company activity. They literally had been on every street in our village, more than once to clear debris and pick up trash over the past few days, and said they had not seen any since they came out right after the storm on Tuesday up through yesterday afternoon when I spoke to them. So yes, the power coming on tonight was a major but good surprise; I had figured it would be closer to a week before we had it back. 

Another surprise was given to me by my son who brought in the chimney cap from one of our chimneys. I saw the one in front was missing and figured it was one of the two atop that chimney but he thought it was the one from the back chimney. Well he was right, it had blown off and did not land in the backyard or neighbor's yard to the west of us as you would expect with winds coming from the SE; it landed on a driveway up front. Luckily, Brendan had moved his car as close to the garage door as he could do, which is not normally what he does. Either he was making room for another car or hugging the building as close as he could. Whatever - that saved the car from getting dinged by the chimney cap. It had landed right where he usually parks. Another surprise was that a second chimney cap had also been blown off; I found that one on Wednesday as I was raking up leaves and debris in front of my neighbor's house for her (she is too old for that kind of nonsense). The one from the back sustained no apparent damage when it was blown off but the one from the front now looks more like a narrow diamond shape than its normal square shape. Thank goodness that did neither one hit anyone in the head or anywhere else for that matter. Of course, only kooks like my daughter, wife and son went out in that mess. They went to get drunk at a neighbor’s house at the height of it and came back while the storm still raged. What is that saying: God protects babies and drunks... 

Then, yet another surprise, later Monday night when I let the dogs out lest they do it on the floor in the house; that meant coaxing them to actually make. Our male Chihuahua Pepe was pretty scared but he did his thing bravely in the middle of the yard up on three legs as he raised the other and almost was bowled over by the wind. The other dogs were all scared too. In the 1/2 to 3/4 of a day that the storm raged between Monday and Tuesday we had only two small accidents by the dogs. But I digress, so allow me to get back to the surprise that greeted me one time I let the dogs out on Monday night. There were shingles laying on the ground outside our side door. I picked one up at it and sure enough it was very familiar to say the least. I grabbed my flashlight and pointed it up and saw that my roof, which has shingles on all four sides, was missing shingles on all four sides. Others were flapping wildly in the wind in big 6 to 10 foot lengths a couple of shingles deep (I am guessing because they were tarred or glued together and not just nailed in). I looked again later and a few large patches were missing from the east side, a smaller one up front, a couple of few good sized ones on the south side out back and I think some on the west side too. All the ones that had been flapping decided to lay down pretty much nice and flat again after the storm although several of them are somewhat buckled. The ones that laid down flat again could fool you into thinking they were okay. The bottom line: $10,350 just to replace the shingles (the whole roof). The gutters were also dented, probably as shingle got torn off and slammed into or flapped against the gutters. The downspouts, two or three of them, are missing the elbows at their ends. The gutters adds about another $1,200 to the job. Some of the brick lost mortar, one brick seems to have lost a piece of itself, all that on the front chimney and the flue on the back chimney was cracked. Speaking of cracks, at the height of the storm, while I was inside, I heard to very loud cracks that sound like wood breaking. I came from up above and may or may not have been something breaking in the roof. The roofer told me when the job is getting done to replace the shingles they may find out what caused the noises. She did not see any damage during a cursory examination of the roof from the attic. The surprise have kept turning up - two blocks of concrete in my front sidewalk, to either side of our pretty big Linden tree, were cracked from side to side. I guess because the tree had been swaying to and fro and the roots lifted some of the blocks and cracked them. Two blocks are raised and two cracked but the tree did not topple; it is a majestic old beauty on its  last legs but those legs are still strong! The other surprise, my roof seems to be the only one with a lot of wind damage in the whole neighborhood and our shingles turned up several blocks from our house yesterday when we took our dogs for a walk. 

Now as luck would have it, the insurance company guy who called me on late Tuesday or Wednesday to get my claim rolling (after I reported most of the damage on Tuesday) told me that the insurance company had waived the hurricane deductible and only my standard $500 deductible would apply. He said it in a way as to try to get me to think they were doing me a favor. Well, I spoke to him earlier today, finally was able to connect with him after a couple of days of telephone tag, and he told me the deductible would only be $500. I said: "That's because it was classified as a tropical storm instead of a hurricane, isn't it" and he said yes that's it exactly. There was no waiver out of the goodness of the heart of the insurance company. There was no legal way they could impose the higher deductible because the storm was not hurricane strength as is required in the policy to enact the higher deductible. I am sure that had to have been insurance company balderdash from up on high. 

Shortly after speaking to the insurance guy, who was actually pretty nice and seemed to be a decent truly wanting to help type, I visited my 83 year old neighbor Jessica. We talked for a while and she told me that her newspaper delivery guy had delivered her papers every day that week - including Tuesday morning during the storm. I asked if I could take a look at them and she gave me Monday through Friday's papers. One article mentions that the governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, had gotten together with the insurance companies to see if they would waive the hurricane deductibles AND THAT THEY WORKED OUT A WAIVER. More absolute bullshit for most of the insurance companies because it was not a hurricane and thus they could not impose a hurricane deductible the way their policies are written. Some companies could do so, even though the storm had weakened, but mine was not one of them. So the politicians are trying to get us to believe halve truths that they worked out a waiver for all of us homeowners effected by the storm and the insurance companies, at least mine, was trying to get some folks to believe it was done out of the goodness of their hearts or so it seemed the way the agent told me about it.  

Ah whatever, I just hope they pay for a whole new roof and do not try to nickel and dime me for a shingle by shingle job. The agent told me that an adjustor will be assigned in about 10 days and will come to my house after that. Hell, I called them before the last winds had died down, I guess it is not first come first served. Of course, I cannot bitch much, we have our house, with a still mostly intact roof over our heads and we came out pretty much otherwise unscathed. About the only other downside for us was that we lost some food from the freezer and fridge and that I missed couple of days of work. As I mentioned above and as you know already, many others lost a whole lot more than did we. Luckily for all of us, the rain was nowhere nearly as much as had been predicted or so it seemed to me and my family and neighbors. It rained steadily but only hard for a short while. I was more like a driven light rain than a rainstorm with a driven downpour - at last around us. Heavier rains would have made it much worse. 

I fear for my sister-in-law. Not her safety, she is at her sister's place and okay but for her house. Her town had a 5 to 6 foot tidal / storm driven surge go through and she is less than 75 feet from the water's edge along a boat basin. The house gets flooded in a bad rain so I can only imagine it may have gotten structural damage because of that surge with this storm. 

As for how we fared, we did okay. We had full or almost full tanks of gas in each car, more than enough candles and matches, an almost full tank of propane for the grill and I grilled hotdogs yesterday (wish I had gotten another just in case), batteries of the needed sizes, flashlights, food, water, and booze.  I was brought up during the height of the Cold War and, while not the best prepared, I was prepared for something like this (as well as for SHTF, Civil Unrest, Government Tyranny, The Rapture, a Zombie Apocalypse or TEOTWAWKI). These new-fangled "preppers" (as they call themselves) think they are doing something new but hell, people, smart ones anyway, have been preparing for the worst since the first hunter-gatherer society. On Tuesday night, I even dug out our one remaining board game - Scrabble. My wife and daughter and I played a game (I won) and then were joined by my future son-in-law for another (he kicked heinie). My son took off to upstate NY to visit his girlfriend the day the storm ended. 

One thing about this storm, that I predicted well ahead of time, was right on the money. Well, not as much about the storm as about the afterwards. I predicted that Obama would show up the very next day in either NJ or NY. He showed in NJ, wearing what looked to me, in the photo I saw in the paper today, like a blue work shirt. The bum has probably never done a day's worth of even easy manual labor and he ought to be ashamed of himself dressing like that although I was very surprised not to see his sleeves rolled up but then I only saw one pic of him in Jersey. My bet would be he rolled em up, at some time in the photo ops, as if to make like he was going to rebuild NJ single handed. What a friggin joke. I am actually praying, and most of you know I did not even pray for myself when I had cancer, that the polls are open as scheduled on Tuesday so I can cast my vote for Romney. My bet is a few die hard Obama supporters, here in the devastation in NY, will do likewise - that is vote for Romney. One never knows, he may lose in NY yet. 

I have to get some other stuff done, so will finish up by saying I want to thank Mike G, and James Z (Zack), two of my readers, for checking up on me via email. Good men. Thanks also to some few of my friends who also checked up on me and mine likewise and to my relatives who checked on us too. Now that I have email back as normal, I have some checking up to do on others myself. Over the past few days, I checked on a few neighbors in person, emailed and checked in person on a good friend with whom I used to work, and checked on some others by email. One may have lost her house in Long Beach, at least it is uninhabitable right now. All my checking by email was accomplished when I could get Internet service on my cell phone which was sporadic at best. Now I should be able to check on a bunch more folks easily. I hope all are well and stayed out of harm's way. 

All the best,
Glenn B