Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving a trail of destruction up and down the east coast. We were fortunate, escaping with very little damage...for which we are oh so grateful. Other than some lost shingles and loose siding, our home is intact. Getting through the storm wasn't easy, though, as we lost power for about 20 hours. We had plenty of candles, batteries, flashlights, water and food, but we had failed to plan for the most critical of our needs.
Hubby and I both have sleep apnea and use CPAP machines at night to keep us breathing. We have used these machines every night for years and years, and had never considered our inability to sleep without them. When the power went out we realized that our CPAP machines were inoperable! Every time we started to doze off we would stop breathing and our bodies would wake us! Thank God the human body has these automatic responses built in, but it made for a completely sleepless night for both of us.
Obviously, during the outage we also had no electric sump pump. We had been proactive and had a "backup" sump pump installed in our home. It is, I believe, the reason we had so little damage. Many of our neighbors, some sitting on much higher land than our own, had up to 4 inches of water in their basements because their electric sumps were out of commission.
Two years ago when we had our basement "finished" we had a backup sump pump installed. It is one that uses water pressure from our household pipes to flush the water out of the sump pit. In theory it sounds like a wonderful solution, and in reality it is...almost. Early Tuesday morning we noted that the amount of water in our sump pit seemed to be rising. I could hear water running and our son verified that there was, indeed, water flowing out of the sump pipe in our yard. So, why was the water rising? My fear was that the water pressure sump was simply pumping out our expensive household water and not flushing the flood water with it. So for five minutes we turned off the municipal water flow into the sump pump. We got our answer quickly as the water in the pit rose one half inch in 5 minutes! The pump was obviously working, but was having a hard time keeping up with the deluge of water Sandy had dumped!
So every 25 minutes we would use a Red Solo Cup to scoop five or six buckets of water out of the pit and carry them up the stairs to dump into the kitchen sink. It was exhausting, back breaking work...especially since hubby and I are both in poor condition physically. But, it had to be done if we wanted to avoid flooding. After a few hours of taking turns bailing, my hubby and son both headed out to look for some type of "pump" that could empty the pit without scooping. My knees were killing me from kneeling on the concrete floor near the sump and my back was breaking in two from bending down to scoop the water. I never again want to look at another Red Solo Cup unless it is filled with a liquid libation that will erase all memories of Sandy! Hubby returned a short while later with only a 5 gallon bucket to use instead of my cleaning bucket. He had found no pumps of any kind. Yippee! A larger bucket meant less trips. But it also meant that I could no longer run the steps to dump the water. I am just NOT up to carrying 5 gallons. Several phone calls from our son verified that he, too, was having no luck finding any type of pump.
Then hubby had a brainstorm! One of his better ideas, if I may say so. Years ago we had a gadget called a "Paint Stick" that we used when painting our walls. It is a giant syringe with which you draw paint out of the paint can and then depress the syringe to apply paint to the roller from the inside out. It is truly a timesaver when painting, but it proved to be a real lifesaver when bailing. Our Paint Stick had died years ago, but hubby thought his brother still had one. So, after a quick phone call, our dear brother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived to save us. They had TWO Paint Sticks and they worked WONDERFULLY! Whoever was pulling water from the pit was able to sit on a folding chair and pull out the water. No more sore knees and aching back. And, with two Paint Sticks going, the water was being pulled out of the pit twice as fast! I made a quick phone call to our son and his girlfriend and told them to stop searching for pumps and come home to begin the "bucket brigade" of the small and large buckets up the stairs. Thank goodness for their young bodies; as I think dear hubby and dear brother-in-law were exhausted after only eight buckets between them. None of us are "spring chickens" anymore, and I can't imagine the strain on them carrying 5 gallons of water in one haul!
Eventually the power came back on and our electric sump pump made quick work of the water. In less than 10 minutes our sump pit level was way down and the water that had been filling the French drains almost to overflowing was completely gone. We had survived the storm, virtually unscathed.
So, what did we learn? Overall our emergency preps were adequate, except for our water scooping and our inability to sleep without our CPAP machines. Hopefully before the next emergency we can procure either a generator or marine batteries to power our electric sump pump and our two CPAP machines. I would also like to buy another Paint Stick just in case. Prior to Sandy we had very different ideas of what in our home needed preservation through a storm. After a long sleepless night and battle with rising water I cared very little whether the food in our fridge or freezer spoiled. Yes, I would hate to see that much costly food ruined, but a night filled with apnea events and water on the verge of spilling into our basement set our priorities straight. As long as we have adequate stock in our pantry and adequate bottled water we can survive the length of the storm and its aftermath; even if we had to eat our canned food cold! But, maintaining our health and a dry shelter over our heads are necessities that can't be compromised.
One other "prep" item that proved invaluable during the storm was a package of 3 "head lanterns" that we picked up right before the storm (another one of hubby's brilliant ideas). Having light projected in front of you, while still maintaining use of both hands, was an absolute godsend. Dear son had also picked up a few glow sticks, which we hung around the family room to provide some light once the power went out. While not enough light to read by, there was certainly enough illumination to safely walk through the house. I think I will pick up a set of head lanterns for my folks and aunt and also a few packs of glow sticks for both of our household emergency kits.
Live and learn.....