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October 25, 2012

After Irene
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:44 PM * 96 comments

A year and two months ago (see: Hurricane Lantern) Hurricane Irene was heading up the east coast of the US, looking to make landfall in the New York City area.

Today we have another Hurricane, Sandy, following much the same track. This time around, however, we’re looking at higher high tides (full moon; spring tides), and the possibility that Sandy will join with a nor’easter to bring snow and even more wind and rain to the region. Expect high winds, heavy seas, flooding, power outages, downed trees, and impassible roads. I can tell you that folks in Vermont are not happy tonight.

At Gowanus Bay, New York, on Monday, 29 October, Higher High Water (+5.5 feet above datum) is at 0814. Lower High Water (+4.88 feet) is at 2035. On Tuesday, 30 October, Higher High Water (+5.49 feet) is at 0849. Lower High Water (+4.74 feet) is at 2115. On Wednesday, 31 October, Higher High Water (+5.37 feet) is at 0922. Lower High Water (+4.55 feet) is at 2155.

The New York Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has a handy ready-for-hurricane guide.

We know the drill. Gather supplies, stand by to shelter in place, but know your evacuation zone and, if an evacuation order comes, get out. Have a plan in place on where you’ll go and how you’ll get there. Make sure you have communications set up so your nearest-and-dearest will know where you’ll be and how to get in touch with you.

The day may come when you’ll be tempted to drive through flowing water. Resist that urge. Your body may never be found. Do not drive through still water either, unless you have no other alternative. Half of all flood fatalities in the USA are vehicle-related. Flood-preparedness pamphlet from NOAA.

Be careful with heating, cooking, and light sources powered by flame. Cold coffee won’t kill you. Carbon monoxide (or a house fire) will.

List of useful Making Light posts here.

Post full of external links about hurricanes in general and Sandy in particular here.

Comments on After Irene:
#1 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:16 AM:

Please, let it NOT be like last year's Halloween storm in Connecticut.

Yes, we have all the gear now -- picnic cooler, small propane burner, LED camping lanterns with detachable lights, hand-cranked emergency radio -- but those nine days without power were miserable. If for some reason the power goes out and it DOESN'T get restored quickly at the town library and the Panera, it will be even more horrid.

I know. Nothing anywhere near what Vermont went through. But... we do still have a lot of leaves on our trees, and if snow hits again? Argh.

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:57 AM:

My parents and siblings all live back thar. I assume they know the drill by now.

#3 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 02:36 AM:

This time of year the temperatures in New England can be crisp.

Folks who rely on electric heat (or whose furnaces don't work if the electricity is out) might want to have some nice sleeping bags (down or Hollofil) to keep hypothermia at bay.

#4 ::: Laura Eilers ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 07:00 AM:

Once again I'm on the outer edge of the storm so maybe all I'll see is a lot of rain, but I'm prepared for a big hurricane anyway. You never know!

#5 ::: Alison ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 08:01 AM:

Thanks for the reminders, Jim. I had planned to pick up a few extra things at the grocery store in case the power goes out, but this reminded me that I haven't been through my go bag since March and that I should top off my tank. I'm in the DC area and might not even get hit, but being prepared is always a good reminder. And after the storm in July and the derecho in September, our house became a haven so I may as well plan for that now too.

#6 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 08:50 AM:

Stay safe, everyone.

I'm breathing a sigh of relief down here in Georgia. Tomorrow is the annual Georgia/Florida football game; also known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, it's held in Jacksonville and features 80,000 even-rowdier-than-usual fans*, many of whom are intoxicated, and at least one of whom will probably die trying to jump from one hotel balcony to the next.

I am so, so grateful that they will not have to try to evacuate those 80,000 fans. At least not this year.

*Those are just the ones inside the stadium; there are a good many more outside tailgating.

#7 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 09:30 AM:

The most recent tracks (updated 8 AM EDT on 10/26) have Sandy making an earlier and sharper left turn, making landfall on the Delmarva peninsula (near the DE/MD border). It's far enough out that the cone is still very broad, but people in the DC area definitely need to keep a close eye on this one as well (especially given the unreliability of the local electrical utilities.)

Current forecast track is at the NHC.

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 09:40 AM:

Sandy's already caused deaths in Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas. The possibility of a superstorm is rather scary.

Friends in Jamaica have reported quite a bit of local damage.

#9 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 09:45 AM:

Folks who are interested in a geeky weather blog will want to read this:

as it's written by someone who's in the target zone for a couple feet of snow, if the worst-case models match reality.

It was 80 here yesterday.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 09:48 AM:

Indeed, shelter may not protect you:

#11 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 10:38 AM:

I've just canceled my flight to Columbus and my OVFF hotel reservation. If I were driving and could choose my departure time, I might have risked it, but my tickets had me returning to LaGuardia Monday. If this does hit as hard as they're predicting, it might be a few days before the NYC area airports reopen. I didn't fancy getting stuck in an airport in another city during the storm, especially since it would force my bunnysitter to go out in the storm to take care of my buns.

Unfortunately, I will have a rebooking penalty on the credit from the airlines because they won't see Sandy as a threat to the Northeast until after I would have been in Columbus at least 24 hours. I understand this, but it didn't make the decision any easier (at least I won't be paying for the hotel/meals/airport parking).

In the end I'm comfortable with my decision, though I would have liked to go to OVFF, I've got plenty to do at home (much of which is not dependant on electricity, like knitting and reading).

On another note, this is my first storm with the new refrigerator with water dispenser. I've been relying on that but I think I still have my pitchers somewhere. I should fill those today or tomorrow. On the other hand, all my gadgets/spare batteries were recharged for the trip and I just went to the supermarket (I have spoiled bunnies who expect fresh greens with their meals, so I end up going shopping before I go away).

#12 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 10:56 AM:

A local grocery store has started carrying dry ice, which would have been really handy after the July 1 gust front/derecho/tornado-force straight-line winds knocked out power to a large swath of Chicago's suburbs for a week or more last July. Ice in a cooler works well for your refrigerator's contents, but the freezer stuff slowly thaws. Dry ice in a cooler would have been great for that, not to mention less liquid.

I was lucky: I got power back after only 16 hours, and I had a key to the office where I work, which a) didn't lose power, and b) has a break-room fridge/freezer, so I was able to bundle everything over there, being c) the first (actually only) one to think of it.

In any case, if you happen to know of a supplier of dry ice, it's something to bear in mind should your power go out for what you suspect will be a long time.

#13 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 11:54 AM:

Cally Soukup @12, that's a little hlepy; I've gone to five different stores just looking for ice at the beginning of a five-day power outage. What are the odds that anyone will have dry ice in stock? <wry>

#14 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:06 PM:

Grocery shopping completed, with extra canned soups (and extra peanut butter), and NO frozen foods this run. Batteries (for camping lanterns) and propane (for small party grill) acquired. Batteries tested in CO monitor, re: propane grill. (Mind you, I cannot see how using it for the brief periods required to heat soup or boil a teakettle would be worse than a regular gas stove. And it sits on a metal-topped table when in use.) Gas tank full. No sleeping bags, but we have lots of blankets and also hot water bottles. All extra sport bottles filled with water & put in freezer to become ice packs for cooler. We also have nearly a full box of Shabbat candles and plenty of empty pasta-sauce bottles to be moderately secure candleholders, and I''ve got fresh clicky-lighters and matches.

We're about as prepared as we CAN be, given our budget limitations. And I have books and knitting projects.

And if nothing awful happens, we'll be ahead of the game for winter storms. (I found a woolly bear caterpillar in my kitchen last week. It had a pretty short brown section. I hope that's an old wives' tale, but if not, well. Prepared.)

#15 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Let my family's experiences be a warning to you: don't use dry ice to cool your cooler if you have tomatoes or eggs in in. Mom did that once with a camper's cooler/icebox. Not a good idea.

#16 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Let my family's experiences be a warning to you: don't use dry ice to cool your cooler if you have tomatoes or eggs in in. Mom did that once with a camper's cooler/icebox. Not a good idea.

#17 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:25 PM:

Also, my mouse button sucks.

#18 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:39 PM:

Cally @12, Cassy @13: our plan is to buy ice (regular 10-lb blocks, rather than dry ice) before the storm hits. It won't last quite as long, but it means we will actually have some. (This may still not work, but it's more likely to be successful than waiting until after we lose power.)

#19 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:40 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @17, perhaps the dry ice froze your mouse button, like the late lamented eggs and tomatoes....? <grin>

#20 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:44 PM:

Bruce, yeah, I wouldn't use dry ice for anything that wasn't already frozen. Cleaning up the burst eggs must have been not-fun!

Cassy, I found (water) ice after that storm (and not immediately after, either; about five hours after) at the very first store I went to. Different towns, different grocery supply chains. In any case, it's something to bear in mind in case it might help.

#21 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 01:01 PM:

Thanks, Cally. That was genuinely helpful.

#22 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 03:37 PM:

Some friends put dry ice in their (metal and plastic) cooler for a car trip. The only thing that was a problem were the cantaloupes, which were FIZZY. Apparently carbon dioxide will permeate a cantaloupe under only moderate pressure.

We had the freak snowstorm, then the hurricane, now we have the freak snowstormicane? TANJ.

#23 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 03:41 PM:

I'd be worried about a dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide in the interior of a car with dry ice in the cooler (unless the cooler were in the trunk). Jim, am I being paranoid?

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 03:46 PM:

Living in the incredible mile Tualatin / Willamette River Valley, I occasionally feel nostalgic for Long Island's thunderstorms and occasional good cracking windstorm.

But not things like this. I was living in Stony Brook when Hurricane Gloria elbowed her way through. What an incredible mess!

#25 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Has this been posted?

New York City Evacuation Zones:

#26 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 04:25 PM:

So, yeah, Irene destroyed my office. I'm barely getting back into some semblance of normal.

But at least we know global warming isn't real--or if it is, it's definitely not manmade. And if it is, it's definitely a good thing.

#27 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 04:32 PM:

CO2 would be safer in the trunk. If I had a cooler with dry ice inside a car, I'd keep a window open to ensure air circulation. For a cooler that I was going to be opening and closing to pull out cold soda-pop, I'd use water ice instead. Less danger of accidental frostbite from touching the stuff.

Here're some dry ice safety tips:

TRANSPORT DRY ICE IN YOUR VEHICLE TRUNK OR TRUCK BED. Leave windows open for fresh air circulation. Never leave dry ice in a parked passenger vehicle. Sublimation of dry ice in a closed passenger vehicle can result in the accumulation of dangerous concentrations of asphyxiating carbon dioxide vapor. Dry ice can be safely transported without special ventilation in the closed cargo area of a truck if all occupants are restricted to the cab. When opening a closed cargo area containing dry ice, allow the closed space to ventilate for 5 minutes before entering.


DO NOT PLACE DRY ICE IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH PERISHABLE FOODS OR BOTTLED/CANNED BEVERAGES. Produce may sustain severe freezer burns and bottle/canned beverages may split or explode.

Full article here.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 06:03 PM:

@Howard: My parents and brother have homes in the Catskills area, and my parents visit friends way upstate. The mess that Irene made up there sounded legendary. I hope this one gives you a pass. Take care . . .

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 06:45 PM:

Now I want fizzy cantaloupe.

I'm finding myself disturbed by statements like "the storm could stall over the area for five or six days," and "This is not being overhyped. I would use the terms devastating and historic." (The latter quote comes from Accuweather's Bernie Rayno.)

Most of our preparations for Hurricane Irene are still in place. My landlord and I kicked around the idea of getting more sandbags, but decided that if Things Get Bad, we'll barricade with cinderblocks instead -- there's already a big stack of them in the back yard. I've been thinking about putting baffles across the two garden pathways that run directly down into our floodable backyard area. It could slow down the runoff. (Not acceptable: channeling one's flood runoff into one's neighbors' yards.)

I'm not sure about ice. They were predicting sleet and snow. If that comes to pass, the stairwell to our front basement door will become a refrigerator. If temperatures don't drop ... okay, I should probably lay in some ice.

Candles: After the last major power outage, I bought a carton of odd-lot seconds from a factory that went out of business. They're ecclesiastical candles, 51% beeswax/49% high-grade synthetic wax. None of them are strictly regular, and some were so dinged up that I recycled them into emergency jar candles, but they all work.

(Emergency jar candle: Put a candle wick or taper into a pint- or quart-size canning jar. Fill the jar with wax. (This will be less exciting if the glass isn't cold.) Fill again -- the wax leaves a cavity as it cools and shrinks. Repeat until full by anyone's reckoning who isn't Zeno. Seal a book of matches into a small ziploc bag, put it on top of the candle, and screw down the lid.)

Patrick has rechecked the uninterruptible power supply and the household supply of batteries, and is charging up all the gadgets. I understand there are clever things one can do with car batteries, but I don't know how that works.

Our gas stove kept working the last time the power was out. I just had to light it with a match.

If the furnace stops working, we'll bundle up. This row house is unusually solid and well-maintained. It takes a few days with no heat for the interior temperature to get really uncomfortable.

#30 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 06:51 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 24:
Living in the incredible mild Tualatin / Willamette River Valley, I occasionally feel nostalgic for Long Island's thunderstorms and occasional good cracking windstorm.

Me, too. Well, nostalgic for Pennsylvania's good cracking thunderstorms. I just hope that when the magnitude 9 earthquake hits, and evens up the score for our mild weather, that I'm not around!

Good luck to the northeast, and all who sail in her.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 07:09 PM:

Stefan @28: If one measure of a flood is the age of the structures it destroys, Irene's impact in New England was mighty and dreadful. It flooded 200- and 250-year-old buildings, and took out a shocking number of covered bridges.

New Jersey's riverfront cities flooded hard days after the hurricane.

We got off lightly because Irene passed through fast, and because we have that big saltwater storm drain at the ends of our streets. Flooding was far worse when much smaller storms stalled over the city for a few hours. No one knows what will happen if this storm stalls over us for days.

#32 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 08:04 PM:

I want fizzy cantaloupe now, too.

I remember a radio murder mystery (Nick and Nora Charles, maybe?) where the murder weapon was dry ice in a car (ostensibly to keep ice cream cold, if I remember correctly), and another where the weapon was dry ice in a champagne bucket. The car I can almost see, if it was well-sealed and there was enough CO2, but a mere champagne bucket full of chunks of dry ice (and they didn't notice the frozen champagne? Or the lack of water at the bottom?) doesn't seem like nearly enough for even a small apartment.

Hmm. I wonder if strawberries fizz?

#33 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 08:19 PM:

Cally@32, As you know, I don't much care for cantaloupe. I wonder if it works with watermelon....?

#34 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 08:29 PM:

There was a sort of micro-trend of fizzy whole fruit a couple of years back, produced that way. It was meant to make fresh fruit more appealing to grade-school kids when offered with their school lunches.

I think you can actually use a food-grade syringe and the CO2 chargers meant for seltzer bottles, rather than having to locate dry ice. I'm sure it's on the internet somewhere.

#35 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 08:37 PM:

We've been using dry ice frequently over the past year or two to keep certain perishable items frozen as we traveled (on planes and in hotels without recourse to a freezer). Here are some tips:

- If you can, find a medical-grade foam cooler meant for shipping - it will have nice thick walls and will come inside a snug-fitting cardboard box. If you close up the box, you will have a very well-sealed system that is easy to transport. Otherwise, find a cardboard box that is somewhat larger than your cooler and use towels to pad the excess space.

- Keep the dry ice in its plastic bag, and optimally wrap that in a cut-down paper grocery bag. It will be a lot easier to handle.

- To refrigerate but not freeze items, place the dry ice in the bottom of the cooler and place a small folded towel over it: put items on top of the towel.

- To freeze things, place items in the cooler and place the dry ice at the top of the cooler.

Incidentally, you can check as baggage on a plane your well-packed cooler, as long as it contains less than 5.5 pounds (aka 2 kg) of dry ice. The foam cooler lid must be loose (to allow escape of gases instead of exploding), while you can tape the cardboard box to prevent loss of contents (see prior note about padding with towels). You must declare the dry ice at check-in, and there will be a form they fill out and a sticker on the box. Many desk staff at airlines don't know about these rules, so give them extra time to run around and confer with each other and check the rule book.

We found in travelling that a normal chunk of dry ice (about 8 pounds as usually sold) would keep previously-frozen things in a frozen-solid state for 24-36 hours, depending on outside temperatures, before the dry ice completely sublimated away. This is based on a cooler roughly 18x12x12 inches, filled full, and opened only once or twice a day.

#36 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 09:11 PM:

Total side thought: everybody up there vote early!

#37 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 09:25 PM:

joann, 36: I was shocked to discover that NY doesn't allow excuse-free early voting. Grrrrrr.

#39 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 10:27 PM:

By the looks of things it'll start raining in NYC sometime late Saturday/early Sunday, and not quit 'til Friday. When the main storm arrives on Tuesday the ground should be good and sodden.

Howard #26:

But at least we know global warming isn't real--or if it is, it's definitely not manmade. And if it is, it's definitely a good thing.

And if it isn't a good thing then it'll cost too much to fix it, and if cost isn't an object ... then it's too late to do anything.

#40 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 11:24 PM:

Boy, that sounds like your warm-up will be the equivalent of what causes the worst damage in Seattle: two Pineapple Expresses in a row to thoroughly wet the soil under the trees and then a strong windstorm afterwards. Well, at least you're unlikely to have snow as well: if we get that after two PE's then the city has to shut down for a couple of days while all the trees that have wiped out the powerlines get cut away and the power restored.

#41 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 11:43 PM:

Re dry ice in the trunk of a car: In most cars, the trunk lid seals fairly tightly with weatherstripping, while the connection between the trunk and the interior is not especially well-sealed. Don't assume that just because the dry ice is in the trunk, none of the CO2 will get into the passenger compartment -- leaving a window at least partly open is still likely to be a good idea.

Even on cars without "pass-throughs" to get from the interior into the trunk, the barrier from the back seat to the trunk is usually just upholstery and cardboard stiffener and a little carpet; not a metal panel.

#42 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 12:19 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II (40): Most of the trees here are still partially to fully leafed out, so a lot of them are likely to fall over with heavy rains and high winds. The Long Island Power Authority is gearing up for widespread power loss, mainly from downed trees.

Teresa (38): Yep, if we get the possible six foot rise, I'm (very sodden) toast. Thought so.

#43 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 02:27 AM:

Teresa 29, Cally 32: It does sound interesting, doesn't it? But they assured me it was not (except for values of 'interesting' more or less equivalent to 'nasty').

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 02:39 AM:

Jim, I've started a second thread that's all links.

#45 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 10:16 AM:

Thanks, Teresa.

Meanwhile, anyone in the area of this storm, now would be a great time to clean your gutters and downspouts and remove objects that could become wind-borne missiles from your yards.

#46 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 11:23 AM:

PSNH (Public Service of New Hampshire) is on top of things, or at least is trying to be; they just sent out a mass e-mailing to their customers:

One year after the historic October Nor'easter, New England is again threatened by a major storm. PSNH is making preparations and we want to make sure you have the information you need to be prepared as well.

If you experience an outage, please call 800-662-7764 or go to (via PC or mobile device) to report it. It's important that you report an outage even if you think your neighbors may have already reported it. The more information we have, the better we are able to improve our assessment of damage and make repairs.
Most important, please stay safe. If you see a downed power line, always assume it's live; do not go near it, and never drive over the line.
Please know that PSNH is ready for the storm and will work around the clock to restore power to your home or business.

Thank you.

Helpful Hints:

Prepare a storm kit and keep it handy. Visit our website for a list of supplies.
If you use a generator, follow all safety precautions provided by the manufacturer.
If you use a cell phone, save your power or have a plan to be able to charge the phone.
Gather all necessary medications and make sure you have an adequate supply.
If you rely on oxygen please be sure you have an ample supply on hand.
If you, a friend or family member relies on electricity for life support devices, well water or refrigeration for medications, please make preparations now to switch to a backup source or move to an alternate location. It's also a good idea to have a battery back-up for medical equipment.
For information on emergency disaster services, including shelters, please contact the American Red Cross at 800-733-2767 (800-RED-CROSS) or online at

They followed that up with a robo-call giving essentially the same information.

#47 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 12:11 PM:

Teresa, I have been wondering a thing about the hamster. Would using those portable handwarmers be feasible for hamster heating in the case of a power outage, or is there no power in the 'verse that can stop a hammie from nibbling the darn things open?

Please give my best to her hamsterself, and keep some for you and that guy you hang out with.

#48 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 01:23 PM:

Yipes -- most likely, I'll barely get brushed, but looks nasty.

#49 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 01:54 PM:

I'm worried about the early rain and winds before the storm proper.

I'm scheduled to take my kid to a campus open house at Hofstra tomorrow. But I'm not feeling good about the drive from the Hartford area to Long Island, especially since we'll have to get up VERY early and I'll be pretty tired by the time we'll start the drive home.

Any thoughts?

#50 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 02:41 PM:

Rikibeth, looks like about a three-hour drive for you? Things should be fairly free-and-open 'til past 1900 tomorrow evening, though it will be raining, and you'll be driving away from the coast, so that'll be good too.

Add 50% for traffic and weather delays, so ... your drop-dead time for leaving Hofstra would be about 1430.

Make your last stop before you pull into your driveway be a gas station to re-fill your tank.

#51 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 05:38 PM:

Jim, we've decided to bail. There are other open houses scheduled.

#52 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 06:01 PM:

Probably a good call, Rikibeth. If the question arises in your mind, "Should I turn back?" the answer is "Yes!"

#53 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 08:04 PM:

A tip for cooking during a power outage -- if you have a way to boil water but limited fuel (perhaps you only have a couple bottles of propane for a camp stove, or whatever), and you have meat in the freezer you need to cook, use a pressure cooker. You can throw the meat in frozen and it'll generally be done and tender in a fraction of the time and with far less fuel than you'd otherwise need.

The broth that results can also be used for stock for soup with whatever bits of roast are leftover.

It's a quick way to make a tough, frozen roast quickly edible without using all your propane up.

(Err, use a modern pressure cooker, not Grandma's antique. The modern ones are MUCH safer.)

#54 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 10:24 PM:

I spent a good part of today going through our emergency supplies (based on lists I created from Jim's previous posts - thanks!) and discovering that most of the medicines and all of the foodstuffs had expired. Oops. It's been far longer since I checked than I realized.

We remedied most of that in a trip to the grocery store this evening. At our local grocery in northern Virginia, there was still plenty of food on the shelves and plenty of bottled water in 20-ounce bottles, but very few jugs of water.

Tomorrow we're taking care of anything left in our little yard that might pose a hazard. Makes me wish we had shutters to close. Which reminds me: We have a wooden picnic table that's all thin slats, and a wrought iron patio set. Will turning the tables over so their heavy sides are flat on the ground do, or should we actually tie them to things?

We were lucky during the derecho and didn't lose power. Our power company (NOVEC) is one of the good ones and we've yet to lose power with them, but now I'm kind of regretting not picking up some ice. I guess we should prepare a cooler just in case...

#55 ::: Dave Trowbridge ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 11:31 PM:

I get the impression, from following threads like this for years on Making Light and its predecessors, that power failures due to extreme weather are getting more frequent in the Northeast. Is that a correct impression?

Out here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we expect to be off the grid anywhere from 3 to 5 days a year, minimum, so a generator seems a reasonable investment, whether a portable or, as in our case, a standby rig that runs off natural gas and takes over automatically. (Since Deborah and I are writers who work out of our home, the generator was a business expense, as is its maintenance.) Of course, that presupposes a place to put it, portable or otherwise, which likely isn't an option for many city dwellers.

But I'm wondering if generators are becoming a more reasonable decision for folks out there?

#56 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 01:52 AM:

Persephone @ #54, have you got crawl space under the house? That's where I stashed some lawn furniture during Hurricane Iniki; the rest of it I brought inside (but we've got 2,500sf of interior room).

#57 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:31 AM:

Not sure whether this is any use to anyone or not, but just a general note of warning that I can remember from back in my primary school days for tropical cyclones (and tail ends thereof) crossing the coast here in Western Australia.

Basically, the thing that pulls roofs off houses is the difference in air pressure between the inside of the house and the outside of the house. So, ideally, in a storm situation where the barometric pressure is going to drop a great deal, the trick to keeping the roof ON your house is to leave at least one window open a bit, in order to equalise things. Here in .au, it seems to be a regular thing across the various states to have the toilet/lavatory/water closet/bathroom window constructed in such a way that there's a 10cm opening at the top of the window which is screened, but not glassed. Thus, airflow is maintained, and pressures internal and external are equalised.

Best of luck to all those in the storm's path.

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 04:15 AM:

Dave Trowbridge, our local Home Depot now has a permanent six-foot-high infographic sign explaining all the different generator options they'll sell you. They're also getting more retail-consumerish about water pumps.

#59 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 08:08 AM:

Rikibeth, I'm glad you decided to stay put--but if you hadn't, Hofstra's not that far from here. (It still won't be, after those other open houses. IJS.)

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 09:24 AM:

Elise @47: I've wondered about those chemical handwarmers for hamsters, and come to the same conclusion: if there's any chance they'll gnaw on them, it's not a good idea.

Hamsters cope better with a cold house than they do with too much heat in the summer. If it gets chilly in here, I'll give Herself an extra handful of bedding-fluff, and add some shelled pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to her regular chow.


Patrick-chow is more problematical -- he's just now realized that his stash of tinned fish is low. Wish we'd known that when we went to Fairway yesterday. Or maybe not; you'll recall how good they are at selling delectable but pricey imports.

#61 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 09:42 AM:

Linkmeister @56, we don't, but we do have a finished basement. (It's a townhouse of the sort that has a bedroom, bathroom, laundry and den down there.) Our house is smaller than yours, but we could probably squeeze all the patio furniture in. Our yard is fenced and pretty sheltered, so I wouldn't think even 60-mph gusts would be enough to throw the wrought iron* around, but I'm willing to deal with the inconvenience for a few days.

People here seem to be in two camps: "The world is ending, better stock up on EVERYTHING" and "Meh, it can't be that bad." There are lots of Halloween decorations still up in yards, and lots of empty shelves in stores. I'm a worrier, so I'm trying to both be prepared and not go ridiculously overboard.

*Actually cast aluminum, as I just remembered. This is modern furniture from the hardware store.

#62 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 10:02 AM:

TexAnne (59): Hofstra's not all that far from here, either.

#63 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 10:09 AM:

Nassau County, Long Island hasn't called for a general evacuation of the South Shore (yet), or even opened shelters afaict, but they have started evacuating the hospital and nursing homes in Long Beach. That was the deciding factor for me; I'm going to my sister's place in Brooklyn to ride out the storm. (Leaving mid-afternoon; she's out for most of the day.) I live in a second floor apartment, but my car doesn't. Irene's flooding would have killed my car if I'd stayed here; Sandy is shaping up to be worse.

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 10:14 AM:

Mary Aileen: Where in Brooklyn?

#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 10:18 AM:

The Gov just announced that the subway will be shut down at 7:00 p.m. today.

#66 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 11:02 AM:

Not just the subway, also bus service.

MTA New York City Transit/MTA Bus reminds customers that all bus and subway services will begin an orderly suspension of service at 7 p.m. this evening for subways, and 9:00 p.m. for buses in anticipation of the high winds and heavy rains driven by Hurricane Sandy.

Basically, all public transport in the city will halt at 7pm tonight.

#67 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 11:58 AM:

It doesn't seem to be on yet, but in Bloomberg's press conference (recording available at, he ordered a mandatory evacuation of zone A due to storm surge risk. The announcement that he's going to sign an evacuation order comes at 26:35.

The order is effective *tonight* because of the early surge expected tonight.

#68 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 12:00 PM:

Megpie71 @ 57

Actually, the whole "open windows" thing turns out to be a myth. Even in a tornado, where the air pressure differential can be much larger than in a hurricane, it's not the air pressure differential that lifts the roof off, it's the hammer blow of the winds hitting the roof. If there's any upward component to the wind vector when the wind hits the eaves, up it goes. Eaves make a nice big leveragy handle. Open windows can actually make this worse, by giving the winds an internal path to push up from the inside.

I live on the edges of Tornado Alley, and the Official Word for at least the last ten years or so is NOT to open windows in the event of a tornado. It can only make things worse.

Houses are actually quite leaky; most houses even have vents in the roof. "The engineering team at Texas Tech's Institute for Disaster Research (Minor et al., 1977) point out that the pressure drop inside a tornado with 260 mph winds is only about 10%, or just 1.4 pounds per square inch. Most buildings can vent this difference through its normal openings in about three seconds." LINKSeriously, air pressure differentials are the least of your problems. Branches and lawn furniture and such carried by the winds are much more dangerous. Though they'll be happy to provide extra house ventilation, should it become necessary.

All my "severe wind weather" knowledge is centered on tornadoes, because that's what we get around here, but I'd be really surprised if it didn't generalize to hurricanes.

#69 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 12:19 PM:

Teresa (64): Central Brooklyn, E. 21st near Flatbush. She's right at the edge of Zone C, but as long as this doesn't turn into a Cat 4 we should be fine.

Meanwhile, Long Beach, Long Island just called for a voluntary evacuation. No word from the county yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

#70 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Quick question: I finally figured out how to manually light the pilot light in my oven (gas) last night. However, it requires taking the floor out to get at it. If the power goes off, I'm considering lighting it and setting the oven to warm (except when I'm using it to cook) until the power comes back on. Assuming I'd shut it off at night, is this a reasonably safe alternative to having to relight it any time I use it?

#71 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 12:26 PM:

Update: Nassau County just called a mandatory evacuation of the South Shore, starting NOW.

I can't leave yet; my sister won't be home for another three hours. (Also, I'm not packed.)

#72 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 01:00 PM:

Texanne, it's also not that far from my brother, and I am under some familial flak for not visiting him (and my nieces) enough. Perhaps if I can figure out how to balance both? I'm sure the teenager would enjoy talking knitting with you! Far more than dealing with tween cousins.

#73 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 01:10 PM:

Hilary @70, I'd wonder about ventilation -- if the power is out, do you lose an exhaust fan that normally comes on when you cook, or do you not have such a fan under normal circumstances?

And do you have a carbon monoxide detector?

Still, as long as you're not leaving the oven door open in an attempt to warm the house with it, it doesn't seem too risky to me. I've made brisket recipes that call for six- or eight-hour cooking times at 200-degree temps, with no ill effects to the household. Then again, that was in an 1897 house with very leaky windows, and I think ten-foot ceilings in the kitchen. Maybe twelve.

Might as well cook a brisket while you're at it?

#74 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 01:17 PM:

Just to cheer the New Yorkers: Mighty Day (about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900).

The pressure in Sandy when it hits the coast is predicted to be 945-950 millibars. In the Great Hurricane of '38 the lowest recorded pressure was 946 millibars.

The Great Hurricane of '38 was a Cat 3 when it hit Long Island, and was still a Cat 1 when it reached Vermont. On the other hand, structures that survived the Great Hurricane of '38 were washed away by Irene, which was just a Tropical Storm by the time it reached Vermont.

The most worrisome thing for me is the possibility that Sandy will reach the tri-state area -- and just sit there.

What this works out to is ... this is an unprecedented storm with unpredictable results. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and be of good cheer throughout.

#75 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 01:48 PM:

It was hard (I really should have moved the dining table) but I finally brought in the chairs and other stuff I keep on the terrace. (Three plastic chairs, two metal chairs and plant pots and planting stuff.)

Teresa and Robert West: Thanks for the info on NYC mass transit. Even though I'm not planning on going out this evening, it's nice to know what's happening.

#76 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:18 PM:

Rikibeth @73 - No fan usually. Apartment is pretty well ventilated, and if I smell gas it would go off. I do have a carbon monoxide detector, but I need to make sure the back up battery works.

If I leave it on, I suspect I'll do stew rather than brisket (as I've got lamb and possibly beef in the freezer), possibly a shepherd's pie (as I've got ground beef) and some baking.

#77 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:18 PM:

The bicycle is indoors, and there's a reasonable collection of supplies. Laundry is in progress.

I live on a short east-west street. I'd like to think this will blunt the wind at ground level. Am I kidding myself?

#78 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:24 PM:

I was checking Nate Silver's blog from the links at the Frankenstorm post above, and he's revised his estimate of the likelihood of parts of the NYC subway system flooding from storm surge. He was estimating a 30% chance. He's now estimating a 50% chance.

Good Lord. If it happens, that's going to be a lot of cleaning up to do.

Stay safe, you guys.

#79 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:28 PM:

Er, I mean, Dr. Jeff Masters' blog, the guy some call the Nate Silver of meteorology.

Sorry 'bout that.

#80 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:33 PM:

PurpleGirl: You're welcome. Be safe.

During my first NYC hurricane, I forgot to bring in the bathmat that was drying on our fire escape. It went to Oz, but was replaced by someone else's flying bathmat.

Mary Aileen, bear in mind that that's about three miles due east of us.

We're in Zone C but not by much, and we're near the top of a long steep slope. I have yet to see a prediction that comes anywhere near what I know to be our elevation above sea level.

#81 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 04:37 PM:

Hang in there everybody.

#82 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 07:06 PM:

I'm now safe at my sister's. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to have started to rain here, yet. Although there were a few spitty bits as I drove here a few hours ago.

#83 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 07:18 PM:

Wow. Hoboken has just issued a mandatory evacuation order for ground-floor apartments. I don't think they even did that for Irene.

I live far, far above the ground floor. But I also live in the lowest-lying part of Hoboken (7 feet above sea level). Getting a little more worried now.

#84 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 07:27 PM:

Xopher @83, do you have somewhere else you can go? A friend's spare bedroom or something? (We worry...)

#85 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 08:10 PM:

Here in Maryland, we have had more wind than rain, and not very strong winds (yet). Most of the storm is offshore, and only started sending rain inland around 6 pm for me. The FG is further inland and north from me, so she will probably not see very much of anything.

I shoved the lawn furniture and several garbage cans down the stairs to the basement exit; the rest got tied to the fence. Alas, the Son was using the chainsaw this morning and did not know how to fix the chain after it slipped off (I will search online for the instructions that mysteriously did not get included).

The Federal Government has already indicated it will be closed tomorrow, which will make my commute to work much easier. I plan to leave home early, before the high wind warning goes into effect (at 8 am); I hope that I will be able to leave work without too much trouble from the winds.

#86 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 08:24 PM:

Stay safe, everyone.

#87 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 08:29 PM:

Meanwhile here in Md. the east half of the state is basically closed. And I have a roof again, but no front gutter. I've juryrigged a short piece of wooden gutter to catch the water from the corner nearest the front door since it's pretty clear that if that is allowed run free, it will flood part of the basement. Next question is exactly when we lose power.

#88 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 09:57 PM:

Stay safe, Charlie. You and Byrd.

#89 ::: Dawn Bonanno ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 10:16 PM:

It's so quiet right now, you'd think nothing was going to happen, even though we're supposed to get hit twice in Brooklyn.

You should be safe in C. We're in B, one block out of A but on a 2nd level, so hopefully will stay dry.

Best to everyone. Here's hoping Sandy flakes out sooner rather than later.

#90 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 12:24 AM:

Finding dry ice: the last time I had to (for a fog machine), I went to the nearby cheap-icecream manufacturer. (For those who know Boston: that was Hood in Charlestown, but I suspect that plant closed a while ago.) Not an option for everyone, but may help a few people. Back then chemistry labs could get regular deliveries of dry ice, but I had no luck finding someone who'd sell to civilians.

Boston got sprinkles several hours before forecast, but hasn't gotten anything since -- but the city and my office (in a near suburb) are both closed tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what happens for the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto; the storm per se doesn't seem likely to cause trouble that far inland, but I understand a lot of people besides us were planning on driving through areas the storm may settle in.

#91 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 02:31 AM:

I'm a bit worried about a couple of my in-laws. They were in NYC for a wedding, and wisely decided to flee -- but, with no flights, that means an unplanned road trip back to Texas in a rental car. They're currently in the southwest end of Virginia in a motel, posting about the fact that it's started snowing....

Y'all stay safe up there, ok?

#92 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 08:01 AM:

I got a call before dawn that the library where I work will be closed because the village has requested that people stay off the streets. Today is supposedly a vacation day for me, but I'm responsible for the library's website and emails so I've been busy doing web things since I woke up.

I have now had two compliments (immediate boss and director) for including a handful of emergency services links in the email. We're a library; I don't understand why this wasn't the obvious thing to do. But then I also don't understand the mindset that had the director saying yesterday that we'd be open unless we lost power. NYC is shutting down and you think it's going to be safe to open? You do remember that we have staff members who don't live in the village? /rant over

As of now, I've still got power, however my apartment is hot enough that I'm going to have to crack the patio door despite the storm. It's sheltered by tall bushes so it should be fine for now.

#93 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 09:17 AM:

This storm system is so big that my mind is officially blown. Anything big enough to simultaneously cause flooding in New York City and Chicago is too big for me to imagine.

There are gale warning on Lake Michigan, and the National Weather Service is talking about waves building to 20 to 25 feet tonight and Tuesday, with occasional waves up to 33 feet. Holy Wah. And Ontario and Erie have significant warnings out too, of course. (Lake flooding is its own science, with winds like this.)

Stay safe everywhere, people, OK?

#94 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 10:42 AM:

The library where I work (right on the ocean) announced yesterday that we were closing a bit early that day (Sunday) and would remain closed "until further notice." Unprecedented. The Facebook post referred people to our website, "power permitting," but the server was already down when I went to look. (The library system headquarters building lost power in Irene, so shutting down the servers ahead of time makes sense.)

#95 ::: Mary Aileen has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 10:44 AM:

My last post is visiting the gnomes.

#96 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 01:42 PM:

Citing Sandy aid, Rand Paul fires back at Christie

“They’re precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and they’re ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme — give me all my Sandy money now,’” Paul said at a Tennessee fundraiser, where his remarks were taped by the Tennesseean. “Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense. So I think it’s those people who are making us weak in defense.”

Poor dear Rand seems to be unclear on what the words "national defense" actually mean.

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