Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene, soggy school supplies and smiles


We fled Irene and went to a friend's place, so we weren't sure what to expect coming home. Our neighbor had looked in through our basement window and said it was flooded, but she couldn't tell how much.

Meanwhile, we'd been seeing down power lines and serious flooding in the area where we were staying.
Yep, that's a person standing there. It's a street, not a pond.

A lot of people were saying reports of Irene were greatly exaggerated. The media did make it out to be Armageddon, and it could have been so much worse. But there was some serious flooding and damage in my neighborhood.


Where we shop for groceries

The underpass for the train I take to work. It completely filled up with water, and it's about 10 feet high. Creepy.

Our local Home Depot; it still hasn't reopened.

Getting home (we were about 1 & 1/2 hours away) proved to be quite the adventure; every time we tried a new route, some road was closed. The navigation system, which we are totally codependent on and which has surely saved our marriage more than once, wasn't doing us any good. "There's no way back right now!" a police officer at one roadblock informed us.

Then we stopped to get some drinks at a deli, Dave got into a conversation with a fireman, and he told us to go way west to head south. And it worked.

Our neighborhood looked like a mess—there were limbs and branches everywhere—but peaceful and calm in the sunlight. Our basement was a wreck. We have two halves, one finished and one unfinished. There's a sump pump in the finished half. The electricity went out. No sump pump.

Luckily, the water that flooded in had receded, and that was seriously lucky. Also, I had a lot of my father's stuff on the basement floor, and we got it to higher ground before we left. And the hot water heater was still working.

But the water got high, about a foot or more, and a lot of stuff got ruined.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the bottom part of the sofa was sopping wet.

One of the saddest things of all was Sabrina's school supplies. I'd actually found every single thing on this crazy-long list of stuff teachers had requested. But I left the bags sitting on the floor. Dripping wet notebooks, pencils, folders, you name it. Back to Staples I go.

We've been throwing out bags full of unsalvageable stuff (way to declutter!). We need one of those water damage companies, but their lists are hundreds of names long. It would be a good start to have a bunch of fans running to dry things out, but we can't get our hands on any.

So, we'll see. The power is back on. The water in our area needs to be boiled and the house smells like mildew, so we booked ourselves into a Ramada for a couple of nights. It is conveniently located right across the street from a Chuck E. Cheese's and next door to a car wash, and the kids could not be more ecstatic. They fell asleep last night in the same bed after a gigglefest and suddenly, things seemed OK.


  1. OMG. Ellen, I'm so sorry!! I can't believe those pictures - how devastating! I want you to know you are welcome to move in for a while. I know we're likely an hour or so away, but we'd be happy to have you. I feel so helpless from here. Can you order box fans off of Amazon and have them shipped to a friend or your hotel? Ugh - I feel for you so much. As always, though, I'm impressed with your attitude. Inspiring.

  2. That's awful about the flooding. Irene hit my area a day or two after I had left and moved into school. My friends on Facebook have shared scary pictures of high flood waters, damaged houses, and scary stories about people who got swept away and drowned in the floods. I'm glad to hear you guys are safe.

    It sucks about the possessions that got ruined. But they are easily replaced (except for sentimental ones but it looks like you got them safe).

    As Kate pretty much said: you have kept a positive attitude toward this and its amazing-not too many people could do that.

    Best of luck getting everything fixed/sorted out. Keep thinking positive and stay safe.

  3. I'm so sorry

    I hope you can save your belongings
    That's a good idea about ordering fans

    As for school supplies
    I'm a teacher
    I wouldn't expect my students to bring in all the supplies after a hurricane

    I was thinking
    This is usually camp Pontiac weekend

    Thank god they moved the date


  4. So thankful you have the means to rent a hotel, and were able to ride the storm out at a friends place. Wow. Hopefully you get things back to normal very soon.

  5. What a mess! Ugh! Sorry! I hope things get sorted out soon! Make sure you get a company in to totally dry out your house pronto! You do not want to get mold.

  6. I'd like to thank you for putting the reality check on the "overhyped" storm. I was in a similar experience once of storm aftermath (except for the personal loss of property: my condolences). The media does a good job of showing extreme circumstances, but doesn't really have the capability of showing moderate impact on a large number of people. You just can't show one photo that tells it all. It is going to be a long time before things are back to normal. People shouldn't be allowed to comment on how bad a storm was/wasn't unless they've experienced long-term power outage, eternal line-ups at gas stations, or "minor" damage in their own house!

  7. Wow, do you live near a river? Or the ocean? That looks like "storm surge" flooding to me!!! Scary!

    Here is a wonky suggestion--go WEST. Check out of that Ramada and go west about a hundred and fifty, two hundred miles--outside the hurricane area. Try to head for a tourist trap (er, location) that will be fun for the kids, like a zoo or play park or museum or something, but also try to find a place that's co-located with a Home Depot/Ace/Lowe's/Walmart some kind of Big Box store where you can buy yourself a few Big Box FANS!!! You'll probably have better luck if you do some travelling to find that kind of stuff. Also, don't rule out Big Box drug stores--a lot of times they have crazy crap that you need. Then, stay overnight and head back home to place those fans. When you're done with them, store them in the attic in a thick plastic bag!

    If you don't want to do that, hunker down at the Ramada, go to AMAZON and buy those fans online--they'll be on your porch by the time you get home if you get the pricy shipping!!!!! You might not get a bargain, but you will get those fans!


    To cut down the mold, spray the areas that got wet with a mix of diluted bleach--it won't be a cure all, but it will smack down the spores until the experts come to fix things. After they have finished, vacuum obsessively with a hepa filter vacuum (change out the filter when you are done) and you should be good to go.

    Keep telling yourself "It's just stuff." That's what I did in a similar situation where I unexpectedly lost some things I liked.

    I'm glad you made it through the hurricane safe and sound, and I hope the insurance company isn't jerky to you.

  8. I am so sorry about all this mess. Incredible.

    I can't even imagine.

    But, yet, you still remember what's important : Max, Sabrina, you, your husband: all OK.

    That is something to wonderful for words.

    Glad to hear you survived, and you are ready to get the show back on the road.

  9. I am sooo very sorry. How horrible. Praying for you all.

  10. Oh no! So sorry about the damage to your house and the area where you live. I hope you can get back to normal (relatively) quickly.

    p.s. I just read your article in Real Simple Family - lovely. :)

  11. we are from the same area, and i can't believe how much flooding and tree loss we had.

    am glad you got to a hotel - we've gone away too. hopeful things will be back to normal before school starts next week, what a way to end the summer.

    so very glad you are all safe.

  12. Ellen, I'm hoping that your days continue to get drier, better, and back to the way they should be! I'm wishing normal comes quickly for y'all.

  13. Kate, you are so sweet! We are high and dry in a motel tonight. Still hauling out wet stuff. Man, we had a lot of crap. Trying to dry out sopping wet stuff like my high school yearbook (lesson to you all: never keep valuable paper anything in your basement).

    Water repair guys coming tomorrow. Bringing fans and sprays to prevent mold from forming. Hauling out rug and cutting out water damaged dry wall.

    Felicia, yes, a river runs through town nearby. Also, cannot veer too far as tomorrow I am headed into work! My water-logged brain sure could use a distraction and it will be ood to be somewhere that does not smell like mildew. Hopefully I do not smell like mildew or they just might send me home.

  14. I'm glad your family is okay. And that you had moved your dad's things to high ground. The school supplies, though? Argh!
    Good luck getting dry.

  15. Glad you are all ok. I bet that if you went to the store where you got the school supplies and either showed them what happened or told them about it, they would replace it for you.

    Hope you are able to salvage a lot.

  16. Thanks, Kim and Anon! We salvaged some stuff, tossed lots. I did go back to the local Staples last night with a bag of soggy school supplies and explained what happened, and the manager said, "Sorry! Can't help you!" That was surprising. But it's cool, I had bought only some stuff from them, and some from Amazon which is en route.

    I am at work today, and nobody is scrunching up their noses at me, so I am thinking I do not smell like mildew.

  17. Scary, Ellen! I'm so sorry you had to go through all that (and are still going through it), but I'm glad you're all okay.

  18. Hi Ellen,
    so sorry to hear Irene was so mean to you :-(. Hope you're able to replace all the stuff soon and get rid of that mildewy smell (loads of essential oils burning everywhere?!). And Sabrina's starting school!??!! WOW. How exciting. xo

  19. We are so fortunate that we don't have a basement- and Richmond didn't have flooding. The damage from downed trees is incredible, though. Our neighborhood has a lot of cleaning up to do. Good luck getting everything cleaned up. Please remember, though- it may not have been Armageddon to you, but the people who lost family members think it was.

  20. You are so right, Jill, and I did not mean to undermine the tragedy of deaths from the hurricane. My heart goes out to families who lost loved ones.


Thanks for sharing!

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