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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"Never let a crisis go to waste"

This is my dear friend Wayne who lives in Rehoboth Beach. This was two years ago, in happier times.

Wayne (sometimes known in the comment section of this and other blogs as "The Cajun") has been without electricity, heat and running water since late Friday night.

He told me that, the day before yesterday, he went out to his porch to get some snow and bring it into the kitchen so it would melt and he'd have water. Except, when he got up in the morning, it was still frozen.

He called his boss at Dos Locos (only the BEST restaurant in RB) who took him (and his landlady) to breakfast for a hot meal and then found them both temporary lodging with one of the staff. (A shout-out to Joe and Daryl - you guys are the BEST!) When I spoke with Wayne last night, he's now safe and sound - warm and hydrated.

Except that there's another Nor'easter on its way Tuesday night which promises to bring at least another 18-24 feet of snow to the Mid-Atlantic States and, depending on the progression of the storm and the area of New Jersey, any where from 12-18 inches of snow.

It's not New Jersey I'm concerned about. Oh, I'm not looking forward to the mess, but we can cope. We'll manage. We've got the infrastructure to provide the back up to managing the effects of the storm.

The last time a storm - or a winter - like this happened in Delaware was 102 years ago. They just aren't ready for it. It's not like folks are apt to keep snow blowers in the shed, just in case. Or, even the basics like snow shovels or ice melt - things you can get in any grocery store in New Jersey.

I was not too surprised as I left to head back to Jersey yesterday, to see how bad the roads were in my housing development. It was all packed snow and ice with occasional ruts of slush. We had been warned on television and radio news reports not to expect a "side street" to be given high priority in the clean up.

I was shocked when I got out onto the main roads. It was more of the same on my side street. Driving could only be described as treacherous. As I approached Route One, it was more of the same. At least, through Rehoboth Beach and Lewes.

The National Guard was out with large back hoes and dump trucks. When you're "The Nation's Summer Playground" you don't keep crews and equipment to deal with snow.

Besides, Rehoboth is still repairing the damage left over by the last hurricane. The board walk is under repair and the sand on the beaches still needs to be replenished.

I understand that the roads headed toward Bethany and Dewy Beaches were even worse.

As I got out of Lewes toward Milton, the roads got better. The closer I got to Dover Air Force Base, the road conditions improved considerably (remember, the storm hit Friday night through early Sunday morning).

There was no trouble at all once I got to Dover, and it was clear sailing from then on. Until then, however, it was a 'white knuckle drive' the whole way.

When I stopped at Perry's at the top of my street, the buzz was that there had been five storm related deaths in the area. One man froze to death in his own home.

Everyone at Perry's was singing the praises of the local EMTs who took care of a man in his early 40s who had a heart attack while shoveling snow. The street had not yet been plowed, so the EMTs carried their equipment in thigh-high snow to care for him in his driveway.

Once they got him stable, they CARRIED him on the stretcher back to the ambulance. In thigh-high snow. Up the street. About a quarter of a mile. I understand he's in stable condition at BeBe Memorial.

That's the spirit of a small community. Those men and women deserve a medal. As the story was being told, one elderly man took his hat off and put it over his chest as a sign of respect. I found myself deeply moved by that small, important gesture.

I suppose it's a bit of survivor's guilt on my part. I was only out of electricity and heat for nine hours. I still had running water, and a gas stove to make myself a hot cup of tea or to heat up a can of soup. I was also blessed to have a small gas furnace out in the sun room to keep me comfortable.

I had a neighbor to help me dig out my car. He did it because he wanted to help. I left him some money, anyway, in an envelope tucked securely under the windshield wiper of his car. I left him $40, which was all I had on me at the time. In NJ, what he did would have been expected to earn him $100. Easy.

I hope that was enough. I hope he isn't insulted by my gift. I'm sure he could use the money and is grateful for it. What he may not understand is that it is I who am deeply, deeply grateful for his help.

I worry about my friend, Wayne, and all the more than 60,000 people who still don't have electricity or heat and have been displaced from their homes. Please join me in prayer for them.

Please also pray for everyone who is involved in the recovery effort - the men and women of the National Guard, those who work for the utilities companies who are working around the clock to restore electricity and heat, as well as those who are working feverishly to clean up the side streets and make them safe for the police and paramedics to do their jobs.

No, it's not an earthquake or a tsunami, and the Delmarva Peninsula, while it has its poverty, is certainly not Haiti. Dangerous weather is dangerous weather and people, after all, are people.

If anything, this experience has opened my heart even more and encouraged me to give again to the recovery effort in Haiti. There's an expression in my business: "Pain touches pain." Human suffering anywhere causes every human heart to suffer.

So, prayers, please - especially as we prepare for yet another Nor'easter to come barreling up the Mid-Atlantic coast.

We will survive, and we'll learn some things about ourselves and the importance of community in the process. We might even rediscover the qualities of kindness and generosity. Even 'going the extra mile - or, quarter of a mile - in the snow!

Perhaps we'll regain a little respect for Mother Nature and redouble our efforts to care for Mother Earth.

Oh yes. And, maybe we'll learn again with a sense of awe and wonder about prayer.

What was that Rahm Emmanuel said? "You never want to let a crisis go to waste".

Somebody say, "Amen."

14 comments:

suzanne said...

You've got it.

AMEN!!

Two Auntees said...

Prayers for all.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you.

LVTfan said...

I've been lurking here for a while, as a newcomer to RB, part-time for now, but planning to be year-round soon. I come from a place where taxes are much higher, and where services and infrastructure are far more ready to cope with storms. (There is a major correlation there!) We drove down on Sunday, with two shovels, a "MUTT" (multi-use tough tool! -- well named!) and a big container of salt, after reading your posts from earlier in the weekend. (Thank you!!)

Major snows are so infrequent that few of the pickup truck owners here own plows. Two young men looking for work on Sunday afternoon had only one shovel between them, so used ours and got our cars off the street. (I've been hacking away to get them sort of side by side in preparation for the next round.) We wished we'd bought 10 snow shovels at the grocery store up north, to hand out!

I met some lovely neighbors yesterday, and I think everyone within sight had their cars out by this morning. The Delmarva Power outage map shows relatively few outages now, but clearly there are people who have been without electricity for a number of days.

I appreciate your blog!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

What is there left to say BUT "Amen," with a hearty "Alleluia" on the side?

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Prayers for all affected by the snow. It's a sad irony that the regions who have the equipment have not borne the brunt of it. But even in Massachusetts the local power company is Johnny-on-the-spot with Metro Boston and the wealthy suburbs. The less prosperous cities - well, what's New Englandese for "MaƱana"?

David@Montreal said...

Prayers offered- including one huge thank-you for getting you home

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for the visit LVTfan. I'm glad my postings helped you prepare for the mess that was RB. There's a snow advisory (wind up to 35 mph and snow up to a foot and a half) until Thursday. It's supposed to rain tonight (hopefully, washing away some of the accumulated snow) turning to snow and sleet on Wednesday night to Thursday

Bad stuff.

Kirke and Mary-Cauliflower - Thanks for your prayers

Elaine C. said...

I hear that South Dakota, has had a very severe winter, which has destroyed water supply infrastructure in Native American communities... some counties in SD are 90% Episcopalian ... the Diocese of South Dakota has a crisis as well. ERD could use support to help our people there ...

Ron Tipton said...

One positive thing that comes from a snowstorm like this is that it causes us to reevaluate our situation in an emergency. One should always have an emergency plan. The basic plan is enough food and water to on hand for at least five days. Also, one should have an operating cell phone and an emergency source of heat.


Having lived in the woods of Pennsylvania for 25 years, we frequently had power outages thus we had to have a backup plan for surviving at least five days on our own. We didn’t have the option of someone coming in and rescuing us.

Here in southern Delaware during this "blizzard of the century" one of the options was going to a shelter. Make the phone call and someone in an all wheel drive will pick you up and take you to the shelter. I read in the Cape Gazette today that there were only six people in the Cape Henlopen High School shelter. Apparently a lot of people during this snowstorm decided to tough it out at home rather than go to a shelter. I would have no qualms about going to a shelter when my life was at risk. In fact I would consider myself very fortunate to have a shelter nearby, which I didn’t in Pennsylvania.

Another option is to go to a hotel. I have worked and now work in a hotel. Many times during power outages caused by hurricanes and other power outage problems, people would rent a hotel room until their power was restored. I would have no qualms about putting out a couple of hundred dollars for a hotel room if it would provide me shelter for safety and security from a bad weather situation.

When one's life is at risk from freezing to death (like the man you mentioned in your posting) it is time to put pride aside and either goes to the shelter or spend money and go hotel. You can replace the money; you can't replace your life.

Another precaution is to move into a neighborhood. This is especially true when one is older, such as I am (68) and my partner (he's 81.) That is why I moved from living in the middle of the woods to the development where I live now. During the aftermath of this snowstorm I was out there helping my neighbors. Someday they may have to help me. I have two friends who live on 22 acres of wooded land outside of Georgetown. They are 68 and 73. They're in a panic because they can't get out. I advised them to call DelDot and tell them of their situation. Perhaps in the future they should consider moving to an area that has closer neighbors so they won't be so isolated during the next snowstorm. How often have we heard of a tragedy because some older person lived by themselves in an isolated area?

I hope this blizzard is a learning moment for many in our area so they will be better prepared for the next weather emergency. This wasn’t Hurricane Katrina. It was a large snowstorm. Sometimes people have to take responsibility for the situation they place themselves in.

LVTfan said...

A light sleet started here at 6:30p. The temperature got up to 40 degrees this afternoon, with some occasional sunshine, and I got a lot of nibbling-and-shoveling done. Needed the MUTT to hack through the top layer, but the rest below that was fairly easy. The state came through with its plow, leaving the street clean, and they were kind enough not to leave stuff in front of our shoveling.

I watched a lot of SUVs go by, and I suspect that their owners will hold onto them for the indefinite future after this week!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Elaine C - thanks for the information. I had been reading some about the South Dakota water problem, but contributions to ERD is a good idea. Thanks again.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ron Tipton - The last time we were in DE during a "weather situation" was two years ago during "Tropical Depression Ernesto". We got evacuated and ended up at the Sea-Esta motel. They guy there gave us a rate of $45/night and let us bring Mr. Lenny and Ms. CoCo even though there was a 'no pet policy'. Ms. Conroy and I have had long discussions about how we have to put a few nights stay at the Sea-Esta Motel in the Emergency Contingency line item in our budget when we move to DE.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It started snowing here at 9 PM.

Fasten your seat belts, kids. It's going to be a bumpy 24 hour Nor'easter ride.