01 September 2011

Above the Flood Zone

We are fine.

My town is not.

Our first two homes were in town, by the river. The Rockaway River is fed by a series of brooks as it travels through my town on it's way to joining the Passaic River. It's a long, but not wide, river, and it floods our downtown after every major storm.

We were living in a small ranch house downtown when Floyd came through in 1999. It rained for three days, and the river surrounded our house, leaving two feet of standing water inside. We had to gut it and rebuild. But we loved the neighborhood, enough to move across the street to a larger house, with a big basement to catch the water. Which it did more than once. After Five was born we left the flood zone, and moved to a mountain. I've never been happier. It was exhausting living in a hotel with three small children while we rebuilt our house, and I never want to do that again.

It rained rather spectacularly Saturday night, and at one point we were under a tornado watch. However, the heaviest downfall occurred overnight, so we only heard it. One stayed up all night watching the Weather Channel, because severe weather is his thing. I think it has something to do with being born during The Storm of The Century.

When the Captain and I awoke on Sunday, we drove down off the mountain, in search of a paper. Because it was only raining lightly at that point, we thought the damage would be minimal. We were wrong. We couldn't get to town. The river had jumped its banks by our sports fields, and crossed the road. We couldn't get to the highway.

We tried another way out, and found that the river had washed across that road as well. We watched as a tow truck pulled a minivan from the murky mess. We turned around, thinking we could get out the back way through our neighboring town. A swollen creek had closed that road. We doubled back, drove through our old lake community, through the lagoon water running across that road, and tried one last route. Flooded.

Frankly, we were shocked. We had never seen it this badly flooded. We went home, grateful for our safety. We soon found out that the destruction of our town was a scene repeated throughout all of New Jersey. The Passaic River covered entire towns. The Rahway river flooded my brother's basement. Dams broke, and highways caved.  Then a large tree fell on some power lines and we lost our electricity, along with 700,000 other people.

It wasn't that bad. We played board games with the kids, and then Rummikub by lantern light. We kept the refrigerator shut, except to pack it with ice. The little people actually read books! Our greatest concern was my mother, who uses an oxygen converter that runs on electricity. But we had packed in lots of tanks, and we set our alarms to wake up that first night and check the air levels. We figured if something happened, we could take her to the hospital. Except, this is what the hospital looked like.
She made it through just fine, although it did make us consider purchasing a generator. All told, we were without power for three days. Too long to save most of our food, according to the experts. So, today, I threw everything out.

It's a small sacrifice, compared to our neighbors downtown. It will take months, if not longer, for some towns to recover. I lived through the rebuilding once, and my heart goes out to those who must do it again.


  1. I'm beginning to think that severe weather survival is akin to PTSD. People get flashbacks.

    We had a regular, ol' garden variety blizzard in February, and everyone around me was quietly freaking out because they were reliving a bad ice storm (two-ish weeks without power) they had a few years before I moved down there.

    May your neighbors' flashbacks be minimal.

  2. Anonymous1.9.11

    Wow, that's amazing! Glad you were safe on your mountain, even if you can't get down off it.

  3. I've been worried about you and am so glad to hear that you and your family survived intact. We live down in Whitehouse Station and really did just fine except for the foot of water in the basement - par for the course for this house. But I knew your town was still without power and the river flooded and so, I worried. I would recommend a generator. We got one just big enough to run the well pump, sump pump and fridge and didn't actually need it. I've loaned it out to an elderly friend in Flemington who still doesn't have power.

  4. Ugh, that looks awful! I feel terrible for those poor people, as well as the people in Kate's area (Vermont). It's just as bad there. Fortunately, though we were out of power for a couple of days, the damage in my part of the state was minimal. I'll send some prayers your way.

  5. So glad you all are ok. My MIL lives about two blocks from the Navesink River. Somehow her basement stayed dry and she has had power for all but a couple of hours (by virtue of being one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood, she's on a different grid than her neighbors closer to the river). Sean was concerned because the Ft Monmouth exchange wasn't working, so he couldn't call her. Nevermind that I had told him that I was in contact with them and all was well.

    I can NOT imagine living in a hotel with three small kids. I would..........well I don't know what I would do, it's too overwhelming to even consider. You've officially edged out every public figure and highly-regarded philanthropist to become my sole hero. Wear those Wonder Woman bracelets with pride, girl.

    Again, really glad everyone's ok. And as bad as it is for some, I think we've all seen that it could have been so much worse.

  6. Megan - so glad to hear you and the family are safe and sound and dry! I was worried. Hope the recovery is as swift as it can be for everyone impacted by the devastation. -Kim

  7. ... and then there was LI; which got less water and a great amount of wind. We just got power back today since Sunday 7:41 a.m. Is it irony that we have a generator because the man we bought our house from was on Oxygen 24/7- and he left it with the house? We were grateful for a cold fridge and daily hot shower due to dedicated lines. Reading by flash/candle light had it's charm...


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