What I learned from Irene


Last week into the weekend, the Caribbean and Eastern seaboard had an unwelcome guest: Irene. And, wow, was she ever ill-behaved.

There are those who scoff at Irene and media exuberance in covering her journey. Sure, those scenes of reporters nearly getting blown away in hurricane winds are a dime a dozen. But for those not impacted to scoff at a storm that killed 27 people adds insult to injury for those suffering in Irene’s wake.

Although Irene had weakened to a tropical storm by the time she reached Connecticut, she was all too memorable for many areas of the state: Beachfront homes destroyed by storm surge, freshwater flooding, numerous trees downed (many landing on homes) and 700,000 Connecticut households left without power…. not to mention post-storm flooding. For a clear, intelligent explanation of Irene and her impacts in Connecticut, I highly recommend Ryan Hanrahan’s post Irene — Why Was She So Bad?

I learned a lot before/during/after Irene:

Take authorities’ preparedness warnings seriously

  • I was lucky, my only damage was a blown-over shrub. I lost Comcast service for just a few hours and never lost power.
  • As I see damage reports from around Connecticut, it’s truly a case of “but for the grace of God, go I.” The human and property cost experienced by others could just as easily have happened to me.

When preparing for inclement weather, ask friends to send you mobile-friendly links.

  • Even if mobile networks are up, expect them to be much slower than usual.
  • When it comes to clicking links on a slow network, Tom Petty was right… the waiting is the hardest part.

Often recommended (with good reason), use text messaging to contact friends & family

  • Text messages queue up and continue to to attempt delivery until successful

Provide loved ones with trusted news sources (links) so they can monitor the situation from afar.

  • I mentioned Ryan Hanrahan’s blog above — I provided it to family so they could stay abreast of what’s happening locally.

Do what you can to reduce your own stress during the weather event

  • I had a fan running during the storm. It provided white noise, and let me better ignore some of the wind gusts.
  • Of course, at a certain point, there was no drowning out the wind noise. Still, running a fan helped a bit.

Buying a house you love costs the price of the house. Having great neighbors who will help you when needed? Priceless.

  • Help your neighbors whenever you can. Cultivate those relationships. Your neighbors become an extended family, especially when you live alone.

Share your stuff.

  • If your friend or neighbor has lost power or Internet, help them achieve some sense of normalcy.
  • If you have a tablet w/3g connectivity or battery-powered radio, share it with them so they can keep up with news. Being off the grid involuntarily increases one’s need to be informed.

And a point that seems to be all too obvious: If you weren’t negatively impacted by a weather event, great!!

  • However, be sensitive to others’ experience of the storm. Don’t add to their misery.

This last week has been interesting, and reinforced some basic lessons for me. For those impacted by Irene, whether due to loss of a loved one, property damage, storm surge or flooding, my heart goes out to you.

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