I knew things were bad when I telephoned my mom on Saturday Feb. 6 as snow was falling all over the mid-Atlantic region and she said the power had gone out the night before and she and my father were bundled up and waiting for it to come back on. I live three hours away, travel conditions were impossible, and the police were telling people to stay inside. It got colder and darker at my parents’ place and despite a visit from a friend and her boyfriend who braved the storm to bring them warm food – God bless Dana and John – they didn’t want to be evacuated to the temporary shelter in one of the firehouses. I think the word “shelter” scared them. But there were real problems involved in getting them out of the house. Dad’s footing isn’t what it was, and the snow and ice were daunting. At this point, power was out for over 170,000 people in two of New Jersey’s southern counties.
More phone calls went back and forth, and I called up the police in their town to ask if they could get them out if they asked to be evacuated, and they said yes. So I called mom again, told her it wouldn’t be a problem, and with darkness and the temperatures falling, she made the call and they were taken to the evacuation facility. The weather was so bad that snow was almost two feet high and boy scouts were called into service to help dig paths to houses!
When I couldn’t reach her by phone, I called the police to see if they had evacuated them and they put me through to the center. Mom told me they were there, they were warm and volunteers were serving hot food. I was so relieved.
Next morning when the snow stopped and I had been contacted by the friend who had brought them the food, my brother and I set out to go get them, having been told the power was due to go back on that day. Dana also warned us about downed power lines and streets to avoid on the way into town and to the firehouse. Snow isn’t usually a problem this far south in New Jersey, so they weren’t used to it, and the streets were still a bit rough, but we managed to get to the firehouse after stopping at the cold family home and doing some shoveling. Except for a narrow path, the snow was piled up all around, making it look like the arctic!
With that out of the way, we went to pick up mom and dad who were expecting the power to come back on momentarily. But it didn’t. Now it was a long drive back to my house, difficult for my father, and we decided to look for someplace with heat and light. Not so easy, since most of two counties were still without it, but there was one place that was only a short drive away that would probably be lit up if the entire rest of the state was plunged into darkness! Yes, that’s right. Atlantic City.
I made the call, booked rooms for the night and after a somewhat nerve-wracking drive through town, ended up at the wrong hotel since the reservations clerk used the name of the hotel that had taken over the one I had actually booked – don’t ask. Then we drove back across town to the right one. I got on line for what seemed forever at the sign-in desk, and finally we made it to the rooms. We had heat, light and the end of the SuperBowl on TV. Plus room service.
Next morning we called friends and discovered the power had returned at around the time we were checking into the hotel. But who knew at the time? So back we went after breakfast. In bright sunlight, it looked like a winter wonderland. Big trucks from the electric company were out and about, but driving was still a little dicey.
I have to say, after that experience, I am deeply grateful for the help of Dana and John and for the wonderful men and women of the police, fire and ambulance services of my parents’ town. They lived up to their fine reputations.
And in a normally comfortable life, I had a taste of what it meant to worry about my family’s food and shelter in a time of trouble. Although it’s nothing compared to what others have to go though right now, it taught me that anyone can need help at any time. And nobody is immune to disaster.