How I Looked Super Storm Sandy in Face and Said, I Hope We Have Enough Champagne.

Before (the proverbial calm):




On Sunday the sky got dark. We took the warnings seriously and we prepared for the worst: moved all backyard furnishings into the garage, sand bagged the back of the house, stocked up on candles and water, taped up our 1940s-era picture window, stuffed our pockets with batteries, took one last hot shower, got out the potato chips and champagne, and watched the mounting fury.

Evacuation quarters for the backyard cats (in the garage).

The thing about hurricanes is that when they are moving into your front yard (Sandy, being a particularly slow-moving storm, took all damn day to blow into town), they tend to be the sole focus of attention. All we could do was sit and watch, and and listen: what I thought was the sound of gunshots turned out to be trees splitting in half. Power went out at 6:06 Monday night and it stayed dark for the next six days, seventeen hours, and 53 minutes. I tried to take pix of the wind-tossed trees that we were watching through the livingroom windows but snapshots do not do justice to hurricanes. Also, I kept an hourly diary of the Coming of Sandy, but after spending a week in the dark and the cold I have no idea where those notes are and I’m too fed up with all this hurricane misery to bother looking for them.

After (one block radius from my house):

Three houses down from us, this place was the girlhood home of my 86-year old neighbor Ruth until she died in 2010, when new owners gutted it (Ruth was a hoarder) and did a total reno.

This is the picturesque ruin on the corner that the town has been unwilling to condemn out of sympathy for the old bachelor who lives there, but this might be the final straw.

Our only damage was a downed rhododendron on the patio:

Yes, that’s Candy on the roof of the shed, inspecting her domaine.

But Top Cat and our darling neighbor Gary righted the old girl (the rhody, not Candy) and propped her up with boards and we hope she’ll pull through:

On Wednesday night we had a jolly candlelight barbecue with the neighbors, grilling all the turkey burgers and chicken bits from our freezer. The next night the neighbors had us over for an equally celebratory “Empty the Freezer” BBQ (hamburgers and Italian sausages). On Friday we got a rare half-hour of SUNSHINE so I walked a half mile up the road to get a good look at this:

This mess of fallen trees bringing down this tangle of power lines was rumored to be the cause of our blackout. The house behind all this crap has been on the market for over a year (priced to sell at $988,000) and gossip has it that the homeowners are heartbroken that the trees didn’t take it out (it is a brutally “modern” 1970s-era eyesore that is quite the out of place in this neighborhood).

This is what it looks like when the front yard is not cluttered with hurricane debris:

Let me tell you, a hurricane party gets a lot less fun after five days. So when we heard that Governor Christie had declared Atlantic City OPEN FOR BUSINESS on Saturday, we took our business right down to the Jersey Shore for lights, heat, and HOT WATER!!!

I heard a choir of angels when I laid eyes on this hotel bathroom.

First change of clothes, first shower in five days. First good night’s sleep in six. All that, and Chinese food too!

Next order of business was to check out the boardwalk, which I feared had been devastated. I prepared for the worst, but the good news is that the boardwalk looked 100% fine, and the GREAT NEWS is that through the heroic efforts of Alley Cat Allies of Atlantic City the boardwalk citizens looked FABULOUS! (I know you know who  I’m talking about.)

I had brought water for the colony, which this guy is politely drinking, but I can assure you that there was plenty of water, food, and fresh straw bedding in the igloos under the boardwalk…

…and the colony is safe. Whew.

After a glorious 30 hours in Atlantic City it was time to return to our own colony, where it was still pitch black, ice cold, and Chinese-food free. It was so cold that I slept in my clothes, and then got up the next morning and put more clothes on top of the ones I’d slept in to prepare for the worst part of Hurricane Sandy: the cleaning of the one-week non-functional fridge.

I had just hosed bits of rancid cream cheese off the last shelf when I saw the refrigerator light go on

All that is left are reminders of what it was like to be young and single.

…and I knew that my hurricane was over.

Thank you, one and all, dear friends and readers, for your emails and your concern. Compared to the ongoing misery of so many people in our area, Top Cat and I have much to be grateful for, and much work to do in lending a hand in the clean up and the recovery.



30 Comments, RSS

  1. Barbara Lemme

    I’m so glad to hear from you and know you two and the cats are ok. Electricity has been long coming for lots of you we know. AZ sent linemen and service people to LI as did many other states. Thank you to all of them. Friends in NJ just got power back last night also and it was the refrigerator that told them the wait was over. Get warm and stay safe.

  2. Patricia

    I’ve been checking your blog everyday hoping to find out you and Top Cat and all the littler cats weathered the storm. Thank you for posting! And thanks for letting us know about the alley cats of Atlantic City (a population I’d never heard of).
    Did you know the Hermitage in St Petersburg keeps a colony of cats to help protect the paintings from rats and mice? They were wiped out during the siege of Leningrad and had to be re-introduced…

  3. Christine

    Thank God you are well! What a relief to see you post. The photos on tv were horrific and they kept saying Long Island was especially hit hard (as well as Atlantic City, NJ). Bless you all, human and feline! Normal never sounds as good as it does until you are denied it!

  4. I have thought of you many times over the last days because you are the only person I know of in that area.I am in western canada, your photos brought tears to my eyes.So many canadians that I have spoken with are so very sad for all the people and animals that are affected.You truly are in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

  5. Joan

    Hooray! So glad to hear you’re OK and that the cats were evacuated from the worst of the storm. The videos on the news show so much devastation, so many people have lost everything.

    Glad you got into NJ for a hot shower and hot meal…Chinese is pure comfort food. The shower and warm room had to be a bit of luxury, eh?

    So happy to hear your “voice” again…I kept checking daily to see if you were back online. Hoping the recovery is going to bring comfort to those who are in the worst scenarios. My heart goes out to those who lost so much. Very sad, indeed.

    I hadn’t heard the story of the Boardwalk Cats…thanks for letting us know.

  6. Carol

    Thank you for taking the time to post this, Vivian! You and TC and the gang must be exhausted. I was concerned for your safety and well being. One thing – Alley Cat Allies – now HOW VERY COOL is that!!! People who take time to do things like that make it worthwhile to get up in the morning! They ensure there is always something good to find. Very Best Wishes on the cleaning and repairs!

  7. Carol Rexford

    Lucille and I have been checking on you–listening to all the reports had us worried. Glad you and Top Cat and feline friends survived to write another day! I’ll tell Bill you are all OK.

  8. Mary

    Thank you, Vivian; your first-hand account of what New Yorkers have gone thru is encouraging.
    How did you walk around for half a mile on your bad leg? Were you in yr wheelchair? Or have Drs told you to get moving again. I congratulate you on your spunk.
    We went 68 hrs without, and when the electricity went on, I almost cried. 62 degrees is NOT a comfy feeling. I’m 100 miles south of you.

    GOOD MOVE; going to AC. Brilliant.!!
    I’ve been a member of Alley Cat Allies for years. I give right from my credit card $10.00 a month. They are wonderful; and I go once a year to check on the beautiful feral cats under the boardwalk. Great organization.

    Thank you for keeping all your friends on the internet aware of “making mountains out your molehill life”. HA ! You have a good life, Vivian………..

  9. Karla Salyer

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Im sure most of us, especially me out here in Az have no clue what it must be like to endure such a storm. Thanks goodness you are all OK.

  10. Nadine

    Thanks for the update. I was hoping all the kitties are OK.

    I’m in north New Jersey and we lost electricity for 5 nights and 4 days. There are many old, large trees completely uprooted or snapped in half. It’s a shame to lose them after last year’s Halloween storm when we lost so many trees. But we survived the cold and dark and boredom!

    Voting was a little complicated this morning because of mis-information, but we got the the right place without too much delay. It was busy, not at all like 2008.

  11. Sandy R

    Glad your all safe and sound, it was only slightly better on my side of the sound! But it is cool to have a memorable storm named for me ? Is that awful to say out loud?

  12. Monique

    Isn’t it awful?The images are frightening.
    We have experienced fallen trees..uprooted century old power for 13 always remember enough to always feel deeply for those it happens to.
    My husband was like Davy so much.

  13. Karen in NOLA

    I’m having flashbacks from 2005 after scrolling through your photos. Glad you did not have any standing water – a whole other misery – and that you were able to get your shrub righted. Don’t be surprised if it flowers early; after H. Isaac, my mulberry tree set out a second crop 30 days after that storm.

    (LOL)Another day, I’ll tell you about my ‘Katrina refrigerator tale. Not for the faint-of-heart!

  14. I’m so glad you and yours are safe and you had no major damage. I was worried about you. I was hoping you’d write about it and so you did. The cat pics are adorable. What’s the name of the orange-and-white one?

  15. Susie

    Thank you for taking the time to let us know you made it in one piece. Frozen and dirty, but still with us.
    Seeing all the devastation so close to your house is…, well, it’s good to know you still have your home. You and TC and your kitties. It could have been so very horrible…..
    Are your cats all accounted for?
    And thank you for showing us how Ally Cat Allies is working. It makes me realize that they need to be on my regular donation list.
    Anything we can do to help?

  16. Sally

    Very glad to hear you and your cat friends got through the storm with only the *(^(#*(^@ miserable inconvenience of a power outage. Boy, that gets old really fast, doesn’t it! Soon it will be just a tale to tell and photos to look at now and then. Best wishes for the Nor’easter; I hope it leaves you alone.

    Your nice assemblage of colored leaves reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy, who has taken such things to a fairly high art, see

    And if you’ve never watched his movie, when you can stand thinking about water again, watch “River and Tides.”

  17. Rachel

    What a great idea to head to AC for comfort and conveniences and to assist with the economic recovery there. Glad to hear the AC cats are so well cared for. Good news that your own home and family are safe and thinks for letting us see what is going on in your part of Long Island. Yes, how are you navigating, sounds like the leg is healing on schedule. Welcome back.

  18. Tracey

    Glad you, Top Cat, and the cats are fine. My brother on LI and my sister in Westchester just got their power back on Monday. I was wondering how you fared during the storm. I was very lucky to live and work in unaffected neighborhoods in NYC.

  19. Margaret

    I am so pleased to see your post – been thinking of you. I am glad that you and yours got through the storm relatively unscathed.

  20. Deborah

    As several others said, I thought of you often and hoped you & yours escaped serious damage. I also imagined you would make an adventure out of the power outage, and you did.

    It pains me to see so many trees down. I learned that the Arbor Day Foundation has a special Disaster Area Recovery program, so I’m donating money to that in lieu of Christmas presents to the adults in our family.

  21. Helen McHargue

    Reading your account of days without electricity makes me realize how uncomfortable life can be without the amenities we take for granted every day. I’m relieved that your family including cats are all fine and that the refrigerator is ready to chill some celebratory champagne.

  22. Mo

    i’ve been checking the blog almost every day, looking for signs of survival, so was most heartened to see your update this morning. thanks for the first-hand account of your activities. what i read online and saw on tv just broke my heart … all that devastation was just overwhelming. i’m glad your electricity is finally back on so that you have warmth and light and your own food. like everyone else, i’m glad you’re ok and relatively unscathed.

  23. Jan

    Been thinking about you! We lived through IKE a few years ago. There’s only ONE thing better than half melted coffee ice cream for breakfast..and that’s a hot bath and air conditioning after 5 days of Houston HEAT! 🙂 So glad all is well with you and yours!

  24. Harmony

    So relieved to see a new post from you at last.
    To find that you and yours made it through the verocity of hurricane sandy is such welcome news.

    When I learned that the boardwalk cats of Atlantic City had somehow made it through ~ indignent from the upheaval but with whiskers still intact & spirits undeterred ~ it really revived the hope that you and your own tribe would purrhaps prove equally hardy. Glad that turned out to be true. (Also good to know you’ve now got your electric back!)

    Thanks so much for posting for all your worried readers. Best regards & good thoughts from California.

  25. janet bellusci

    good to have you back! glad to know you and yours are all safe.
    even now, wednesday (one week and two days since the storm first hit) there are still so many,many people without power and HEAT. and they are some of the lucky ones. the number of those who have lost everything is staggering. but watching all of the people helping storm victims, coming from every part of the country, sending supplies, helping clean out and feed those impacted, has been so uplifting.
    be safe, stay warm.

  26. Add my name to the list of those above, relieved to see you back and unharmed, cats intact. So glad you were able to take a break in AC for hot showers and takeout – a bit of normalcy-luxury amidst the chaos.

  27. Heavens!
    I knew you were gutsy but when put to the test you passed with A-1 flying colors
    That warm bathroom looks very inviting…
    Maybe I too should head to AC when I return from my Parisian meat locker…
    Hot and sour soup instead of Knorr Onion ‘Emmenthal sounds much better for warming up.

  28. jacqui

    ACK… posted ….Tuesday and this is Friday?!?! I checked for days and then finally gave up to wait patiently for news. Somehow I sensed you would not be in a flood area, but I was concerned about tree damage. I knew the cats would go inside to their basement nests. But it was obvious you were without power.
    I got out my Rand McNally atlas to see where everything was in relation to everything else, town wise…..and to scan Long Island looking for your town…..I have never been to east coast…..To pinpoint Staten Island in relation to some of the Jersey Shore burgs, all of that was fascinating to the map lover of myself. I knew Fire Island was on a shore somewhere close to the City but not under Long Island.
    I cried when I heard Bruce, Steven, Billy and Jimmy Fallon sing “UNDER THE BOARDWALK for the fundraiser and realized that beautiful tribe of kitties might be lost.
    I am so happy to see all my back east friends (you and cats) are safe and well. That tree is a big problem….I cannot see any solutions, easy or safe, good luck with that!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *