London Plane Street Tree downed by Hurricane Irene (photo: Flatbush Gardener)

I’ve been live-blogging the storm from my blog all weekend and I have to say that Irene has been behaving pretty much the way I thought she would for us here in Upstate New York: lots of rain and wind starting last night once the eye of the storm got to the Delmarva Peninsula. We’ve all ready lost our power once this morning. The winds have been pretty steady in the 5-10 mph range, with gusts (and one of those gusts probably took down a pole or tree which caused the loss of power). And lots…and lots…of rain. (By the way, the photo at the top was taken this morning in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York of a London Plane tree that, between the wind and the sodden ground, went right over despite being held down by the cement sidewalk)

We lost the power for just one hour and I had two inches of water in the basement, pronto. Once the electricity came on again, the pump made a pretty quick job of moving the water off the floor. Let’s see now — that floor is about 300 square feet and there is 7.5 gallons in a cubic foot of water, so the pump moved about 375 gallons of water out in about 20 minutes. Not bad and a whole lot better than what we usually get down there (18″ deep and damaged appliances).

Lessons learned so far:
First, it’s a really good idea to test out any new emergency equipment to make sure a) you know how it works, b) you know how to make it run, and c) you know how to make it do what you want it to do without killing yourself or anyone else. The DH and our son were grappling with a brand new generator for almost an hour before they figured out that they needed to fiddle with the choke.

Second, it’s also a really good idea to make a fast tour of the outside of your house BEFORE such a storm hits. Once we lost power, I got the uncontrollable urge to fill up another bucket for flushing toilets (you can tell that there are certain functions that Aunt Toby is, ahem, a little obsessed with), and I got the idea to run outside with another bucket and put it under a downspout. Well, the extensions on the bottoms of the downspouts are SCREWED on so that did not work until I rounded the corner and found a downspout with NO extension on it whatsoever. So the water from the gutters on that side of the house were just gushing down around the foundation. Yummy. I stuck the bucket under there and had five gallons of water in less than 5 minutes. Needless to say, a downspout extension is going on the hardware store list for purchase next week because we’re looking at another named hurricane developing by Labor Day Weekend.

Yep – from the same nursery as Irene came from, José is emerging. There seem to be two possible scenarios with this – first, it follows Irene and comes right to the eastern seaboard and runs right up and into New England, or second, it starts its northern route before it gets to the coast.

I know a lot of people are feeling a certain level of disappointment with how government and weather agencies have handled this in terms of what they consider evacuations being ordered too early, public transport being shut down and so on.

For all of the ‘this was only a Cat 1 – no big deal’ talk out there, I have to tell you that even up here, I suspected that it was not going to be one of those ‘pitching tractor trailers through warehouse walls’ sort of storms. It was always going to be a huge rainmaker (which it has been), which would cause flooding and power outage issues, which are bad enough. Flooding all by itself can cause death and huge amounts of destruction, even without any extras in terms of wind. We had a period of 2-3 days of rain in Upstate NY in 2006 which caused the Chenango, Susquehanna and Delaware rivers to flood and caused huge amounts of destruction to property. Houses were literally lifted off their foundations and were floating down the Susquehanna. We were cleaning up that mess for months. And that was, as I recall, only 4-6 inches of rain. We’re getting a lot more than that up here and I know down in the Mid-Atlantic, they are saying those folks already have gotten 12″ plus.

Nothing to sniff at.
(photo courtesy of Flatbush Gardener)