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Recalling Lessons from Irene as Hurricane Sandy Approaches

Twenty things I learned from my days with Irene.

I was on vacation on Cape Cod (where I once rode out a hurricane) when the word came that Irene was going to hit Connecticut. We came home a day early to prepare. That was Friday Aug. 26.

On Saturday Aug. 27, the fire truck drove by my house and the disembodied voice announced, “You are in a mandatory evacuation zone. Leave your home by 6 p.m.”

Of course, we were expecting that truck, since our house is in every flood zone imaginable (you should see our flood insurance bill).

Knowing that my job overseeing the eastern Connecticut Patch sites required electricity and Internet, I quickly threw up a note on Facebook: “So ... anyone local have a generator and a storm proof house who wouldn't mind me, my Patch laptop, my 2 kids and my dog camping out Sunday?” I got 16 replies, all offers of shelter and power (some weren’t convenient, like my aunt in Oregon, but all were appreciated).

And so began the Lessons Irene Taught me:

1. It is good to have good friends, who are literally willing to open up their home and life to you for as long as you need it. While we were still on the Cape, Wendy texted me to say she would go to my house and stow all my outdoor furniture if needed. Janice and Hervie gave use safe haven on Saturday night, along with a host of others. On Sunday, when we lost power, Janice gave me her laptop to use when mine died, and kept me updated as to what was happening in town via her Blackberry. Then we plugged into their generator, and charged everything up. When the wind died down, we went home to see what had happened.

2. When you are a nomad in search of power for five days, make sure you have an extension cord in your bag. Preferably the 4-outlet kind.

3. When someone offers you his or her Wi-Fi, take it. And when they then offer you a warm cinnamon bun while you are sitting at their dining room table using their Wi-Fi, eat it.

4. When you have a chance to charge the 10-year-old’s DS and the 13-year-old’s cell phone, take that chance.

5. Every time you see a gas station that’s open, fill up.

6. There is no such thing as eating too much cheese.

7. Salad dressing does go bad. Pretty quickly.

8. Do every scrap of laundry in the house before the storm arrives.

9. Fill your freezer full of unopened bags of ice, and you will lose nothing even after five days.

10. Drink two glasses of pinot grigio. It does not matter what time it is.

11. Do not drink more than two glasses of pinot grigio.

12. Know where your friends and family are and have all their cell phone numbers so you can quit worrying early on.

13. Do all your back to school shopping at Staples the morning the hurricane is due to arrive. No one is there.

14. When you are surrounded by 12 vanilla-scented candles, all you want to do is eat cake.

15. Eat cake. 

16. No matter how many times you yell “USE PAPER PLATES” at your children, they will not remember.

17. After Day 4, you will want to kill your husband, even though absolutely none of this is his fault.

18. The dog is more scared than you are. Be brave for the dog.

19. Even after five days, even though you know there is no power and you are, in fact, in the pitch dark, you will flip on light switches.

20. On the fifth day you will mow the lawn simply because it is power.    

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