How is everyone coping with the power outage?
Monday evening, I visited a few of my neighbors grateful that they helped me clear my driveway after a tree fell on my front yard, cutting off the power.
For Tony and Barbara Zullo, a master mechanic and a graphic designer respectively, their house was unscathed. But the biggest stress is keeping their four non-poisonous pythons in above 75 degree environment. Without electricity for the temperature-controlled tanks, the serpents are kept outside during the day. At night, they are put in cloth bags with ties and placed on the master bed between Barbara and Tony to keep them warm.
Christina DiBella and her family's meals are prepared on the grill with ingredients that are thawing in their freezer. David and Deirdre Smithies are anxiously tracking reports on electricity restoration updates.
Larry and Patricia Doucet spend more time reading and taking walks. Larry sits on his recliner with his book, deposition readings, and two LED flashlights perched on his shoulders. His wife Patricia listens to a hand-held size radio, their 20-year-old companion that connects them to “the outside world” during blackouts. Larry will pick up some ice from a store then take a shower at his brother-in-law’s house before his surgery on Tuesday.
“We’ve been living here since 1977, and we haven’t had more than one night without power,” Patricia said. “Thank God it wasn’t worse.”
How it all began?
At 2 a.m. on Sunday, in the midst of howling Hurricane Irene, Yorktown Heights resident Christina DiBella heard what she describes as a "single gunshot noise," counted seconds and then heard a loud thud.
If you live with an acre of woods around you, you know it’s a tree falling, she told me referring to a tree that then fell in the back of her house on Sultana Drive. The gunshot sound is the tree snapping and the thud when the tree falls.
Unable to sleep with fear that a tree may fall on her house with her 15-year old daughter sleeping upstairs, DiBella sat looking out into the black and ferocious night, clutching her flashlight, and panicking. At 3:30 a.m. DiBella, a director of sales promotion, heard another “incredibly loud” gunshot noise that this time was not followed by the thud.
Around 4:45 a.m., “a sheet of lightning with a bright center” flashed. She suspected that was a transformer that blew out, because power failure followed immediately after. DiBella continued to hear sounds of snapping trees and cringed waiting for the thud of impact.
My family and I, next door neighbors of the DiBellas, slept soundly through the gunshot noises and thud. After sunrise, we were jolted when we saw on our driveway the reason why DiBella didn’t hear the thud of the falling tree hitting the ground after the “second loud gunshot.”
A large branch of a 30-year-old tulip tree on my front yard snapped bringing down with it two smaller branches. As the branches fell, they pulled the power and phone lines from the poles and my house (thus decerating the fall and diminishing the thud). They all landed across the entrance of my driveway, completely blocking passage.
David and Deirdre Smithies, my neighbors across the street, responded with my family’s use of their cell phone (no service on our cell phones) to make emergency phone call to NYSEG (and even less urgent phone calls). Simultaneously, other neighbors were reporting my power line damage to NYSEG.
From down Sultana Drive, Tony and Barbara Zullo, strolled up the street to examine the aftermaths of the hurricane. That’s when they spotted my husband, Chae, trying to cut the branches with “a little hand saw and power lines all over the driveway.” (Our electric power saw was powerless during the blackout.) Promptly, the Zullos offered to help with their gas-powered chain saw.
We did what neighbors do, got involved and started helping, Barbara Zullo told me. Zullo surmised from the branch’s “healing burnt marks” that it had weakened from a previous lightning bolt then was severed by Irene.
Larry Doucet, my other next door neighbor, was on his way to town to pick up a cup of coffee when he was diverted by the commotion coming from my driveway. Despite his hernia condition that required scheduled surgery two days later, the 64-year-old consulting environmental engineer immediately started carrying branches off the driveway.
“It was nothing special, it’s just what you do," Doucet said. "My neighbor would have done the same for me."
The sound of the chain saws alerted DiBella to look out her window then join the gathered neighbors. Equipped with chain saws, hand saw, clippers, and rake, they labored for one hour to clear my driveway by cutting what Zullo described as “dense wood” piece by piece.
It was also a blessed hour as God’s creation transformed from ominous to glittery under the clearing sky that reflected sunlight off raindrops on leaves. Neighbors from different ends of the block were pulled together, some meeting for the first time. Even after their task was completed, they lingered, sipping water and chatting.
The Sultana residents agreed that it was a neighborly time that was described as “community action at its best."