Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Friday the 13th; Buffalo's Surprise Autumn Storm

In the wee hours of Friday the thirteenth we were struck with a storm that will be forever known as the "Surprise Storm of Friday the 13th" here in Buffalo, NY. I woke up in the middle of the night to no power, to see the accumulating snow and quickly called Michael to tell him about it. As quickly as I called, I hung up because the lightening and thunder was so monsterous that I felt unsafe on my cell phone. We both couldn't believe that we were getting snow at this time in the autumn. It just was very strange. I covered the kids with extra blankets, lit a candle in the bathroom and comforted the kids regarding the lightening and thunder. I snuggled up in bed, called the dogs up next to me and fell back asleep.

We awoke around 7:00am and I quickly got the kids some sweatshirts and socks. I went by the stove and remembered that it was an old gas stove that would work without electricity. So, I made some hot oatmeal for all of us figuring that we would need something to keep warm. After eating the kids completed their school work that was left over from the previous day. Two hours later we saw my dad snowblowing the driveway and the kids begged to go play in the white stuff. I bundled them up, got them gloves and hats and off they went. Shortly thereafter my mom came upstairs and we lamented about the storm and not having any power. When she came up she was happy that we were staying warm. I had cooked some more on the stovetop (prepared ground sirloin for Shepards Pie) and made some cookies in the oven. After the kids played my mom and dad took O to the store to see if they could find anywhere that had hot coffee. Upon their arrival home they told us how the storm had caused so much damage. There were trees down, power lines down and it was almost war-zone like. The culprit was a very heavy, very wet snow. My mom said that people were taking stuff off the shelves at the grocery store as if it were a matter of life and death.

Around 1:30pm, my mom, myself and B headed down the road to check on my grandparents (mom's parents). They were all right and keeping warm by bundling up. They'd already starting bailing water out of their sumpump as my grandfather was very worried that the basement would flood (this would later be a problem for MANY Buffalonians without power). We left their house in search of gasoline for my mom's car, to no avail. And, it was downright scary on the roads. Tree limbs were fallen as well as power lines (as described by mom earlier). People looked lost and there was an eerieness to the area. Friday the 13th, right?

We got home and ate lunch. I was going stir crazy and needed to get out to search for gas, too. I had heard from my best friend that a local gas station was open, so off I went. Michael was due home the next day and if I had no gas to pick him up from the airport, there he would be stuck. I bundled up, got my boots on and took off. First I went to the gas station that I knew was open. However, when I got there I saw some craziness due to incompenant drives and cars that aren't made to be in slush-snow and on a hill. I decided to go around to the other gas station that I saw open on my way there (I should've just waited when I first saw it and I don't know why i didn't). The way I went could have proven disasterous because I turned down a street that was very clogged with limbs and branches. Dare I even mention the number of downed powerlines. It was very scary and I prayed that I would make it. Thank God, I did. I got to the Sunoco and waited. One whole hour later I got to the pump and proceeded to start pumping. The card reader told me to "See Attendant" and when I did he glummly said, "I'm all out!" I don't think I understood him and said, "Excuse me?" and he reiterated, "I'm all out of gas!" I'd waited an hour and they were all out. And, I was on E(mpty) and scared and I had to pee.

With that I proceeded up to yet another gas station. I waited for 5 minutes and decided not to wait anymore and went to the Tops gas station. I somehow got in a line that was six cars deep. The urge to pee was great but I wasn't about to lose my great place in line. Finally, I made it and pumped my gas. I was lucky enough to use my bonus points and paid fourty cents less, too, but I digress...

When I left the gas station I knew I wouldn't make it home without going to the bathroom first. I saw that my favorite family-owned dollar store (Dollar Galaxy) was open so I quickly parked the truck and ran in to pleed for use of their private bathroom. Luckily - 1) the were open and 2) they have compassion for pregnant ladies because they let me use their facility. To repay them I spent $10 in there, too. I got some candles and other things that I'd be able to use (like decorations and kitchen accessories).

What would have really been perfect would have been if the Tim Horton's drive thru line that I was waiting in for a few minutes yielded some splendid black elixir. However, people were waiting in vain. They would pull up to the order box, hear the recorded greeting, talk for a minute giving their order and then pull up when they were not answered. We could not see that they weren't getting their orders fullfilled. All we whom were waiting could see was them pull forward as if they were getting their order. It wasn't until a man came up to each waiting vehicle to break the news. Really, it didn't matter....I had a tankfull of gas, decorations, candles and new kitchen towels!

I got home 2.5 hours after I set off. My parents decided that they would go off in search of gas at that time. They had M with them and quickly came back because the lines grew bigger and bigger. I went downstairs to see what they were doing upon their arrival and saw my mom's cell phone plugged into the wall.

"Why is that glowing? How is that glowing?"

"I don't know?"

And two seconds later my mom flipped on her kitchen light. POWER. We had power back!! HALLELUJA! When we turned the TV on we found out that in addition to hundreds of thousdands of residents being without power that we were not to drink the water without boiling. With that I was off again to find some bottled water. Being pregnant I didn't want to take any chances with that. We lucked out and found some at Aldi. I got six twelve packs and felt relieved that we would be ok for a few days. When we got home I got the kids ready for bed and thus ended our day. We lucked out, BIGTIME! We got our power back, stayed warm and even got gas on this crazy day. Bigtime. We lucked out! But, what a welcome home this was for our family... *giggles*

We'd see devastion and scarring around us as we ventured out in the following days. We'd hear stories; everyone has a story to tell. We'd learn that people died. We'd see news reports about the devastation. And...we'll see, hear, learn and talk about this storm for a long time. The trees will be a constant reminder, too. The poor sad and scarred trees. Buffalonians are made out of some tough grit, though, and we'll overcome this disaster.

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