[Updated on Nov. 6 with additional details. – MVR]
On Tuesdays I normally run guest posts, but today I’m switching things up to feature first-person accounts of what life’s been like for writers in parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other places devastated by Hurricane Sandy last week.
Here are their stories:
Jen A. Miller
Known by many as “Jersey Shore Jen” for her coverage of the area, Miller writes the Down the Shore blog for radio station WHYY. Miller started covering Sandy well before it hit, explaining why it was the wrong storm at the wrong time, and afterward, telling residents who to follow on Twitter for news, and why people need to stay Jersey strong. But Miller’s coverage hasn’t been limited to the station’s website. In the days immediately following Sandy – and even now – she’s used Twitter and Facebook (see above) to share pictures and updates about storm damage and what people can do to help. She’ was also quoted in a widely circulated Associated Press story on what the storm means for the Jersey Shore. Miller says:
“I’m lucky – I didn’t lose power or internet. Since I had those resources, I used them to share information and connect displaced homeowners with resources and news. I wrote related financial stories for a client during the process because they asked me to write things that would help those in need (how to connect with FEMA aid, how to avoid scams, how to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance).
“I also made sure to keep people updated on my WHYY blog. As for other work, I pushed most of it off until this week except for one newspaper deadline, so I’m playing a mean game of catch up. Editors and sources more than understood, which I appreciate. My call with a Swedish cancer researcher today started with a very long conversation about how New Jersey is doing.
“It might be worth noting that the self employed in those counties declared disaster areas are eligible for disaster unemployment assistance, which is a federal government program. They can apply through their state’s department of labor. It’s running in CT, NY and NJ. I wrote a story on this that should be out soon on interest.com.”
The Suddenly Frugal blogger and resident of Bucks County, Penn., was without power for six days after the storm hit. Being the professional she is, Ingram is already sharing lessons learned from the experience on her blog, including why she’s thinking of adopting a buy-as-you-go grocery shopping philosophy to avoid having refrigerated food spoil in a future disaster. As for as work goes, she says:
“Bottom line–I didn’t do any work until (Nov. 5). Taking care of my family was my top priority and I had the luxury of time to do that.”
When Sandy knocked out power to Owens’ home in Boonton, NJ, the American Society of Journalists and Author executive director took to Facebook (via her phone we gotta assume) to tell friends how she was doing. I’ll link to a first-person account Owens is writing for the ASJA weekly newsletter when it’s out Nov. 7. Meanwhile, here are some of her Facebook status updates from the past week:
Oct. 30 – “Waking up to a dark world. Worrying about family and friends in Manhattan. Holy cow….We are safe and sound here. Lost several large trees in the back yard but they weren’t anything special and didn’t fall near anything or anyone. No flooding around here, just lots and lots of tree damage and power is out completely. That means we don’t have water, so if this goes on too long we will have to do something…”
Oct. 31 – “Found a store with hot coffee, seats, and outlets to charge our devices. Thank you Heavenly Temptations! Next step, find wifi! I am torn on the generators I hear all over the place and the incredibly long lines at gas stations to power them. I would feel differently if we had one, or if our neighbors who do were offering us freezer space, but the noise is so incredibly unpleasant. It’s like constant leaf blowers going even all through the night. But I shouldn’t begrudge them, I guess.”
Nov. 1 – “Between a shower at the Y this morning, hot breakfast at the Montville Diner, and wifi at TCBY, things are looking up….Going into the city tomorrow to get some work done. All in all, not a bad day. Wishing everyone the same.”
Nov. 3 – “What’s the first thing I did when the lights went on? Wash the dishes in hot running water. The second thing? Paid the electric bill.”
Sandy pushed ocean water past the three-foot level inside Ramnarace’s home a block from the ocean in Rockaway Beach, NY. Ramnarace, a frequent contributor to iVillage, AARP Bulletin, Reuters and others, shared daily posts on her blog, 365 to 40, before, during and after the storm. In a Nov. 4 post, written from her family’s temporarily quarters with relatives in Connecticut, she writes:
“The impact of Sandy, and what it means for my children’s lives over the next few months, is what fills me with the most pain and anger. Take my furniture. Destroy my scrapbooks and photographs and wedding dress. Consume my kitchen. I will endure that. But when my children are hurting — that is when I fear I’ll come undone.
“I feel sure that if I can get them back to New York and back in school then their lives will brighten. If we can just get power back I can move back into my house and make due with a toaster oven, mini fridge and microwave. Watch me. Everyone just needs to sleep in their own beds. Everyone just needs to be together. As a fellow Sandy-victim posted today on Facebook: ‘It doesn’t matter where you go in life. It’s who you have beside you.’
“There are many unknowns right now but few things I know are: The next few months of our lives are going to suck. But we’re all in it together. Stay strong, my friends. Stay strong, my children. We will endure.”
Jersey Shore girl Moran, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Family Circle, and Woman’s Day among others, headed west to Pennsylvania with her family after her house lost water on Oct. 31. A few days later she was back at home with water and power, volunteering to help other local residents, and starting to settle back into work mode. On Nov. 5, she posted the following on Facebook:
“Need-it-yesterday deadlines and a zillion interviews to schedule. No school today and, probably, tomorrow. Still no power, Internet, or phone. Mid-afternoon make-up trick-or-treating. Kittens tearing up the house. An ominous “you’re about to incur major data charges” text message even though I have an unlimited data plan. Please send Xanax.”
Salamon is a northwest New Jersey health and lifestyle writer for websites, magazines, hospitals, custom publishers and corporate health-care clients. She writes about the storm and how it affected her ability to work both on the Freelance Success writer forum, and in an email to me, saying:
Nov. 1 – “Still no power here, but just got our phone and Internet back, hence me being able to check in here. Let me just say I’ve *never* heard winds like those that howled through here at 85 mph on Monday night, and never wish to again. We lost three big trees in our yard — one of which came within about 5 feet from hitting the house — and lost a good swath of roof shingles as well.”
Nov. 5 – “Actually, I feel sort of guilty because I’m one of the lucky ones — I got power, Internet and phone service back 5 days after the storm. The vast majority of residents in my area still don’t have any utilities back. And I’m located about an hour from the Jersey Shore, which was most devastated.
“Trying to work during and after the storm was interesting. I had a 12 noon deadline on Monday, as the storm was rolling in, and met it easily, turning down 2 other assignments from that same editor for later in the week since I was worried I wouldn’t be able to complete them. Smart move, it turns out. Tuesday and Wednesday, I used the spotty email/Internet coverage on my iPhone to contact several sources I’d had interviews scheduled with for later in the week to tell them I’d have to reschedule. Then I did something unusual, I relaxed, work-wise at least. There was simply no point in stressing since there was absolutely nothing I could do to keep business humming as usual. Friday, when my utilities came back, I re-established contact with my editors and started taking on new assignments and continuing progress on existing ones.”
Baltimore-based freelance writer Laing has been through storms before – lots of them – and was prepared for the worst. To her relief, the worst didn’t come. The author of Math for Grownups, Lang uses her blog of the same name to demystify common math-related subjects, and used Sandy to write about meteorology. Of the storm, she says:
“For the first time ever in a storm of this nature, we didn’t lose electricity. We did lose cable, which included my internet connection. In actuality, I didn’t lose any time, but I did prepare for it. The previous week, I contacted my editors to let them know that I may be behind. In the end, I just took some time off because things were a little hairy and my daughter was off of school. I ended up working extra on Thursday and Friday to make up some of the time I lost.”
Were you affected by Sandy? If so, please share your story by leaving a comment.