Be Prepared

I used to be in the news business. So, I get a lot of breaking news alerts on my iPhone, that I’ve signed up for, throughout the course of the day; CNN, the New York Times, Fox, etc..

The Carolinas and Hurricane Florence have been in the headlines since the storm began to swell. The hurricane originated from a strong tropical wave that emerged off the west coast of Africa on August 30, 2018. Florence hit United States land on September 13th. North Carolina was inundated with storm surges around 6 feet. Water levels rose in the west side of the Pamlico Sound.

Images from Hurricane Florence

The images from the storm have brought tears to my eyes, especially one of firefighters kneeling when they unsuccessfully tried to rescue a mother and her baby after a tree had fallen on their house.

In a photo gallery, there are at least 2 pictures women with portable oxygen tanks being rescued from Florence’s flood waters. One woman has brought spares.

Sad pictures but at the same time, encouraging because they have metal oxygen cylinders that need no electricity.

And that may be one of the reasons they’re alive.

My experience from Hurricane Sandy

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy visited many places in the Northeast. Northern New Jersey where we live was particularly hard hit. Unlike Florence, we didn’t have a drop of rain. So, there was no problem from flooding or any water-related problem.

But – we had wind.

The most incredible wind I’ve ever seen or heard in my life; winds over 125 miles per hour.

Northern New Jersey is a beautiful part of the country. We are blessed with oak trees over 200 years old. But, many did not survive the night of October 28, 2012.

We had one fall on our garage. We were lucky. All of our neighbors lost power within minutes of Sandy careening through our section of the state. Trees toppled and brought down power lines, cutting off electrical power for miles around.

We were lucky – initially

The power stayed on in our home for the first 48 hours, post-Sandy. Our house and a few others near us are on some strange grid that differs from the rest of the town. We had light, electricity for the stove and – most important to me – power for my oxygen concentrator.

It seemed to be too good to be true. And it was.

I needed to leave home the following day because my job at the time was with a commuter railroad in New York. I was given special consideration because of that and the town police helped me navigate the fallen trees and “live” electrical lines that were strewn throughout the town.

We worked our…er…behinds off at the railroad and I stayed there for the next few evenings. I checked in with my wife and children constantly. There was no school and very few people were about to get to work because the commuter trains, in some parts of northern NJ, are electrical and were not running.

The power needed to be shut off

At some point, my wife called me.

“Everything OK?” I asked.

“As much as the can be,” she said. “The electrical power company came by and said they needed to shut off our power so that they could fix the rest of the system.”

My heart sunk.

“You told them not to, right?” I asked.

“No, why?”

“Because we’ll never get it back,” I told her.

“Oh dear,” she said.

Sure enough, when I returned a few days later, I could feel the effects of COPD like I hadn’t before. But, I knew if I sat down with my concentrator for a while, it would restore the oxygen that had become so desperately depleted as I worked.

But, the concentrator runs on electricity. And it had not come back – despite the reassurances form the electrical company.

So, for 10 days like everyone else in northern NJ, I was not able to use the oxygen concentrator I use at night.

Warning from a friend

Luckily, my friend, Peter, who grew up where we live now who has emphysema and uses oxygen had warned me, right around the time of my COPD diagnosis, to get metal oxygen canisters “just in case.”

“Just in case of what,” I asked.

“Just in case you lose power,” he said.

“Why would we lose power?” I asked

“You’re a city boy,” Peter said. “You guys had 2 blackouts in 30 years. And you’ve been healthy up until now,” he continued. “There’s no reason you’d ever think about this stuff. But, this was “the woods” not too long ago – literally. We used to lose electricity all the time when I was growing up.”

We lost Peter in 2014. But I thought about him when I read the articles about Florence and saw those pictures.

If you’re restricted by COPD as I am, make sure you have an alternative to your electric oxygen concentrator. Even if you have spare batteries. You just don’t know how long the power will be out (and it will!) in situations like Hurricane Florence.

Peter’s warning was prescient.

It saved my life.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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