Reporter's notebook: The storm in Stillwater

Surviving last week's monster; bracing for the next


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Photos



  • Wind felled tree blocking the road Photos by Laurie Gordon




  • Another downed tree crushes a pickup




  • Tree leans precariously on electrical wires




  • Common sight and source of envy




  • Trying to make a driveway passable again




By Laurie Gordon

— Walking down Edgewood Drive, in Stillwater on Tuesday afternoon was like being in some sort of sci-fi movie. All of the houses were dark and a strange buzzing sound filled the air.

This was the aftermath of last Friday's nor'easter that barreled through the area leaving people without lights and heat. Some had had a tree or two fall on their homes or property. Some had found hotel rooms but they were a hot commodity and scarce. Others bunked in with family or friends. Some had generators, and others just plain gutted it out with wood stoves, fireplaces, and lots of blankets.

Mark Paterno lives on Cedar Drive in Stillwater. "This really was the perfect storm for disaster," he said. "It began with some nice heavy rains to soften the ground the really followed by 5 to 6 inches of heavy wet snow then the coup de grace: high winds at 20+ miles per hour strong enough not just a snap trees but tear them out at the roots. Powerlines were no match."

Paterno was able to pull power from his family's generator. He then managed the timing of the boiler to allow the family hot water for showers and sporadic heating throughout the day while allowing maximum power to the refrigerator.

"No power for five days so far," he said on Tuesday, "And I think I'm ready to live in a little House on the Prairie!"

Samantha Lupo lives in Stillwater, is a teacher at Kittatinny Regional High School and has two young daughters.

"As a mom, we've gone old-school and played boardgames and cheated and used the generator to watch DVDs," she said. "We went to a play place yesterday to give them a chance to get out, and my husband, Mike, and daughter, Gia, took a jog in the park to burn off some energy. We are just trying to stay positive and busy."

Kittatinny students have been out of school since Friday. As a teacher Lupo said, "It's tough because you know we are missing valuable classroom time, but it will make for an interesting discussion when we get back. It will definitely add to the school year."

Vicki Yanaga, who lives at the other end of Cedar Drive from Paterno said, "We are running a generator to keep a refrigerator going and we are running a heater in one bedroom so we are all sleeping together along with our pets. We are playing games and trying to make the best of it."

She added, "I spoke to one of the linemen working by us and he said they came in all the way from Ohio, so we bought him and his crew lunch. What I thought was really bad was that these guys are staying in a hotel an hour and a half away from here. That means they are driving a three hour round-trip to help us. I can't believe that our community couldn't come together when something like this happens and house these guys."

Jessica Vollero lives in Fredon and said on Tuesday, "We are still without power. We had a large tree take out a powerline going up my driveway. Our house was hard to access via the driveway, but I am able to go to the woods to feed my horses."

Vollero fosters animals and said, "Thankfully I had kind friends take in foster puppies as well as my own pets."

Tara Templeton, of Fredon, said being without power is "extremely inconvenient and costly." She said "Thankfully, friends took us in for a few days and then we went over to the Grand Cascades for a night and now we're at my sisters. A lot of moving around and living out of the small suitcase. Wondering if they whole-house generator is worth investing in. We lost all the food in our refrigerator and we had to put Leo (their dog) in a kennel. Hotel rates are not cheap and it all adds up. We stopped by the house a few times to check on things and grab a few items, and it was 40 degrees inside. It made me so sad to see the house so empty, lifeless and cold. I miss my dog, my bed, and my daily routine."

Lydia Hanson, of Fredon, and her husband, Mike, have four kids. On day five of no power she said, "The hardest part for my family has been keeping the younger children and animals warm with the house at 45°. The hamster went into hibernation. Mike has been staying up until 3 AM every night chopping wood and keeping the fire going."

She was thankful to their neighbors, the Pender family, for letting them take showers, charge electronics, and get warm at their house, where the power came back on.

Sadly, there has been an ugly side to the storm. Some people, it seems, really don't like generators, and the mother of a three month old who lives in the Paulins Kill Lake section of Stillwater received a nasty letter in her mailbox about the sound of her generator. The letter writer felt it was keeping her kids awake. There have been reports of people attempting to steal generators and gas cans and "suspicious looking" people have been reported in one neighborhood. People have been ranting on social media, and some have not been too nice in the long lines at ShopRite.

Lori Schutte was positive and on Monday posted on Facebook, "Day four. No power, no school, no problem! Shopped. with Aly. Found prom dress. Shoes and accessories. Priceless."

She said on Tuesday, "Coping with the storm? Taking it day by day and realizing that many people have it much much worse with no source of heat such as a generator etc. and no running water. Some are by themselves. Some have kids with asthma who need breathing. Some have lost their roof and vehicles due to falling trees. Looking at the glass half full instead of half empty. I am thankful for the sunny days. I even saw three crocuses in the yard today they survived the last storm and have no idea of the impending snowstorm coming tonight so like them – keep on showing your beauty and push on."

Templeton said, "As frustrating as it is, I remind myself daily that although this is inconvenient, we are safe and warm and I feel for those volunteers who have to be outside."

Stillwater Mayor Lisa Channings has been proactive, reaching out to JCP&L and L and updating the community via Facebook, as has been Fredon mayor Keith Smith, who has been sending a daily email update. The Sussex County YMCA, Kittatinny High School and the county Vo-Tech have offered their facilities to the community to grab a shower and charge devices.

As I file this story, we are anticipating another nor'easter with more heavy snow and high winds. My home, in Stillwater, been without power since. Friday. We are extremely grateful to my parents who have helped us, and we are praying for those who have lost their homes or property. The crews will not be able to work if the predicted additional high winds come in, and more damage is anticipated. Thousands of linemen are working hard in the cold rain and snow to restore the power. If you see them, please pull over and say thank you or bring them some coffee. There are people who have been left homeless, and in instances, anger has manifested. Patience has truly been put to the test, but sometimes, when we are forced out of our "ordinary," we see the extraordinary. Neighbors have been helping neighbors, friends and family have stepped in, and there has been a lot of parent and child quality time. Lineman have traveled here from far away, and children have baked them cookies to say thank you. Above all, Mother Nature has reiterated to us that she is truly awesome and extraordinary.







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