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What did we learn from the two hurricanes?


October 12, 2011

Last Tuesday, October 4, Transition Honesdale called a meeting of local residents, and asked what was learned from the two hurricanes. One thing learned by the group gathered in the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Community Room was that hardly any of the cell towers in the area had generators and went dead with the loss of power.

Resident Jackie DeSau told of a fire company unable to let out the fire trucks because the doors were electrically powered and there was no other way to open them.

One community was luckier than most because it had a ham radio operator who kept them abreast of what was happening. A few people had transistor radios. Most did not.

“No one up our country road had a chain saw,” Linda Scott said. “There were several trees across our road and we couldn’t get out. The electricity was not flowing and the phones went dead. We were trapped for five days. My electricity was out for six days while I had to go to work every day,” she said. “I had to go to my neighbor’s house to take a shower and get dressed.”

Discussion ranged from gas stations and cell towers without generators, refrigerators and freezers with food rotting, the idea that no one knew how to can the food, that ice melts quickly in coolers, how bathtubs could have held a lot of water if the idea had been thought about ahead of time, to rain barrels that were used by some lucky ones, batteries that could not be recharged, and stores throwing out food because their refrigerators weren’t on.

“This entire event proves to us how important it is to build community and be able to help each other,” said Katie Baxter from Transition Honesdale, who ran the meeting. “We need to ask a lot of questions. We need to build resilience so we can survive these events. We need to build alternative energy systems. We need to grow our own food. We need to learn how to can. We need to do a lot of things we’re not doing if we are going to face things like a peak oil crisis and the excesses of global warming.”

“The boroughs and local townships must have some role in these matters, but I’m not sure what,” said Barbara Lewis, a member of the Borough of Honesdale Council, who is also a Transition Honesdale member. Her remark was seconded by another borough council member, Dave Dorswick, who is a volunteer fireman. “I don’t know of any firehouse that has generators,” he said.
The group talked of forming an action group or task force that would systematically address these issues.

“It’s vital that we build a resilient community whether we have devastating hurricanes or not,” Baxter said.