November 20, 2012 —
Communities large and small were drenched, devastated and wind-swept by the fierce winds of Hurricane (or depending on the locale, “Superstorm”) Sandy. Sullivan County was not exempt. At the Lumberland Town Board meeting on November 14, supervisor Nadia Rajsz and the board, strongly seconded by community members, spoke about a small town valiantly coming together to cope with crisis.
“It was so great to see everyone working together like a well-oiled machine,” Rajsz said. “I hope that by now everyone has had their power restored. The local electric company kept telling us that we would get there. Thank you for your patience.”
Deputy supervisor and councilman Joseph Carr added, “When they say that living in a small town has advantages because small towns know how to come together, it’s very true.”
Rajsz offered special thanks to Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who had meals delivered from the Red Cross, along with 42 jugs of water she urged ShopRite to donate. Sheriff Mike Schiff came through with an emergency generator to help warm people up at the local command center. “During a crisis people come together,” Rajsz said. “On a good day, we bicker, but on a bad day, we do come together.”
Carr reported that the local constables went door-to-door to check on all residents. “It was very heartwarming to see all the local departments and the residents pull together to help everyone, and make sure that no one was overlooked,” he said. The police constables responded to 86 calls for service and made 61 house calls. Due to trees felled by the winds, numerous utility wires went down.
The fire department was manned for 24 hours a day, reported president Ann Steimle. “All downed trees and wired poles were reported by fax to the control center. The radio was crackling left, right, and center, logging in 51 complaints. After the calls, came house checks.” Because numerous residents were without power or heat, the command center remained open throughout the night as a warming center. Due to power outages at the Pond Eddy Methodist Church, the contents of the church freezers were melting, so church members brought over numerous platters of turkey and food.
“I got to tell you, we had a ball. A lot of people came over because they knew we had food. There was a warm feeling at the fire house. It was almost like a party,” Steimle recalled.
With power, light and heat restored in Lumberland, the community is now looking to help others affected by the storm. Town clerk Virginia Horn is accepting donations of soap, towels, bedding, shampoo, cleaning supplies and gloves as the most needed items. The municipal building is serving as the drop-off point.
In the aftermath, the town is also looking ahead to future weather emergencies likely to be triggered by climate change, as discussed by New York’s Governor Cuomo in an article he penned for the New York Daily News. Currently, the town is compiling a list of seniors as well as people with medical needs. A new emergency generator will be delivered in April.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that people are worried about you,” one older local citizen said.
Although no one knows when the next crisis may be, or how novel weather changes may further affect this region, Rajsz reported that a snow and ice watch is projected for 12 a.m. on November 17. “I can’t believe that we are in that part of the season already,” she said.