The Eye of the Storm

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I admit it. I’m a weather weenie. I have one of those fancy weather stations and subscribe to AccuWeather Professional. I start following a hurricane when it is just a wave off of Africa, so last summer when it looked like Irene had a chance of causing some trouble for southeastern Connecticut, I was ready. For me, ready means more than the typical stuff like filling the bath tub with water and checking gas bottles for the camp stove. While electricity and hot water are important, my ability to connect is critical.

Hurricane Irene

The instant I lost power that Sunday morning in August 2011, my husband connected our 1,500-watt inverter to a deep cycle battery that I was able to use with my IPad and a Verizon Wi-Fi card. We ran our 1986 generator periodically and kept those batteries charged throughout our outage, which lasted for five full days. My inverter and deep cycle battery and a maze of wires became “Communications Central.”

When I set up the Ledyard and Gales Ferry Community Forum Group on Facebook a few months earlier, I had no idea that it would become a lifeline in a storm. As the winds were howling, residents started reporting in to the Facebook group that they had lost power. I was astounded that with almost a 100 percent outage, there was a large core of Ledyard members able to connect, mostly through their smartphones.

The first “post” for help came from the Bittersweet neighborhood, “We have a tree down across the road. Anyone know whom we should call?” We soon discovered that the town’s emergency number wasn’t working and the town’s website couldn’t be accessed for news. Town hall would be closed for three days, but our group, along with my Ledyard, Ct., Facebook page, became a major communication vehicle as members online passed information from the group along to their neighbors.

In the five days that most of Ledyard was without power, my group “connected” with information about what restaurants were open, how to find ice, and where utility trucks were working. While our town government was stumbling, our Facebook group was providing real-time information. We cheered each time a neighborhood reported that power was restored, and we did serious work like finding a volunteer to clear tree limbs for a senior and lend a hand to a military wife whose husband was out to sea. Business owners who had electricity joined the group and offered services like phone charging, hair drying, and well water for fill-ups.

When power was finally restored, comments followed. “How lucky are we to have Linda Davis on our side. She is doing such a great job of keeping this community informed, educated and inspired. What would we do without Linda Davis?”

And my favorite: “I think you should run for mayor.”

In the end, I contributed to my goal of becoming “just slightly famous” in my community, and I did it without ever talking about real estate.