Commentary: Harford back to business as usual after surviving Sandy

I did nothing – zip, zero, zilch – to prepare for Sandy. My husband, however, had things well in hand, which is good, because we needed to be prepared, as it turns out.

Had it been left up to me, we would have been using the flashlights on our cell phones to hunt around a pitch black basement for flashlights and batteries. Thanks to Chris, they were all sitting on the table waiting for us to use.

It was interesting to watch the preparations and then watch as the storm unfolded. Residents were kept well informed of the happenings from Sunday through Tuesday as Sandy approached, hit then drifted off. At one point my dad said, "I'm getting tired of Rick Ayers," the county's emergency manager whose voice is on most of the reverse 9-1-1 phone calls residents received before and during the storm. I quickly pointed out that if he weren't being updated with information, he'd be equally annoyed, and he quietly agreed.

On my weekly Wednesday stop at the local bagel store, I saw County Councilman Jim McMahan, who said he'd been at the Emergency Operations Center for four days. He had nothing but praise for Ayers and the county's director of administration, Mary Chance, who he said both ran a virtually seamless operation at the EOC. The county learned its lessons after Isabel nine years ago, he said, and it was evident in how well Harford was prepared for this storm.

Harford got off pretty easy as far as damage from Sandy, which never quite amounted locally to what was predicted. Harford survived quite well, actually. Places like the Jersey Shore and Delaware beaches weren't as lucky. I saw pictures of the Wawa in Avalon, N.J., where I used to spend a week or so during the summer, and water was almost halfway up the front door. In Lewes, Del., where my parents and brother have a house, water flooded the streets and debris washed up on shore. Their house, about a mile from the beach, was spared.

But back to Harford. I have a hard time just sitting back and watching, so I had to be out in the storm both days to see what was happening. I took a drive Monday morning before Chris started working. The rain was coming down but the wind was only slight. Still, people scurried around at the grocery store at Greenbriar picking up some last-minute items they somehow hadn't thought to buy in the three to four days leading up to the storm. (I'm not sure there was much left at any Harford store.)

But overall, people seemed to be heeding the warnings to stay home, and it was eerily quiet around the Bel Air area.

The same thing Tuesday morning, though more and more people were venturing out, probably like me, anxious to see what kind of damage Sandy did.

Other than power outages, I'd say not much. We lost a tree limb out front and an entire evergreen in the backyard fell over. We stuck to the Fallston, Bel Air and Rock Spring areas during our drive Tuesday, and the damage, or lack thereof, we saw was similar. The most damage appeared to be a huge pine that fell over on Old Fallston Road, and the way it fell didn't hit any houses.

It turns out we needed those flashlights Chris had gotten out ahead of time. Our power went out around 5:45 Monday evening and came back on around 1:15 Wednesday morning, so just about 30 hours in the dark. It's not so bad for us when the power goes out – since we have county water we can still run the faucets and flush the toilets, and since we have gas heat, we can still cook. My parents aren't so lucky – they're on a well and it gets a little tricky for them. Fortunately, they didn't lose their power during this go-round, and were kind enough to watch my kids Tuesday while I had to work and their day care was closed.

My only concern about the lack of power was the lack of heat. It was 40 degrees outside when we got home Tuesday night – pretty cold. But I bundled up the kids in extra pajamas and blankets and we were all good. A little chilly, but good.

All in all, it wasn't a bad storm. My kids weren't too upset they couldn't watch television (though they were quite happy when power was back on) and I managed to survive without the Internet for a while (I can't get much T-mobile service on my cell phone at my house). Just a little bump in the road – yes, easy for me to say since my power is back on – that everyone in Harford County seemed to take in stride.

Now it's back to business as usual.

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