1660317403433 Hurricaneida

Hurricane Ida Teaches A Tough Lesson

Nov. 1, 2021
Think carefully about where you keep irreplaceable items

Hurricane Ida devastated Louisiana in late August. Then, despite being downgraded to a tropical storm, Ida wreaked havoc and destruction when it hit the Northeastern United States in early September — as I personally can attest. Over 10 inches of storm water flooded the basement of the house in New York City my family has lived in since 1978.

Torrential rain from the storm had started but the basement was dry when I checked. Then, near midnight, I got a frantic call from a neighbor. “Our basement is full of water,” he screamed. Scurrying downstairs, I discovered a flood of storm water that reached above the first step of the stairs. By morning, the water had receded, leaving leaves and a muddy residue as well as soaked walls, now-kaput appliances and a massive number of drenched items.

My wife and I both are accumulators. Indeed, our daughter-in-law long has argued we should start getting rid of stuff, I guess fearing she’d be stuck doing that job in due course. The basement was full of shelving units containing all sorts of things, including toys our son played with decades ago (he certainly had lots of LEGO sets!), personal memorabilia, collectibles such as some of my typewriter collection, parts for my vintage Studebaker, silk flowers my wife uses to create seasonal arrangements, vintage electronics like Betamax video recorders, books, and humdrum household supplies.

Unfortunately, the flooding reached items on the first shelf of the shelving units and floated large storage containers off the floor, buffeting their contents.

So, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy since the storm going through everything that had been in the basement, throwing away loads of priceless, irreplaceable items, decontaminating anything salvageable as well as trying to repair what we could. (For instance, I devoted last night to painstakingly prying open some fancy kaleidoscopes, to clean residue from prisms and lenses.)

Meanwhile, a crew now is removing ruined portions of wallboard, etc., and then will start reconstruction.

Fortunately, New York City has stepped up its services. The city sent workers, dressed in hazmat suits, to remove items we wanted out of the basement that we couldn’t manage ourselves. They “schlepped” two refrigerators to the street and also brought up some large heavy storage boxes full of toys and other contaminated possessions. The Sanitation Department has added extra pickups and is taking everything put out, no matter how much. The city even has arranged for a variety of food trucks to provide free lunches to people in the neighborhood.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking for sympathy. I certainly realize people in areas like Louisiana and even New Jersey have suffered far worse, losing their homes and virtually all their belongings.

Instead, I want to stress the lesson I’ve learned — the need to consider rethinking where and how to store things you consider irreplaceable. Once our basement is repaired, the bottom shelves of the shelving units only will contain items we don’t worry too much about losing.

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at [email protected]

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