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Sandy ordeal: 77 hours of darkness, 5 hours to find gas

November 05, 2012 19:36 IST

Paresh Gandhi recalls his Superstorm Sandy ordeal.

My cell phone -- which I always keep by my bedside -- rang at 5 am November 1. My friend Avtar Singh had called from Carteret, New Jersey.

"Paresh," he said, "wake up and get down here, a gas station is open and selling gas."

My tank was almost empty. I jumped out of bed and drove hastily from my home in Iselin, New Jersey, to Carteret.

When I arrived, I found a long line of about 200 cars at the gas station. Devoid of that American buzzword, choice, I waited in line for two-and-a-half hours.

When my car was finally due to be filled up, a Punjabi gas pump operator came up to me and I said, "Please fill up my car." He said, with a smile, "Sir, we are offering gas of $20 max per car."

So after two-and-a-half hours of waiting, I got only 5.9 gallons of gas for my 17-gallon gas tank. I began my search for gas anew.

Finally, I found a gas station operating with police protection. I waited another 90 minutes in line, and finally had a full tank at 10:15 am.

Like 50 million affected people in 20 states, my house was plunged into darkness -- or should it be the Dark Ages?  -- October 28.

I searched in vain for a generator to buy. I had a 1,200-watt car inverter, which I connected to my car battery with a jumper cable. I kept the car engine on from October 30, and kept adding gas in the car from what I had kept as reserve in my garage. I used the same inverter to run a pump, which drew water from my basement, my television, cable set-top box -- you know how we journos are news junkies, right?  -- and two energy-saver light bulbs.

I also kept my phone charged, and connected a line to my tankless LPG water heater that only takes electric ignition. So I had hot water too.

After 77 hours of darkness, the power returned.

Only I know -- as do all those affected by Superstorm Sandy -- how I worried about my family, as well as colleagues, friends and family spread across the North-East.

My three-and-half-year-old daughter Pia was feverish. She was also scared of the storm's sounds. To distract her, I switched on some cartoons and she was better -- if only us adults could do the same.

At 2 am November 1, Pia woke up to drink some water. By force of habit she turned on the light switch in our bedroom.

"Hip hip hurrah," she shouted. "Mamma, see we got the light back!"

Image: Image: The long line for gas at Edison, New Jersey

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

Paresh Gandhi