Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

November 1, 2012

Living and working in the wake of Sandy

By Brenda L. Holmes

— It looks as if life on the East Coast has had to slow down over the past few days after Hurricane Sandy blew through several states. Thousands of stories are coming out of the area telling tales of destruction, problems with mass transit, and people beginning to rebuild.

Avon native Lauren Oosterlinck and her husband Ben Edwards live in Long Island City in Queens.

“We live right off the Queensboro Bridge,” she said. “This has been just crazy — very bizarre.”

Oosterlinck works in New York as a concierge at W Hotels Worldwide. She and her husband are normally off on Monday and Tuesday, so when they heard the storm was coming in they hunkered down at home.

“We didn’t want to go out and get stuck so we just stayed home,” she said. “We felt pretty safe where we were.”

As the storm rolled through the area Monday evening, the couple visited their building’s gym to work out and pass the time.

“We can see the city and some trees through the big window in the building’s gym,” she said. “It was really bad to watch it come in. It was a very eerie feeling. We were grateful for being safe, dry, and with power.”

One of her co-workers has not been so blessed.

“One of my co-workers lives in Jersey and he has not been back to work at all,” she said. “He is just stuck there.”

When she returned to work on Wednesday, it was mass chaos as people were trying to move about the city.

“We had people coming into the hotel who were not staying there just to come in the bar or to ask to charge their phones or iPads,” Oosterlinck said. “One lady was downloading TV shows because she was living with nothing but lit candles at her home.”

She said her husband took a cab to her work that evening so they could travel home together.

“He got a cab and what would normally be a 10-minute trip took him two hours,” she said. “When he got to the hotel we walked home together over the bridge. It took us about an hour so we were really lucky.”

Oosterlinck is the daughter of Carolyn and Kurt Oosterlinck of Avon. She graduated from Avon High School in 2003 and went on to graduate from Franklin College.

“My parents were actually supposed to come in to see us,” she said. “They drove six hours and then turned around and went home.”

The Duke Energy facility in Plainfield sent a delegation of more than 100 people to West Virginia to help utilities there get back online.

Lew Middleton, spokesman for Duke Energy Indiana, said the utility companies have mutual aid agreements that help them prepare for natural disasters like Sandy.

“The group left Tuesday and is now in the Charleston, W. Va.,” Middleton said. “We sent 93 line workers, 14 supervisors and managers, four mechanics, one safety person, and 24 vegetation management people.”

He said the vegetation management, or tree trimmers, are contract workers.

“First they are getting a briefing from the local utility, which is American Electric Power (AEP),” Middleton said. “Each utility has their own work practices that they will need to be briefed on.”

He said they will assess the scope of the work that needs to be done and then set about helping to restore power, work on utility poles and all associated equipment, help with transformers and other forms of equipment, and replace what needs to be replaced.

“The cool thing is that there is no government agency involved here,” Middleton said. “There is no one mandating the utilities to share their resources. They all do it on their own.”

He said that utilities across the United States have mutual aid agreements so the lines of communication are already set up when a natural disaster occurs.