Forbes Readers Get First-Hand Account (If They Have Power)

When Hurricane Sandy struck, no one in Westport was immune. CEOs, hedge fund managers, Masters and Mistresses of the Universe — all suffered the same flooding, wind damage and power outages as the rest of the East Coast.

What happens when someone whose professional life revolves around instant and constant connection to technology — and international finance — gets cut off?

David Wismer

David Wismer found out — and shared his thoughts with the world. Or, at least the part of the world that reads Forbes.com, which he writes for. And has power.

He’s also a contributor to StateoftheMarkets.com, and runs a subscription trading service. Most importantly for this piece — and “06880” readers — he lives in the Charcoal Hill neighborhood.

Here’s David’s story, posted yesterday on Forbes.com:

Dinner by candlelight. “Military showers.” Searching high and low for an internet connection. Navigating every shortcut and back road we can find.

Such is life currently in Westport, CT.

And all are minor inconveniences versus the death and destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy to the East Coast. (Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who lost friends, family, their homes and perhaps their livelihood to this most destructive of storms).

My last post was on Monday afternoon, when the storm was just starting to accelerate in the coastal area of Fairfield County, CT. The winds were still in the relatively “benign” neighborhood of 25-35 mph, with gusts up to 45, when we had a 90-100 foot tall Eastern white pine come crashing down in our front yard, narrowly missing the house. Neighbors were not as fortunate, as a huge old oak took out their garage and thankfully just a small part of their house.

The smashed garage around the corner from David Wismer’s house. Underneath was a 1960 Mercedes. (Photo by Kathie Bennewitz)

Although we do truly believe first responders, the local police, firefighters and various State of CT officials have worked non-stop on rescue, recovery and restoration efforts, it is just a bit frustrating regarding the restoring of power and the blockage by trees still of some major thoroughfares.

According to Connecticut Light and Power, as of 9:30 am this morning 55% of Westport customers were still without power, which is at least some significant progress….

A few blocks away from us on Easton Road, not more than a few hundred yards from a satellite firehouse, the road is still one lane only where a tree hangs precariously over the road and is tangled on wires. And North Avenue, which is also a major connecting road and the location of the local Staples High School, is still blocked in places to traffic due to downed trees and at least one fallen utility pole.

One would think that some of the most important roads in town would be cleared by now, but we really have no way of knowing how the priority list of tree and power work is being determined. And there is no doubt that that homes and neighborhoods which were flooded near the coastline have been a first priority, as they should be.

(In a sidebar, my son is doing some backbreaking work in clean-up efforts at Westport’s “ravaged” Compo Beach…you would not believe what was found  from the beach blocks away in residents’ yards and the items which washed ashore from near and far.) As one drives down the beach road, many residents have thrown out mountains of household items which are no longer salvageable.

Scores of Staples students helped out with the cleanup effort, all around town.

It is a little difficult, to say the least, to try and operate as trader, free-lance writer and contributor to Forbes.com without proper internet access. Our usual go-to back-up location, the Westport YMCA, is shut down indefinitely due to flooding and significant damage to electrical and other systems.

My wife and I have tried also to take advantage of the hospitality at the Westport Public Library, the Wilton YMCA, and the Wilton Public Library, each of which boasts Wi-Fi access and a very welcoming attitude. We are extremely thankful for the hot showers we found at the Wilton YMCA but have had somewhat limited success getting online, due to what we are told are bandwidth issues at each of those locations. But we keep trying.

Yesterday, one of the Starbucks in town reopened and we checked that out but were quickly discouraged by the mob of cars parked outside. I suspect many were trying to get internet access sitting in their cars and not sure how that worked out.

Ok, by now you are surely saying, “well just use your SmartPhone, dummy”! Yes this is true, but it is hardly the greatest instrument for researching stories and using publishing tools. And the access even there has been spotty as well.

According to a post by TheStreet.com on Wednesday, cellphone service on the East Coast was hit significantly by Sandy and the situation might actually deteriorate:

Hurricane Sandy’s high winds, flooding and, in some cases, snow and ice have crippled cellular connections in 10 states from Virginia to Massachusetts. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says Sandy has affected 25% of all cellular phone service, from providers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and others, in more than 150 East Coast counties.

Flooding at Verizon’s New York City headquarters.

And that’s not all that was affected by the storm. In addition to mobile voice and data services, cellular towers also handle cable television and broadband Internet relay services. In a conversation with CNet, Genachowski also predicted that the situation will get worse before improving. Cell towers are powered by local electricity companies. When power was lost, cell towers were forced to rely on backup batteries to keep communications going. But as those batteries drain without any way to recharge, more cell phones will be forced out of service.

One other local concern for now, aside from the obvious of the school closings, public health and safety matters, power restoration, and the opening of all roads, is the status of the election next Tuesday.  With power still out for now at several school polling sites, we have heard that state and local officials are investigating back-up plans, but we have no clue for now what that may mean and how they will get the word out if things do not improve rapidly.

Bottom line? We are extremely thankful to have survived this storm with our lives and property intact, and will gladly trade our minor inconveniences for what might have happened. “Godspeed” to all in the region and especially those directly on the coast.

4 responses to “Forbes Readers Get First-Hand Account (If They Have Power)

  1. Blowin' in the Wind

    Not until this country gets its collective head out of its ass and starts investing in the type of infrastructure required to compete in the 21st century will we begin to solve these problems. On just about every objective standard, America is de-evolving from a 1st world county to a banana republic, and all our political class can do is obsess about cutting taxes, fighting more wars and worrying about a deficit when interest rates are at historic lows (cognitive dissonance much?) . While the financial elite and many once proud American companies can offshore there way out of this mess, those of who live here crave the kind of leadership that believes that investing in America’s future is worthwhile.

    This leadership is sorely lacking in both parties. Ironically, Obama’s “greatest” economic achievement was making Wall Street whole (and then some) yet he is accused of being a socialist (amazing!). Romney’s solution is to accelerate our descent into a feudal state. On Tuesday, I will vote for Obama – not because I think he’s doing a good job, but because I know it can get much worse.

    Yay America!

  2. thanks , merci , danke , gracias

  3. Dan, your reportage on Westport is excellent–comprehensive, compassionate. Thanks, Karl