Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surprise!! Where Were You, Five Years Ago Today?

If you were living in Western New York at the time, you likely have vivid memories of October 12th, 2006.  At the time, I was not yet fortunate enough to be a member of the Red Cross family.  I left for my job at a local tv station that afternoon, thinking it was a little chilly and cursing those pesky white flakes for falling so early in the year.  As the evening wore on my wife called, very concerned.  She was hearing a constant cracking noise and was afraid a tree was going to fall into our house.  Later, she said we had lost power, branches were coming down everywhere, and she was going to a friends house.  That tree eventually did fall into our house, but instead of crashing through it just leaned against the structure.  Others weren't so lucky.

Back at the tv station, the sports office didn't have any windows, so we were pretty isolated from the outside world.  "How bad can it be?" I thought, and in my stubbornness I drove home at the end of the night.  Five years later, I still don't know how I made it.  Everywhere, trees and debris lay in the streets, and all the street lights were out.  Over the next several hours, the damage caused by the October Surprise storm became quite clear.  400,000 Western New Yorkers were without power (ours was out for a week) and 80% of roads in the area were impassable, according to the New York State Thruway Authority.  The impact can still be seen today, as some once tree-lined streets remain empty.

During times like the October Storm, people turn to the Red Cross to turn Heartbreak into Hope.  Even though they had their own cleanup issues to deal with, our Disaster Action Team worked with the emergency management teams of the City of Buffalo and Erie County to open multiple shelters across the area, giving those with nowhere else to turn a warm place to stay.  As always, our volunteers and staff members gave up their time and talents to help their neighbors in need over the days and weeks that followed.

The events of five years ago are called the "October Surprise" because no one saw that storm coming.    It's difficult to think about today with temperatures in the 60's, but we urge you to take steps now to make sure you're prepared before the next disaster strikes.  We have some winter storm safety tips on our website, and encourage you to schedule a free disaster preparedness program at your school, business, or organization.

Everyone who was in Western New York on October 12th, 2006 has their own storm stories.  Please share your October Surprise memories in the comments section here or over on our Facebook page, and when you're done, take a few minutes to make sure that emergency kit is ready to go.  You know, just in case!!

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