Between You and Me: Attacked by COVID-19, High Heat and Isaias: Next...

Between You and Me: Attacked by COVID-19, High Heat and Isaias: Next Locusts?

A large tree in front of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library was no match for Hurricane Isaias. Photo by Pam Botway

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s no secret that we are living in chaotic times. The pandemic has changed all our routines and we certainly didn’t need a tropical storm with its accompanying power loss to further churn our existence. But Mother Nature gave us no choice. There we were, in the summer heat and in the dark with no phones, no TV and no internet. On top of that, it was Tuesday afternoon, the height of our production week at the office, and we had newspapers to get to the printer and the latest news for our website and our social media to publish.

But how?

We went home Tuesday night, hoping when we returned there would be electricity. The main event that lasted less than two hours gave us little rain, but high winds, and many days of downed trees intertwined with lots of electric lines to remember Isaias by. It seemed like every other local road was blocked.

While Wednesday morning was clear and beautiful, we were in a frenzy at the office. Normally our six papers leave us in turn via email to meet our press time at the printer, but that surely wasn’t happening. We needed power, and we needed the internet. We also needed at least eight more hours of in-house work by our pandemic-shrunken skeletal crew before we could even get to the printer.

I kept reminding myself, at least we we’re all healthy. And the extreme heat had somewhat abated so that we could keep our windows and doors open. Staff poured in and we threw out various suggestions for how to deal with this crisis that had snuck up on us. Well, it almost snuck up except for one staffer who had asked us on Monday how we were going to deal with the coming hurricane. “What hurricane?” I had responded cheerfully. “It’s only going to be a tropical storm!” Dubious, she returned to her desk, knowing how Cassandra must have felt during the Trojan War. Next time I will listen to her.

After we had parsed all the ideas for how to proceed, the one that made the most sense was to get a generator. There then began a furious round of phone calls on our juice-deprived cellphones to try and find one. Good luck! We tried from Hauppauge to Sag Harbor. There was none to be had.

Just when all seemed lost, our sales director remembered an advertiser called appropriately, Generators R Us by North Country Electric, Corp. Desperately we called. Trish Restucci answered the phone and, in the midst of their frenzied day, sensed our great need and remembered they had a small, old one in a closet that just might work. Later her husband, Frank, arrived with it and a can of gasoline and worked tirelessly to get us going. Now the frantic search for extension cords began until we found one long enough to stretch from the generator outside to our server inside, with stops along the way for the various computers.

By the end of the day, we were hooked up and ready to go. And then the power came on.

We at least had the satisfaction of knowing that we had rescued ourselves and had not waited hoping to be rescued in time. Yes, we were able to reach the printer, who rearranged his tightly scheduled press time to fit us in on Thursday afternoon, and we were in readers’ mailboxes and on the newsstands by Friday.

It was a true miracle. It was also the result of extraordinary help. Our heartfelt thank you to our neighbor, Denis Lynch of Setauket Kitchen and Bath, Dolores Stafford and Mike Vincenti of Stafford Associates, the computer wizards, Astrid at Ace Hardware, the post offices, and our saintly printer, among others. It took a village.

It also took the extraordinary energy and creativity of our most loyal and professional news media staff at TBR: our production and art director and her assistant, the editors, the ad director, the circulation manager and her husband, our drivers, the classified director, the webmaster and our general manager. It is an honor to work with you. You are the best!