Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012, 9:44 pm

Off to New Jersey to take on Sandy

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I should have stayed home the last two weeks, getting our boat covered and some other chores.

Instead, we have been in New Jersey to welcome Sandy to the United States. We arrived right after she blew into town. Unfortunately, we didn't get to take the Emergency Response Vehicle because we were out of town when she left.

But, we agreed to fly out and do anything that needed to be done. We landed at Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C., because almost all other eastern airports were still under water. We stayed that night an Arlington, Va., motel, our last night in a bed for two weeks.

The next day drove up to Somerset, N.J., the staging area where hundreds of Red Cross workers were flooding in. We were placed in a team that was going to take over a shelter originally opened by local Red Cross workers so they could go home to and tend to damage at their own homes.

We went to the shelter at the Mennen Arena in Morristown. It was an ice arena with a main rink with bleachers for spectators, plus two additional rinks for hockey practice and figure skating.

However, the only open areas in an arena are covered by ice -- which is cold under your bed. The ice was covered with boards and cots spread out. Our cots were in a ballet training room used to teach students. While there was no ice beneath the floor, the average temperature was someplace in the 50s. And since Judy and I were working the night shift at 8 a.m., the temperature wasn't adulterated by a bunch of warm bodies taking the chill off.

After a couple days of being woken up by aggressive shivering, Judy found the top of the bleachers was about 20 years warmer. Judy talked me into moving up in our world. There was even a press box on the 13th row of seats. After that, noise floor during the day was the only thing interrupting our sleep.

A few days later the shelter was closed and we, and our clients, moved the shelter to the Morris County Police and Fire Academy. They didn't really want us, but they did tolerate us. And we didn't make them waste a lot of money on gas; the temperature in the lobby varied from 54 degrees to 66 degrees over a two-hour span. Of the 23 clients in our care, we found that 20 of them were not in the shelter because of damage to their home or being without electricity, they were homeless taking advantage of the storm.

Needless to say, we weren't unhappy when they told us on Monday we were to close the shelter down and we could go home.
Jack Tumbleson is a retired copy editor for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus and a member of Coast Guard Auxiliary. He can be reached by telephone at (309) 786-5980 or by email at jack@qconline.com