Monday, September 5, 2011

Hurricane Irene Stories from Second Life

No other country is as heavily represented in Second Life as the United States, and millions make their homes near the East Coast. So when Hurricane Irene smashed onto the coast on August 27th and 28th with it’s wind, rain, and flooding, many of us were affected in one way or another.

Among those in the path of the storm, yours truly. And remembering Hurricane Isabelle several years ago knocking out power for a week, I was worried this would happen again. So I made sure I had enough canned food & bread, batteries for the flashlights, gasoline for the generator, and uploaded a few articles onto the Newser ahead of time. I also had a number of books to read, plus pencil & paper if I wanted to write (or draw).

On the day of the hurricane was dark skies, thick clouds, and the strong breeze made the trees sway when I looked out the window. And the rain, at times it fell normally, others heavily, and water pooled in places in my yard. I basically hunkered down at my house, watching the local news and going about my business on the computer, keeping in touch with friends in Second Life, not sure if I’d be knocked offline at any moment. The storm was its windiest about 3-6PM SL time (6-9 PM local time), but power stayed on until a bit after 6:00, just when I was starting to think it might not fail.

But power wasn’t out for long. Before sunrise, I woke to the sounds and sights of power coming back on. And it stayed on. In the morning, I went outside and saw no damage but fallen tree branches, which I spent about an hour cleaning up. I wouldn’t be spending a week offline after all. But it wasn’t that long ago I had to spend a lot of money to fix up the house, including cracks in the ceiling that came about after a bad storm. It’s possible the storm might have shaken the house up for future problems down the road.

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Others in Second Life had their problems. Grease Coakes lived further up the East Coast. “I didn’t go through a lot,” he told me, “it was just windy and rainy. I stayed inside, ... with food supplies I was fine. My neighbors didn’t think much of it. They were more unnerved by the earthquake. ... I’m used to rainy weather, but in all my life, that was my first earthquake.I thought the hurricane was overhyped by the media. It might have been worse in other areas, but here it was no big deal.” Grease lived some distance inland.

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SL Newser reporter Gemma Cleanslate was in the hurricane’s path in the northeast, “No wind or rain damage, but power out for about ten hours.” But many tens out thousands nearby were without power, “The town next to me, (power) will not be up for a week, they said. ... Our library was *full* of people to say, charging cell phones, just hanging around (chuckle) people we never saw before.”

“I think Vermont is really suffering, never expected this massive flooding. And the Connecticut River is going going to flood a lot. One farmer, a woman, who is about 45, took over her dad’s farming a few years ago and if the river floods her fields in the meadows, it will be devastation to all the corn down there. She had a bad harvest last year. This may be her last.” The farm was near where Gemma worked,”She almost quit then.” Later, Gemma told me the field was a total loss, “My farmer lady lost all her corn in the meadows. First timt I have had no corn for Labor Day weekend.”

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Reporter Xymbers Slade was also in the northern part of the hurricane’s path. He wasn't close to shore, well inside New York state far from the ocean, but still he was affected. He didn’t lose power from the wind knocking down power lines, but from an exploding transformer. When he called to see how long it would take, he was first told by the power company they didn’t know, then was given the impression his area was considered “low priority” and might have to wait a while, possibly more than two weeks. Hearing that made him feel, “Not happy. Not happy at all.” He was able to get limited access online from his public library, but couldn’t do much more than tell his friends to wait.

Fortunately, power was restored in a few days,and he was able to log back on the Grid. Xymber's Livejournal entry can be read Here (caution, adult language).

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Perri Prinz, DJ at Sunweaver Air and Club Zero Gravity and Internet Fantasy writer featured on Book Island, also ended up losing power from Irene. “As hurricanes go,” she posted in her journal, “it wasn't terribly impressive. Basically it rained a lot, but there wasn't a lot of noisy wind like I'm used to. And we had not a bit of property damage. I had gotten about 3/4ths of the way through my show at Cutlass when the power went out, and it stayed out for three days or so. But they were rather cool days. So we didn't miss the air-conditioning.”

Perri being imaginative, she wasn’t really bored, but listened to the radio and pondered, posting a few of her thoughts in her Livejournal entry later, “Another stray thought that cropped up over the outage was how easy it was to get on without electricity. Three days to do nothing but sit and dream. ... And I wondered at those who think it would be some tragedy if we suddenly had to do without all our electrical toys - like life just couldn't go on without them. How silly.”

Eventually power did come back, and it was back to Second Life, back to Book Island, back to DJing, and back to her friends. Perri's whole post can be read Here.

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Mystery hostess Monique Corbeau lived around the New York area, and told of some of the damage there, “New York got hit bad. We had very large waves, the winds were crazy. Trees went down. No electricity yet for most of us where houses flooded. Even when it passed, we still had the winds. Most of the Island, in some spots, still no electricity. My son’s (workplace) has none. ... My husband’s (workplace) has none too. We have friends who don’t have any. My house doesn’t either, staying with family until it comes back. ... Hoping for electricity tomorrow, they said it might be days.”

“We never get hurricanes, or even tropical storms, so it was bad for us. ... The news was talking about it for days. They evacuated us fast and good.” Asked if her neighbors took it seriously and got supplies, “yeah, when you went to get supplies, there was no more. So I left being by the water and went inland to family. Just their houses were flooded. One friend in Virginia, he said tree, floods, still no power for him. A tree went through his house. ... He said thank God he was at a shelter and not home.”

“We need to be better prepared next time. So many homes destroyed, and insurance companies won’t help.” Asking her for details, “will drop you, they say. Don’t like the sound of that. They say your coverage for floods might not be covered. ... We have (flood insurance), but they said it’s for a certain kind of flood. ... That’s all the news said. I guess we’re not under flood insurance for hurricanes because we don’t get them. ... Most don’t have cell service or phones right now.”

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Live singer Debi Late, who performs in Second Life, was south of me in one of the barrier islands in North Carolina where the hurricane first hit the coast. She described details on her Facebook. Starting Thursday August 25th, she began posting about it, including weather maps of where the storm was and it’s projected path, “I'll be online as much as possible until power and/or internet service go kaflooey this weekend. We're expecting a pretty direct hit from Hurricane Irene. I'll keep you all posted on how we're doing!!” The hurricane was just one thing she posted about, others being about a cold, which caused her to cancel a show, and about the armed forces. Her friends posted her messaged wishing her well, and not to take chances, “Please be safe, Debi.” “I’ll be thinking about you.” “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.”

Although she could evacuate to away from the storm, her husband was “essential personnel,” so she stayed in the area. She did make the decision to leave her house to go to a shelter, “starting to wrap my head around packing all the important things in my house and taking them to the fire station where we will ride out Hurricane Irene. But I suspect my house will be very wet after this. So, computers/photos/scrapbooks/the works, is all getting relocated, today.”

The hurricane being downgraded got her attention, but she wasn’t taking chances, “Looks like Irene is weakening a little. But it'll still cause flooding of our area from the west. So I'm still leaving my house and hoping I don't have too big of a mess to clean up when I get home.” By evening, the move was done, “We're at the fire station now.... it started raining just a little bit, around 6 or so, nothing major here, yet. That'll happen starting in the wee hours of the morning.”

She got up early Saturday morning to check things, “We're having winds around 60 - 65 now, I'm hearing power is flickering. But this building has a generator, so we'll be ok. And the modem is on a UPS so I'm still online.” By late afternoon, water was being blown back onto the island from the west, “guess I'm going to have a wet house to return to.”

On Sunday evening, the hurricane far to the north, she posted, “We got our butts handed to us with this one. It was nasty, but we're alive. My house is flooded, but, it's stuff and wet clothes. No biggie, folks. We'll just relocate to something. Living in the fire station now. I know lots of prayers were working. Just popping in on someone else's computer ...” Two days later, she had concluded her home couldn’t be saved, “Our house is going to be a total loss, had about 2 1/2 feet of flooding in it. I'm working to salvage everything that's still dry, then we'll work on finding somewhere to live. ... This was the worst storm ever to hit our island.”

Needless to say, logging onto Second Life was out, “I won't be singing in-world for quite a while, till I'm back online and in a house at some point.”

But friends wanted to help out. Among them, “Just Because” clothing store owner Annie Melson. She posted, “Terk and I are wanting to help Debi Latte and her husband rebuild their life after the hurricane. I put up donation vendors in my store (link provided) to help Debi. EVERY cent will go to her. I'm also in the process of making a special outfit where all proceeds will go to helping Debi and her husband rebuild. Please donate! We love you, Debi!!” She was putting aside her work on her mens’ clothing for the fundraiser outfit.

I sent Annie a message asking about her helping Debi, and she later answered, “Yes, I have placed donation kiosks in my stores and another location to raise money to help Debi and her husband, and I'm creating an outfit that all proceeds from that will go to her as well. My husband, Terk, is also contacting others to help organize some special events to help bring in funds that way too. I'd like to get more kiosks out there so I'm willing to place the kiosks anywhere anyone will let me place one, and I've talked about it on my facebook page and group notices to help bring awareness. We just really want to help Debi and Mike as much as we possibly can. She's a good friend and an incredible person, and she deserves any help that can come her way.”

Annie’s store is at Taupo (60, 180, 36)

So for Debi Latte, sadly her experience with Huricane Irene is not yet over. Hopefully she’ll be able to get a new home soon. For those with a Facebook account, you can read her posts Here.

Sources: Debbi Latte's Facebook page, Symphonic Rock Productions, Xymber's Livejournal

Bixyl Shuftan

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