First-Person Report: Former SLO resident in Pennsylvania escaped brunt of superstorm Sandy

Larissa Doust shares her detailed preparation for the disaster

ldoust@thetribunenews.comOctober 30, 2012 



WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Lying in bed just after midnight Tuesday, listening to the wind from superstorm Sandy rage outside, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dense stand of trees towering just a few yards behind our house.

“Should we head down to the basement?” I wondered. “Are we far enough away from the windows? Am I doing enough to protect my children?”

Thankfully, our community — a western suburb of Philadelphia — ended up escaping the brunt of superstorm Sandy that wreaked most of its havoc on coastal areas in nearby New Jersey and New York.

Growing up in San Luis Obispo County, preparing for a natural disaster was not something I had to do very often.

Sure, we practiced diving under our desks every so often at school in Atascadero. And we were told to have supplies on hand in case the “big one” struck. But earthquakes were so rare, it was easy to dismiss any real preparation.

Even after 2003’s San Simeon Earthquake, during which I worked for The Tribune in downtown Paso Robles and lived on the east side of the city, I didn’t put together an emergency kit. It just seemed like bad stuff always happened to someone else.

During the year and a half we’ve lived on the East Coast, the mid-Atlantic region has experienced two hurricanes, a freak October snowstorm and even an earthquake. Nearby neighborhoods have been without power for days.

I’m just glad we don’t live near a volcano.

Although we’ve escaped any major damage personally, the close calls have taught me the importance of doing as much as we can to prepare in case we have to fend for ourselves after a natural disaster.

Instead of celebrating my birthday as planned with a day trip to New York City, we spent this past weekend filling up the gas tanks of our cars, getting cash, securing our patio furniture and putting away Halloween decorations.

We’ve got gallons of bottled water. We stocked up on nonperishable food. The freezer was filled with large bags of water that would help keep food cold if the power went out. And we had a large battery-powered lantern and several flashlights, with lots of extra batteries.

If an evacuation order came, we’d follow it and not try to ride out the storm in our home.

All the preparation helped ease my mind as the wind howled and the rain pounded outside. While my 4-year-old and 5-month-old sons slept snugly in their beds, my husband and I took comfort in knowing we had done as much as we could to prepare. 

Luckily, we didn’t even lose power. The trees stayed rooted in the ground. There are lots of leaves on the ground, and some nearby creeks crested their banks, but overall our area did OK.

We are thankful that — this time at least — we’d been spared the misery so many others have had to deal with after Mother Nature strikes.


Larissa Doust is a San Luis Obispo County native who works as a Web producer for The Tribune and lives in Pennsylvania.

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