Bringing home a baby during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Morris Township
By Marcia Stornetta
Like many first time-parents, Morris Township residents Chrissy and Christian Kemp anxiously awaited the birth of their daughter. But when the power went out in their Morris Township home on Oct. 29 following Hurricane Sandy, their anxiety increased dramatically—their baby was scheduled to arrive three days later.
“After a walk around the neighborhood the day after Sandy, we were very nervous. There were several downed power lines stretched across James Street,” Chrissy, a math teacher at Morristown High School, noted.
Christian, a history professor at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, added, “We went nine days without power after Hurricane Irene. And even though Chrissy needed electricity to refrigerate her insulin, our appeals to the power company fell on deaf ears. So we knew we were on our own and needed to act quickly to make contingency plans.”
The hospital still had power. Because of Chrissy’s diabetes, postponing the delivery planned for Nov. 1 was not an option. Nor was staying with extended family—the closest family member unaffected by the storm lived several hours away. And because 85 percent of Morris Township residents also were without power, they could not rely on their neighbors.
By the time the couple arrived at the hospital for the delivery, they had found friends in Madison with power who were willing to take them in. “I was disappointed to think that we couldn’t bring our daughter back to our own house. But on the other hand, we were just so grateful to have somewhere to go with power,” Chrissy noted.
Friends, however, were determined to help the Kemps begin family life in their own home. Soon after the storm had begun, members from their church had started a Facebook page dedicated to communicating the needs of its members. When friends learned of their lack of power and the impending birth, several stepped in to help.
While Chrissy was in labor, Bruce Jones, a church leader, secured a generator from the Mormon Helping Hands, the disaster-relief arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By the time the 9 lb. 12 oz. Adella was born that night, family friend Michael Bason had picked up, delivered and installed the generator at their home.
The next morning, as Chrissy and Adella peacefully recovered from the delivery, another friend contacted Madison contractor Scott Nelson. “I was tired and I was busy,” Nelson said, “but when I heard a baby was involved, I got right over there.” He wired the generator to the furnace fan, so the entire home could be heated.
Fueling the generator, however, posed yet another problem. Even though Governor Chris Christie had instituted gas rationing in New Jersey the day that Chrissy was discharged from the hospital, gas lines were still hours long. But fellow Scout leader James Francks came to the rescue—he drove to Pennsylvania to buy several gallons of gas, which he delivered to their home.
The Kemps proudly brought Adella home from the hospital on Nov. 4 to a toasty warm house. By that time, their garage was also filled with an array of gas cans supplied by friends lucky enough to have had their power restored.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” proud grandfather Scott Stornetta noted. “And Adella had a ‘village’ of people helping ensure she was welcomed into a warm and happy home.”
The power came back on when Adella was nine days old. As her mother noted, at that point the baby had spent half her life in the hospital, the other half without power, oblivious to all the drama of Hurricane Sandy. “Obviously we wish we had not gone without power for 12 days,” Chrissy added. “But if we couldn’t have power, at least we knew we had friends we can rely on.”