ENMU alumni share Hurricane Sandy experiences

Leslie Lyte and Tim Johanns are, at best, tangentially connected. They both attended Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, but not together — Johanns graduated in 1997, Lyte in 2005.

They both experienced Superstorm Sandy on Monday night, but not really together, with Johanns in Virginia and Lyte in Connecticut.

Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, shut down most of New York City and has a death count of more than 30 as of Tuesday evening.

But Johanns and Lyte are safe with their loved ones in Sandy's aftermath, thanks to a good deal of luck and some preparation. Thanks to previous bouts with severe weather, both were prepared when the storm hit.

Johanns, a former student body president at ENMU and a current defense and intelligence consultant in Arlington, Va., said the city went through a derecho, a fast-moving, aggressive storm system, in July. It knocked out power for five days at his house, and he went to his in-laws' home the second day with wife Dorie and son Nate.

Power at the house was lost around 8:30 Monday night, and the family went to the in-laws' place in Burke, Va., about 20 minutes away, in the morning.

"On Friday night and Saturday night, we prepared for this," Johanns said. "We went to the grocery store and got the supplies. Sunday about noon, we just hunkered down and waited out the storm. When the power went out, our 19-month old was already in bed. It wasn't that bad."

Going through the derecho helped, particularly with small details like removing campaign lawn signs before they become projectiles, but his Midwestern upbringing helped.

"I come from tornado country in Iowa," Johanns said. "Our farm was hit twice by tornadoes. I think you always (want to) have a supply of candles, a flashlight. We always had food and water on hand. I take it pretty seriously.

"I'll probably end up buying a generator pretty soon; otherwise, I'll end up losing a freezer full of food. That's not cheap."

For Lyte, a commercial manager for a jet engine manufacturing company in East Hartford, she and husband Quinlan went through Hurricane Irene last year, which mostly damaged properties along the coast.

"Everything was just now getting rebuilt, and along came Sandy," Lyte said. "But we were a lot more prepared. The magnitude of Irene made everybody on high alert this time. We made sure to get supplies like candles, batteries.

"The media were on it a lot sooner. The news and weather stations were telling us to take this seriously a week in advance."

Lyte's bosses told her not to come in to the office Monday, which became a moot point because the roads were shut down.

"Around noon, high tide came in and the winds were crazy," Lyte said. "It was really around 6:10 (p.m.) that it got awful. Trees were going down, people were losing power. We were very fortunate. We did not lose power, but 60 percent of our town did."

Lyte said there was quite a bit of luck involved, as well. Her condo didn't lose power, Internet or cable service — something that wouldn't have been true if their West Haven condo was located a block further in either direction.

"We've given an open invitation to any of our friends. They could be coming in from Fairfield and Baybrook. If you look at a map, those are the opposite ends of Connecticut."

Locally, Xcel Energy is sending about 30 personnel to Wytheville, Va., to assist Appalachian Power Company to restore electrical services. Spokesman Wes Reeves said a three-man crew that handles work in Clovis and Tucumcari is part of the group, but individual crew members were not disclosed.

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