Well, the past few days have been rather adventurous. Last Monday or so, the meteorologists warned us of severe wind to come later in the week. Now, we've had windy days before…though it's been a long time since I even remember them treating it with the kind of warning they did this time and many years since I remember there being any prolonged wind of any significance. So, while we prepared a little bit, I certainly wasn't expecting the kind of storm we received.
Starting Wednesday evening and though about 10 or 11 AM on Thursday, we had HUGE sustained blasts of wind. I heard varying reports, but it seems the consensus is that the average wind force was up in the 80-90 mph range with numerous gusts up in the 100+ mph range. Somebody already put up a wikipedia entry with some of the details. :)
Before I had looked outside, I rolled over and called the school district hotline to see if school was canceled…according to the message, all schools were in session, so I started pushing the kids to get ready for school. Lynette, who had been awake a lot of the night due to the wind, was adamant that they were NOT going to school. Looking out the windows, it looked very blustery but I still wasn't convinced of the extreme nature of the storm.
Our shed doors had been blown open along with the new gate of our fence. The kids let me know that our tramp frame had been blown around and that our basketball backboard was blown off. I rushed outside to shut and secure the shed doors and the fence gate. The wind was definitely strong and made it hard to get everything shut up nice and tight. Our trampoline frame had scooted over a dozen feet and crumpled up a bit as it got caught up in our apple tree (which had shed apples all over the ground). As I was on my way back inside, I noticed that my car (or rather the tree next to my car) was being assaulted by someone's aluminum shed/awning/carport structure that had blown down the road.
Back inside, the power flickered a few times and then died completely. I conceded that the kids should stay home and that I'd stay home from work. A few minutes later, the school secretary called directly to let us know that school was in fact canceled, but due to the power outage, they hadn't been able to update the emergency message or send out a message on the emergency dialer program.
We snuggled down and rested for a few hours while we waited for the wind to die down. Once the wind died down, we surveyed the scene. We lost a bunch of shingles off of our roof as well as our basketball backboard (which had just ripped itself from the pole it was mounted on) but otherwise, our damage was negligible. The aluminum shed that had blown into our yard ended up whipping around in the tree until it tore itself into three chunks in our yard and our neighbor's yard (sadly, one of the chunks broke the window of my neighbor's car).
Wandering around it was quickly apparent that we got off lucky. I walked across the neighborhood, following the sound of chainsaws. As I did, I saw dozens of HUGE trees that either snapped or completely uprooted themselves. Most landed in yards or on fences, but there were a few that pulled down power lines and/or landed on roofs. Across the neighborhood sheds were destroyed, trees downed, fences pulverized, trampolines dislocated (one of them managed to fly across multiple yards, up over a roof and lodge itself in a tree at the end of the block). It looked like a warzone or (as one of the guys put it) a zombie apocalypse, especially once you added in a bunch of folks walking around with chainsaws and other heavy hand tools.
Following the chainsaw sounds, I found a group of guys with the right tools and we started chopping and clearing trees around the neighborhood…the initial goal just being to get them off houses, out of the streets and sidewalks and away from power lines. For the next ~3 days we cut and cleared over and over. And yet, in many cases, it didn't feel like we were even making much of a dent against these huge trees.
Thursday night, I gathered with a group of people and we started canvassing the neighborhood to check and make sure people had food, warmth and shelter. About midway through our canvassing, the power came back on…to much applause.
Unfortunately, there were still a couple dozen neighbors without power…and theirs stayed off until Sunday evening. Generators, camp stoves, and other supplies were offered to those without power…along with inviting them over to power filled homes for hot meals, warm places to rest, hot showers, etc.
On Friday, I had to go to an appointment across town and was amazed at the scope of the damage throughout the city. Hundreds of trees uprooted. Sheds, garages, carports, etc dislocated or destroyed. Power poles, flag poles and other tall objects bent over or knocked down. Lots of business signs just blown out. Part of an apartment parking structure collapsed. Just devastation all over.
Saturday night, the news came in that another wind warning was prescribed for Sunday night thru Monday morning. Up to that point, we had been stacking all of the debris along the park strips at the edge of the road.
But with another storm coming, those stacks of debris now became huge piles of disaster waiting to happen. We went to church Sunday morning and very shortly the word came to go back home, get into our "grubbies" and go move all the debris. Trucks and trailers came from all over the neighborhood and we started loading up.
Once again, due to the size of these trees, it felt like we would never get all of the piles moved in time. And yet through a miraculous effort we managed to clear out all of the major piles of debris from around our neighborhood. The line to get to the city dump was huge...I heard tales of waiting ~90 minutes to get a load into the gate (a video below shows a crew counting the ~400 vehicles they passed on the way out). The city/county had set up numerous emergency dumping areas around the city and we found ourselves part of a county-wide caravan to clean up the mess. The national guard was called out to help with the cleanup and everybody pulled together.
There are still quite a few huge trees that need to be chopped up…there are fences to be rebuilt…and shingles/roofs to be repaired. Hopefully we can get the major work done before the snow really starts flying.
This morning, I was very relieved to see that last night's windstorm had been minimal comparatively. I didn't see any additional damage and the power was still on. I know there's still plenty of cleanup work to be done.
The past 4 days have been an amazing example of what we can do when we all pull together and just get the work done. There were so many people out there helping and nobody was complaining or shirking the work. Everybody just did whatever they could to help their neighbor.
Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes: