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The Storm, Part 2: Aftermath

After a badly needed nap, I dragged myself out of bed and prepared to assess the damage.  Bob had woken the stove up, and while it was chilly in the house, it wasn’t cold.  However sometime during the night we lost the phone line.  Okay – I figured that was annoying, but not a big deal.  Our cell phone reception at home is spotty at best, but it exists.  Except it didn’t.  There was NO cell signal, not even in the places we can always get one.  That was the first indication that something was very, very wrong.  We bundled up and headed outside to see how wrong it was.
 
The first thing that was noticeable was that we missed having to put in an insurance claim for a flattened car by a few inches.
  
 
Those oak branches are both about four to six inches across where they ripped off the tree.  This was the scene, and we weren’t even down the steps yet.  When we did get down the steps and looked up the front walk, we saw this:
 
 
 

Now, a lot of that is the dogwood, and surprisingly it survived.  Once I got the enormous oak branch off of it, which helped.  That branch you see in the right foreground is one that didn’t *quite* fall on Bob’s car.
 
This ought to be a clear view through the front gardens and looking down the driveway.
 
 
 
Can you believe that this birch tree not only didn’t break, but it came back up away from the lines?  I was really expecting to lose it.
 
 
 
This would be one of the big “thuds” that we heard/felt.  If I had any doubts that the maple tree on the east side of the garage needs to go, this would have laid them to rest.
  
 

The area behind Charlotte’s swingset.  We’ve dropped the closest one, but haven’t touched the rest.  There’s always spring.
  
 

The back yard.  The poor crab apple in the middle there lost a big chunk off one side.  The tangle that you see in the right foreground is another big branch that bounced off the house – it’s actually lying on my new terrace.
  
 

There’s the big chunk of maple tree leaning on the roof, and the even larger chunk on the terrace.  Here’s the thing – I’m not entirely certain where the piece on the ground came from!  What I think may have happened is that it broke, the crown portion hit the ground, and it cartwheeled.
 
  

Ah yes – this tree.  This tree that I wanted to cut down over the summer.  Do you know what’s under that tree?  That would be my witch hazel, my verbena, the mock orange, AND my creeping hydrangea.  The stump that the hydrangea is creeping on had been leaning after Hurricane Irene, but this knocked it clear over.
 
 
 
This is the pathway back to the archery range.
 
 
 
This is the archery range.  That tangle of branches to the left of the pine tree is the target area.  I'd guess that the pine tree is... maybe twelve feet tall?
 
 
 
This is the front walkway, looking at it from the other side.  From this angle you can see the big piece of oak that’s on the dogwood.  Also, notice the branches that are hanging off the roof at the top of the picture.  It’s a small branch – we didn’t notice it until much later.  Lastly, do you see that branch across the top of the picture?  That’s the branch that I keeping talking about having removed.  That damn tree lost just about every major limb except the one that I want gone.  I’m going to have to have that tree assessed to see if it has enough crown left to keep after we have that limb off.
 
 
 
Because of that tangle, we had to walk back the way we came in order to get to the door again.  In just that amount of time, the oak had shed another branch – this one on top of Bob’s car.  Luckily it was small and the snow provided a cushion.

 
  
It was apparent that this had been a major event – we had thirteen inches of snow on the deck railings, and I figure there was fifteen to seventeen inches in the back yard.  There was a big branch in the driveway behind Bob’s car, and it had clearly bounced off of our utility lines, because they were all hanging about five feet or so off the ground.  We couldn’t get out of the driveway, the phone was dead, and we had zero cell signal.  We were stuck.
 
So, we did the only things we could do.  Bob got out the chain saw (Hey hon - aren’t you glad I made you buy it, and made dad come give you a lesson?) and I got out the big brewing pot and some of my five gallon painting buckets.  He started cutting our way out of the driveway, and I started melting snow on the woodstove for flushing.  That’s pretty much how Sunday went.  Bob cut up trees and hauled the pieces to one side, I fed the woodstove and melted snow.  I was also worrying at a bunch of problems.  We wouldn’t get cold – three cords of wood ensured that.  We had four or so gallons of water in the house for drinking.  I was melting snow for flushing, but if I remembered the forecast correctly that wasn’t going to be available for very long – and the lines had both vehicles trapped in the driveway.  For most of the day, I was half expecting to see my father pull up in my car.  I was sure that they had been expecting a call with an update, and had tried to call.  I was surprised and a little disappointed that he didn’t come to check on us.
 
Later on, I found out that he’d had the keys in his hand before mom talked him out of it.
 
This is the scale of the branches that fell.


 
We worked until dark, and then Bob fired up the grill and we ate the only thing we could salvage from the fridge – a ring of kielbasa.  I got caught with an almost completely empty fridge.  Which is good, because I didn’t lose much, but it also meant that it warmed up almost immediately.  I figured the kielbasa is pre-cooked, so it would be safe enough.  We had the milk packed in snow on the back deck.  I also had the radio on – having discovered that I *didn’t* have my usual strip of D cells in stock.  I really got caught with my pants down by this storm.  But I had more than enough batteries for the lanterns and the radio, and Bob had gotten the frequency of an AM news station from one of the neighbors.
 
The news was not good for my blood pressure.  But I’ll get to that in a moment.  What we found out was that the northeast, and particularly Connecticut had gotten hammered.  CL&P had over 800,000 people out of power – a new record.  The big high-voltage transmission lines had come down.  Four hundred cell towers were down with no power, and about 200 of them had sustained physical damage (which is why we had no signal.)  It was bad.
 
This is where my white-hot-rage button got pushed.  Our *brilliant* governor told us that the state had no power, no phone connectivity, and no cell service.  Then, IN THE NEXT BREATH he said “to find a list of resources, call 1-800 blah blah blah, or go to www.211.com.  EXCUSE ME?!!!  Okay – seriously.  Are you THAT big an idiot?  I have no phone or cell – how do I call?  I have no power or internet connection (no phone, you know) – how do I go to a web site?  For that matter, how to I GO to a shelter, given that I have lines and trees across my driveway, and I can’t call anyone to tell them?  DUH!!!  What kind of fucking moron says “I don’t want to go through the list of shelters right now, but you can find them online…” to a state with NO FUCKING PHONE OR ELECTRICITY?”
 
Ahem.  Sorry.  White-hot-rage button.
 
I will have you know that he did that *all week.*  Apparently our Rhodes scholar governor thinks that we all have iphones and generators to keep them charged up.  Seriously though – assign a flunky to read the list of shelters and closings on the radio.  That’s what flunkies are for.  I was a kid in the blizzard of 1978, and I was in upstate NY for it, where we got *real* snow.  Back then, they knew how to broadcast information over the radio – because people could still tune in on batteries, even if they couldn’t get their door open because of the six feet of snow piled against it.  Have we all REALLY become such slaves to the internet that no one can envision disseminating necessary information in any other fashion?
 
Ahem.  Sorry.  Obviously still irritated.
 
Monday morning dawned, and with it a plan.  We still couldn’t get out, and we still couldn’t TELL anyone about it.  But I had woken up with an idea.  The first half of the idea involved getting some advantage from the situation.  Our utility lines run through the trees between the pole and the house, which is bad.  Those aren’t trees that non-professionals should cut, because being an electrical distribution line means never having to say you’re sorry.  But my theory was thus: the lines were clearly de-energized, removing that danger.  The lines were already pulled down by the storm, removing the issue of US yanking them off the house.  AND even if we DID yank them off the house, well - they were broken anyway.  Let’s go cut those trees down!  It was a one time opportunity to take care of the problem ourselves without having to pay someone.  So out we went with the chain saw, and we took down three or four small trees that had been making me nervous for a while.  Unfortunately, the trees that really worry me weren’t removable.  The arrangement down by the street is wire/tree/wire/tree/wire.  To make it worse, they’re white pines which have all the structural integrity of paper-mâché.  But if we tried to drop them, we were *guaranteed* to rip the lines off either the pole or the house.  So we cleared some trees across the frontage that were either broken or trying to get way too intimate with the lines in the street, were thankful for what we could do, and moved on to the second half of the plan.
 
The second half of the plan involed a pole saw and the utility lines.  Bob got in his car, I scooped up the cable line and the power line with the pole saw and pushed them up far enough to pull his car underneath.  Then he ran back up the driveway and we repeated the procedure with the Jeep.  I then dropped the power line like a hot potato.  I don’t care if it *wasn’t* energized – it’s still not something I should be messing with.
 
We were free!!!
 
The rest of my plan had hinged upon being able to get the cars down out of the driveway.  Having been successful, we sprang into action.  First step – load the Jeep.  We loaded the back of the Jeep with the chain saw (it had bogged while we were cutting some of the broken trees on our frontage, and we didn’t know what was wrong,) the five gallon drink cooler, three five gallon carboys, all the laundry (I’d planned to do laundry Saturday night, so I got caught with everything in the hamper and the underwear situation was about to be critical,) shower kits, and clean changes of clothes for everyone.  Then we stoked the stove, got in the Jeep, and headed for Brookfield, hoping they had power.
 
We didn’t get a cell signal until west of Waterbury.
 
Mom and dad did have power, and so far that morning had called the house, my cell, my office, Bob’s office, and Charlotte’s day care.  They were worried and very happy to hear from us.  We got down there and I started throwing laundry in mom’s machine.  We each called our offices to tell them that we were alive.  I was a little disappointed in the reaction – basically “okay, good to know.”  I found out later that my boss had been beside herself worried about the fact that no one had heard from me.  I'm the person in the office who is ALWAYS there, no matter what the weather is doing - and I call if there's a problem.  Eventually one of the paralegals talked her down with “they probably just have trees and lines across their driveway and can’t get out.  Bob and Kris are sturdy folks – if anyone is fine it will be them.”  I called vynehornto let her know that we had literally just cut our way out, and Bob called his dad.  His dad didn’t have power or heat, so Bob told him he should come stay with us – at least we were warm, even if we didn’t have any water.  So I got the laundry done, Dad showed Bob how to reset the emergency brake that kicks in if the chain sticks (nice safety feature, that,) we filled containers with twenty gallons of drinking/flushing water, and everyone got a bath/shower.  Dad also had strip of D cells, which saved  me from having to stop at Costco on the way out.  We loaded everything into my car, and headed home.  Oh – and they fed us.  It was the very nice pot roast that had been intended for Bob’s birthday dinner on Sunday.
 
We got home, unloaded the car, and moved the furniture around to put Charlotte in our room.  I figured that her room was likely to stay warmer than the library – which I was closing off to keep the heat in the core of the house, so we would put Bob’s dad there.  She was very excited to sleep on the air mattress in mommy and daddy’s room.  Honestly, for her the whole thing was an adventure.
 
Bob got home with his dad, we ensconced him in Charlotte’s room, and we all settled in for the duration.
 
To be continued…

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
kls_eloise
Nov. 30th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
I shudder a bit at how much we still need to do, but we've reached the point of being able to say "that can wait until spring." We've still got piles of wood scattered all over the property that need to be hauled to the main stack, and we've got... two big tangles of oak that need to be cut up. *Those* are waiting for spring. I still have this year's three cords to stack!

All in all, we made out okay. Better than some.
(Deleted comment)
kls_eloise
Dec. 1st, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
Well, it's less an issue of gut and more an issue of budget. All of the trees that I fret about are going to have to be taken down by professionals, and I figure we've easily got four figures worth of tree work. The one that came down on my shrubs was one I wanted to take down just to get some more sun on the yard, so there wasn't any sense of urgency. Oops.

You're right about the bright side though - I'll be spending several hundreds of dollars less on wood next year.
(Deleted comment)
kls_eloise
Dec. 2nd, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
CL&P slashed the tree removal budget a few years ago. It's one of the things they're currently being investigated for. :-)
safiya_shirazi
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
Wow. We were worried about you - about everyone down there, really. I've never been happier to live in the Braintree Circle of Boredom than this year.
kls_eloise
Nov. 30th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
I would have gladly given this adventure a pass. This is definitely a time when I have to say thank goodness for daycare. Her life stayed normal, she was warm, and she got to play with all her friends.

The next one can definitely hit somewhere else though!
galingale
Nov. 30th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Thank goodness Bob took the time to move his car Saturday night!
Victoria had fun too -- I was worried about the trees on the side by her bedroom, so I lured her into the living room for a "campout with mommy" on the sofabed. Warmer too, since we don't have a Ziggy. And quieter, because Rob was in the other room snoring up a storm with no power for his CPAP. (Not quite enough amphours to run it off a car battery all night....truck now has a new battery so if godforbid this happens again, he'll be set.)
kls_eloise
Nov. 30th, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
The woodstove definitely made a difference. My poor co-worker was shivering for *hours* every day because it was so cold in her apartment, and it took her most of the morning to warm up. If we'd been cold in addition to being dark, I'm not sure what I would have done.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )