August 2012 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

readme:

Well, that was un-fun. So, when we left our intrepid heroes last time out, they were just about to experience a weather phenomenon known as a derecho, which is apparently Spanish for Didn’t there use to be a big tree over there? and involves 80 mph straight-line winds arriving with very little warning. Unlike tornadoes, which usually can be seen gathering on the horizon out here and generally move a bit slower (allowing time for NWS tornado alerts, getting Dorothy down in the root cellar, etc.), these derecho things are more like a shotgun blast or some awful cosmic chainsaw ripping through the landscape. The entire storm at our house (which involved no — zero, nada — ¬†actual rain) lasted 90 seconds, tops. But the blast of the wind bent major trees almost to the ground and filled the air with a mixture of dirt and vegetation that made it look like we were underwater. Very impressive.

Our appreciation of this stirring demonstration of  the Majesty of Nature was interrupted early on in that 90 seconds, however, by an explosion on the north side of the house accompanied by a very dramatic shower of sparks coming from up near the roof. A power pole on our property (we have four carrying the line back to the house) had snapped in two, breaking another pole up the line and slicing a 30 ft. pine tree (a former live xmas tree, in fact) in half vertically. More importantly, the force of the pole falling had ripped the power feeder cable out of the side of our house (thus the sparks) and draped it across our yard and driveway, and, in what I think was a particularly nice touch, suspended it a few inches above our ancient (and only) car. Power to our house was broken about nine different ways. No power out here means no water, by the way, since we depend on an electric well pump.

Long story short, everyone else on our road had power again within 24 hours. Because of the damage to the poles and lines on our land, we got our power back eight days later, during which time daytime temps were over 100 F. What made this more than extremely uncomfortable in my case is that people with ms can get hyperthermia — heat stroke — at fairly low temps, so we spent as much time as possible in supermarkets and coffee shops with a/c, all of which involved a 35-mile round trip from what was left of home. Giant Eagle, we discovered, has a “cafe” that closes at 7 pm, but they leave the wi-fi on 24/7 and don’t care if you sit there in the dark all night. (Not that we had the money for a week in a motel, but the few near us were booked solid the whole time, and were charging extortionate “emergency prices” to boot.) Driving down our road at night for a week and seeing every other house lit up with the a/c running and the Blue Glow of Happy Potatohood flickering in the windows was, I must say, a bit disheartening.

Eventually the power came back on and we began the grim task of cleaning up. My favorite part was emptying the freezer full of food out in the garage. The power line had fallen in such a way that it blocked access to the garage door, and the result, after a week in high heat, was the stuff of nightmares.

But within a few days it was mostly a bad memory. And then it happened again. Seriously. About a week after the power came back, another derecho with 80 mph winds hit us. Miraculously, it didn’t take out the power, but it did knock down a huge old tree which is still lying across our front yard.

While we’re on the subject of help, thanks to all the folks who have contributed to our continuing existence by subscribing to TWD-by-Email, and special thanks to those two wonderful people (you know who you are) who have sent us Holy-Cow-Level contributions in the past month or so. It’s no fun having electric power if you can’t afford to turn on the lights, and we really appreciate your generosity.

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