Warnings of severe thunderstorms, high winds and hail streamed across the television screen last Monday night. Many practice drills in the West had prepared me to take shelter in the basement if this weather warning became a tornado. So, just before midnight, the wind burst was loud and strong, lightning about, hail and heavy rain, followed by a power outage. I decided to go to the basement, but it happened all too fast. Then the house shook and there was a loud thud. I yelled upstairs to ask my husband if he was safe. Half asleep, he mumbled he was. In between lightning strikes I noticed we only appeared to have one half of our majestic white pine tree. After we located several flashlights, we ascertained that our stately 80 year-old-tree had snapped in half and had fallen into the street, wreaking havoc everywhere.
When the storm had subsided, we opened upstairs windows to view the damage. Having rummaged for phone books, we informed the power company and later 911 that not only was a tree blocking the road, but also there were downed power lines all around us in the neighborhood. Within the hour, trucks from the power company were on the scene as well as the local law enforcement to block off the streets to our neighborhood. The female officer informed me that when the storm hit, she had been in our local supermarket and could not even see her vehicle because of the intense rain. She opted to remain inside until the storm subsided. Had this been winter, we would have referred to the winds as a whiteout. In Colorado, when such a storm hit, we would pull over on the road and wait for it to pass. Windshield wipers were of no use as they attempted to keep the windshield clean. Two cars had been parked on the other side of the street and miraculously, the tree limbs seemed to part and hug one car and fall just short of the other. Neither sustained major damage beyond a few scratches. A guardian angel? No one was hurt. All night long, various trucks came and went. One from the power company remained with a spotlight on the tree and wires, and no one was allowed in or out of our streets until the damage could be assessed at daybreak. Our resident birds were conversing loudly at being displaced from their homes in the majestic white pine tree.
This was a fluke event with our 60-80′ tree which was healthy and had not been struck by lightning. There remained no evidence of a tornado either. The wind burst not only brought down the upper half of the white pine, it ripped power boxes and entrance cables from all the homes in the neighborhood. As I gazed at the events that night and ensuing days, it was as if in a movie. Surreal. Truck motors ran day and night for more than two days. Power saws ate the branches and moved the tree remains to both sides of the street. It almost appeared like a war zone although the closest I ever came was post=WWII East Berlin and the Wall. Except for snippets of conversation, the neighborhood was silent. We had returned to the 1800s, and I fully expected horses and carts to come around the corner. Except for the occasional light of a cell phone screen, technology was off. No power, no land line phones, no cable and no internet. I am not a fan of cell phones and mine was usually off. This time I noticed the battery strength was low, but I managed to inform family that we were safe. I made note that we would lose the contents of both refrigerators again for the fourth time since we moved to the neighborhood. While I did not think it possible to sleep with the engines of about 12 trucks in our neighborhood, I was able to finally fall into a slumber.
Suddenly on day two, my husband happened home at lunch and asked me for the name of the electrician we had used the previous year after our new siding and roof had been installed. Giving him a coherent answer was not possible. But I am frequently called upon to answer spur-of-the-moment questions such as he had asked me. Finally logic and reason prevailed, and we both determined the name of the previous electrician. Unable to contact the first and second electricians on our list, enter one in the neighborhood who volunteered to fix the problem for an advance fee of course. I suddenly heard drilling and pounding and all the paintings on the living room wall were now askew.
It’s a blur as to who came to the door and what they proposed to do. After power had been restored, the phone and cable repairmen entered the scene of the devastation. What I didn’t know and the repairman didn’t know was that we had one company for phone service and a competitor for cable. Astonished, the phone repairmen said he had installed the wires for free and tried, to no avail, to get me to switch service on the spot.
Finally on day 3 after the big storm, our cable and internet person arrived on the scene after I had been the squeaky wheel and insisted on an earlier time. Before entering our house, he pointed out gaping holes left in our new siding by both the power company, the electrician and the phone company. After a quick call to the electrician, he passed the buck to the siding company to cover their holes with a matching color. At some future time, we will have these repaired as well but not before the ants and other insects have entered and made themselves at home. Making a mental note to myself, I vowed not to use this electrician again.
At least three new poles for power, phone and cable were installed in our neighborhood before power could be restored. Wednesday night dinner time, we finally had phone, power and cable. Not out of the woods I discovered much to my dismay. Our wireless devices had been set up with the network. When I went to the wireless printer to print out a few pages, I discovered it would not print. Using our local Geek squad team, the better part of the day was spent on getting the printer online. I was at the end of my rope trying to communicate with people for meetings and unable to do so. My husband had the short straw dealing with the Geek squad about security certificates on the computer. Both the squad and my husband noticed the source of the problem: the computer clock and date. Yesterday we had reverted to 2002. Once corrected, we were back to normal. That has been uttered with utmost caution since I know we are not out of the woods just yet. No, there remain the code inspector and the siding company to fill in holes at some undetermined future date. And the insurance company. And then a new tree but what kind? Mustering all the strength I could gather, I felt worn out and not sociable at all. And such is life. Actually, I have grown accustomed to our new tree now and affectionately refer to it as our totem pole.