Storm Diary, The Second Chapter

Thursday, August 12, 2010

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This latest storm hit at 7 am, with a fury that I had only seen once
before: seven years ago when my house nearly burned down after a
lightning strike. I watched out the kitchen window as wind and rain
circled our patio and thunder and lightning rolled and crashed around
us. After about 20 minutes, the storm seemed to lessen, and I tried to
calm my daughter by saying the worst was over. But it wasn’t. The second
phase was stronger, more virulent than the first. The wind created
waves in our swimming pool, sloshing water over the edge. I can’t really
remember when the power went out, only thinking that I wasn’t
surprised. In all, the storm lasted 50 minutes, unusually long. There
were no loud crashes on our house, no leaks in the roof.
But when it subsided and I looked out the kitchen window, I saw a tree a
few houses down the hill cleaved in two. To the left, the large oak in
our neighbor’s yard that my wife always feared would someday fall on us
was also a casualty – but it fallen away from us, onto another
neighbor’s deck.

This was the third time in as many weeks that destructive storms struck
the Washington area. Last week, while we were in Charlottesville, a
freak storm hit Old Town Alexandria. This time, there were reports of
motorists being rescued from flood waters along Rock Creek in the
District and Sligo Creek in Silver Spring. Local radio and newspaper
reports featured an apartment building in Gaithersburg that was sliced
in two by a large oak, miraculously with no one hurt.

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There was little or no coverage of our neighborhood.
But as I grabbed my camera and walked around our little enclave of Burnt
Mills, I felt as though I was in a war zone. Hundreds of trees had been
split or felled by the strong winds. A house around the corner on
Oakwood Drive was crushed by an uprooted oak, another damaged by a
fallen fir. Utility poles were snapped in two, chunks of asphalt were
torn from the streets, and up at the elementary school, so many trees
were decapitated that it looked as though a giant had ripped a hole in
the woods. These trees were splayed across Colesville Road, the only way
to get out of our neighborhood, closing it in both directions for
hours. There was no way I would get to work this day.

As I walked around, I took photos of every broken tree I saw, even
though they all began to look alike after awhile. I was amazed that more
houses weren’t damaged, and that, when all was told, apparently no one
in our neighborhood was hurt. It was as if God was angry, but not
vengeful.

Friday, August 13

Shaving and dressing without light is almost routine now after the
first storm kept us out of power for four days. The damage this time
seems more intense, so we think it may take longer to restore
electricity, but the damage is more localized than two weeks ago when
the entire county was devastated, so maybe there is hope. Colesville
Road was open, so I could get to work, and when I came home there were
crews from Toledo Edison in our neighborhood untangling downed wires and
replacing fallen poles and transformers. A PEPCO damage survey crew
drove by. Yet when we returned from dinner at a friend’s house, the
neighborhood was still dark, and the thrum of generators drowned out the
crickets and cicadas. My wife swears never to stock the freezer again.
Our daughter wonders why we can’t just buy a generator like all the
noisy neighbors.

Saturday, August 14 

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Walking around the neighborhood this morning, the progress in cleaning
up is evident. Trees have been chainsawed into sections, damaged homes
covered with blue tarp like bandages over boo boos. I traded anecdotes
with a neighbor I had never met, who told me one of the storm’s victims
was a 400-year old oak tree that was one of the oldest in Maryland. I
had walked by that tree hundreds of times since moving to this
neighborhood without realizing its history or significance.

The Toledo Edison crews arrived at 8:30. The crew captain told me our lights should go on “Before we leave here tonight.”

Indeed, the power tripped on just before 3 pm. Only 56 hours this
time. Given the destruction around us, we feel lucky. The neighbor’s oak
will have to go; the half that leans toward our house is now
precariously supported by less than half a trunk.

Although our power was back on, we still went to my mother-in-law’s
for dinner. I’m tasting Chablis this week, so I pulled four bottles from
the warm fridge. They tasted wonderful. Note to self: Chill Chablis
really well, then leave in a turned-off refrigerator for 56 hours to
attain the perfect temperature.

 

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6 Responses to Storm Diary, The Second Chapter

  1. Derek says:

    Crazy! During July’s surprise storm, a tornado formed just a few blocks
    from my house. I had to run inside and hustled wife, son and guest
    into the basement to be safe. I don’t think it officially touched down,
    which makes it a funnel cloud, but trees were snapped mid-trunk and
    flat roofs were peeled off row-houses down the street.

  2. Sounds a lot like what happened in our area this time! Glad everyones
    safe …

  3. Wes says:

    Glad to hear the tree didn’t hit your house, and you all survived. I
    assume the wine cellar was ok.

  4. The wines are OK – the cellar got a little warmer than normal but was
    still the coolest room in the house!

  5. Emma says:

    Must have been bad…

  6. We survived okay though!

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