Monday, February 9, 2015

Dodging A Bullet

Holy cats, did we ever, this weekend.

It started on Tuesday the 3rd, when the wind began.  We were expecting a rainstorm for the weekend, forecast for Friday the 6th, and normally we'll get high winds for about 24 hours ahead of a storm, nothing unusual.

Well, the tip off should have been when the high winds started three days ahead of the storm in istead of one. It was blowing about 35mph constantly, with gusts of 45-65mph.  Damned wind gets wearisome after three days, let me tell you.

Then on Friday, starting about 10:30AM it got down to brass tacks and REALLY started to blow. We're talkin' 100mph.  For about 6 hours.  The kid was at school ,where we figured she'd be safer than here at home, anyway.  So we buckled down and sat unhappily in the house thinking good thoughts towards the house staying together, while the chickens sat unhappily in the coop.  The transformer on the power pole in one corner of my front yard was arcing and twisting about in the wind.  My husband went out at noon to make an emergency repair on one of the coop doors, then shut them to seal the chickens in, bracing the doors shut with huge rocks.  Right about noon the power went out, no surprise.  We were actually glad it went out, given the condition of the transformer.  Huge chunks of roofs and everything imaginable were flying through the air.  Visibility was down to about 100 yards, but we caught enough glimpses to see that it was the same way throughout the entire valley.

This isn't us, but this is a quick vid of someone at a nearby elementary school.  It was like this, with bigger chunks, and for 6 hours.  Think EF1 tornado, only sideways:

Sideways tornado!

We did go out a little after 2PM to pick up the kid from her bus stop, then drove around a bit to check on the neighborhood.  The wind had slacked off a bit to around 45-65 mph.  Looking around the area, I'd estimate about 60% of the houses had sustained roof damage with about half their shingles/tar paper gone.  Trees were down everywhere, outbuildings blown over.

Here's some of what we found:

A bunch of the downed trees were big, thick pines, the wind just pushed them right over.  Most had shallow root systems...take the time to deep water your trees so they grow good tap roots, kids!
 But sometimes it was the neighbor's tree that came and took out your fence and damaged your house.

This guy had a brand spankin' new fence he'd put up around his motor home.  A bunch of wooden fences were blown over, or grabbed & thrown.

 Two streets away from us, this poor guy had FIVE of his big trees go over, blocking off his house.  In the first pic you can see the vertical chunks of lawn where the trees were on the left.

From the front...

And from the other side.  Amazingly, when we drove by again two days later, the trees were cut up and gone, and none had damaged the house!

 Then we came upon this in the street.  Remains of a shed!  But...what is it doing out here?

Ah.  The home it came from.  But...no evidence that it had been in the front yard.  Then I looked closer at the roof of the house, and at the back yard on the right.

Yeah, that sucker had come flying out of the back yard, destroyed the wood fence visible on the right, gone UP AND OVER the house roof--scattering posts and the cement they had been achored in across the roof and front yard, until the rest of it eventually fetched up next to the street.  Impressive.

 The local golf course had their sign snapped off at the base.

A check on our buddy Joel's house showed off the fallen branches blocking his driveway.

And his neighbor's trampoline was trying to relocate, clawing it's way out of their back yard.

 These folks got a double whammy, a fallen tree on their house AND their mailbox ripped off it's moorings.

 The fallen trees looked for all the world like fake movie props that you could just stand right back up.

Businesses had also taken damage.  We didn't stick around these since the metal was flailing away and threatening to kill someone.

 You can also see one of the many, many tilted-over telephone poles in the valley.

 The tree at this house (the yellow one on the right) had gone for a twofer--it took a streetlight with it.  Fun fact:  when we were house hunting three years ago, we almost bought this place!

That night we still had no power, so we opted for a local hotel room.  The town was mostly without power, not even traffic lights were working.  But two of the hotels had power, so we joined the throng of filthy and tired locals lining up for a hot shower and a bed.  That night the rains started, and the high winds kicked up again around 2AM...which we knew would mean more downed trees as the ones that were leaning from the day before went over in the rain-softened ground.

Our room had this hanging in the bathroom, it pretty much summed up how we thought we were gonna have to bathe that night.

Saturday morning the town was still without power and the rain continued all morning.  We went home to feed and check on the animals, and get a good look at our house to check for damage.

We lucked out. Our roof was intact, no damage except for a huge mess to clean up and one broken plant, and all of the animals lived.

The one corner of the front yard was a crazy catch-all for crap, though.

And the wind had snapped off the ONE damned plant I had in the chicken yard, the Curly Willow I'd brought up from the old house in the move and planted.
Luckily I can just put back upright, wrap it in grafting tape and it should heal.  Or I may just cut it off and stick the upper part back into the ground, the thing grows really well from cuttings.

Inside the house, we were greeted with an absolute plume of dirt that the winds had forced in through the front door.  The wind had even blown the rug away from the door.

...aaand there is a lovely layer of topsoil in every.single.windowsill.

I found this little thing underneath the power pole in the front yard...hope it wasn't holding anything important in place.

We were still without power and knew it was gonna be a while, so we drove around to gape at storm damage some more.  This guy lost both of his big front yard trees.

This tree fell badly enough to crush the chain link fence and threaten phone lines, plus they closed the road because of it.

Remember that yellow house we almost bought?  This morning it had a second tree down.

This tree had crushed a really nice black wrought iron fence.

While this tree had fallen on a fence, but not squished it.

We had to get another hotel room Saturday night, our power was finally restored Sunday morning.  I further amused myself by chucking out a bunch of stuff from the fridge and freezer, then going to the store with a bunch of other people who were clearly doing the same thing.  WalMart was full of two types of people:  Exhausted, hollow-eyed zombies shuffling along pushing a cartload of groceries or over-tired, giddy with that 'holy-shit-I'm-still-alive', hysterically laughing crowd.  I fully admit to being a zombie on autopilot at that point.  The entire weekend rang with the sounds of chainsaws, and all of the rest of this week we've seen nothing but utility repair crews and people hauling away tree branches and other debri.

The dog, meanwhile, is unconvinced that when night falls we aren't just going to leave her in the house and go away again.  As far as the chickens are concerned, the entire week was OUR FAULT.

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