The storm

We got our asses kicked, plain and simple. I’ve lived through three significant hurricanes and any number of powerful nor’easters along with not one but two absolutely devastating ice storms, and the winter storm 2 weeks ago was right up there in terms of its impact on the region I lived in and on me personally.

The root problem was that we had significant wet snowfall before most of the trees had lost their leaves. This caused unbelievable tree damage. It was unlike what typically happens in nor’easters and hurricanes, where you get many trees coming down. Instead, seemingly every single tree lost one or more limbs, but few trees came completely down. It destroyed the electrical grid and blocked roads everywhere. There are two major routes from my house to my employer (Route 9 and Bay Road) and both were down to a single lane in multiple locations, with Bay Road completely blocked in one section that caused the town to route traffic through some poor person’s front yard. On both routes, the power lines were laying on the road in multiple locations, there were a number of places where huge limbs were suspended in the air on power lines, and a roughly equal number of places where telephone poles snapped under the weight of the tree limbs laying on their lines. On my own property we have around a dozen apple trees, and every single one of them was ‘capped’ (losing its topmost section) along with most of them losing at least a portion of their other major limbs. At least 3 of them are going to die from this, and several others are on the bubble as far as I can tell. Our maples and oaks also got whacked, including my favorite maple, which was an absolutely beautiful tree that is stunning in the fall. Now it looks like pacman took a bite out of it – it lost 2 of 4 of its major limbs. We also almost lost our barn. A nut tree in the back dropped a limb at least 12″ thick onto the roof, and the barn was only saved because the force of the fall was largely taken by an adjacent tree’s major limb. That tree’s probably a goner now.

The majority of the region didn’t have power for days. Amherst College was closed due to power loss, something we think has never happened before. Our students had to bunk up with friends or sleep in the gym because several dorms had no power for a couple of days. Our daycare provider, along with a couple of other college buildings, had no power all week. My house had no power for a week, as did >90% of the town I live in. This was tough. We’re on well water and no power means no water.  The only thing that left us able to inhabit our house was the propane stove in the basement, where we lived, and the propane cooking stove we used to melt snow for water. I have a solar charger and a number of battery packs that we used to keep our phones and the ipad functioning. Susan and I alternated days off from work, with one of us working and one staying home with Brady. We lost hundreds of dollars in food (over a 100 in condiments alone!) because we couldn’t keep things refrigerated. Thankfully we had not yet finished filling our new chest freezer. Much of Brady’s home cooked baby food was lost. I bathed out of a basin using boiled snow water and felt like I had reverted to a lifestyle a century old. We fell asleep by 8:30 or 9. It was hard work and took its toll on us, with Susan and I bickering and occasionally sniping at each other from the stress by the end of the week.

At the same time, I’m a big fan of adventure and new experiences. This one was harder than most, but I suspect as time passes the negative aspects will fade and we’ll talk with pride of how we ‘roughed it’ for a week. Brady came through it like a champ despite having a cold. I think he loved the sleepover with Mom and Dad in the basement – most morning’s he’d wake before us and be happy as a clam to discover us right there next to him.

I wouldn’t say we’re recovered yet – our fridge looks barren despite spending $300 to restock it this weekend. Our yard looks like the set of a disaster film, with tree work in various stages of completion based on how dire things look, and based on the pace, months to go now that it’s dark when I get home from work. The worst limb is off the barn but there’s a tangle adjacent to it that threatens a dramatic collapse if we don’t deal with it (though we think/hope we’ve got it in a state where the barn is not threatened).

Still, by and large life has returned to its regular rhythms, and all things considered we came through this pretty cleanly, as did our friends in the region. A memory for life, in the final analysis, but not a life changer, is what this will amount to in the end, and I’m good with that 😉

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