Friday, August 1, 2008

Not Quite My Own Disaster, but Kind of Close

A week ago last Thursday, I was wrapping up work in my home office about 11:45. A storm moved in. It got dark and a little blustery. Heavy heavy rain poured down. The storm passed, and I began getting ready to head out to run some errands.
We heard sirens, and a fire truck and police car sped by heading up the road. Then another. Then a few more. Something had obviously happened, but I just figured the first responders had it under control. My cell phone rang, but I let it go to voice mail, as I needed to leave right away and figured I’d catch the message in the car and call back.
It was now a little after 12:00, and as I drove I began to hear reports on the radio about a windstorm or tornado that struck some nearby towns. I got about halfway to my destination, and had to turn back due to downed trees and lines at the top of Catamount Hill. I tried getting to Route 4 via Old Orchard Road, but found it also blocked and backed up for miles. I gave up that part of my quest, and turned right instead of left to work on a few other items on my list. By this time, I was getting a bigger picture. The storm line stretched from Ossipee to Deerfield, about 40 miles, and the storm snapped trees, downed power lines and smashed houses along the entire pathway. The list of towns included my home town. I checked my phone messages, and found that my friend Dan, who lives about 2 miles from my house, was calling to see if we were OK. He had gotten reports that his house had been hit. My brother also called. At that point, I know we were OK, but I didn’t know how bad the rest of it had been. I was starting to get the picture though.
I tried to get to my friend’s house, but the police had barricaded all roads leading into their neighborhood until the downed lines were check and the houses were cleared. He suggested I check in at the fire station where the command post had been established if I wanted to volunteer. I drove over there, and put my name in and hung around for 2 hours. After a while 2 things became clear. First, this was a pretty major event. We had mutual aid fire and rescue companies responding from miles around. Lots and lots of first responders coming in to help. Second, they didn’t really know what to do with a general volunteer, not a trained responder, who simply wanted to help. Eventually I left and went home.
The next day I made contact with my friends by cell phone. We made arrangements to take their kids, and for me to come in to begin helping with clean up. When I got there, much had already been done, but the place was truly a mess. It was an amazing sight. Huge pines snapped in half. Mature oaks, maples, beeches, poplars knocked over. Power lines down. Holes in rooftops, some houses smashed. Boats lifted out of the marina and dropped a third of a mile away. I spent the day helping cut and haul brush and logs, working around power crews and insurance contractors and tree companies. The music of diesel engines, chain saws and generators blocking out the birds and the breeze. I spent much of the next two days helping out. Power was mostly restored to the area I was in by Friday night. By Friday the roads were pretty clear of trees, though clogged with trucks and equipment. By Sunday, the most urgent cleanup was done and some repairs were started on some houses.
Homes formerly shaded by woods were now exposed, surrounded by dirt and rocks and stumps. My friends home have a new lake view, and a gorgeous western outlook for lovely sunsets on the porch. Of course, you still have to look past the snapped of trunks and the straggly that managed to bend without toppling.
It took 4 days to restore cable/internet/phone to my house. Only then did I get on Youtube and find out the extent of the storm.
More about playing with chain saws, splitting wood, and how God used a disaster to meet our needs coming up.

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