Saturday, March 11, 2017

Blown Away

Sorry for the radio silence.  We had some technical difficulties this week...literally.  Wednesday was crazy.  But before I get into that, let's rewind one week to last Wednesday, which was also a little crazy.  Craig was in Canada and I had to grab the kids after work.  It was crazy windy outside, and it made for a harrowing night.  Gusts were up over 70 mph, and the house sounded like it.  I watched the glass in our kitchen windows move and slightly buckle.  The roar outside was awful, so bad that I felt bad putting the kids to bed because it was so loud in their rooms.  I did everything in my power to keep my cool so they didn't get nervous.  And honestly, they slept fine.  I slept better than expected--must have been that the wind direction wasn't whipping the back of the house as bad--but woke up when Craig got home after 1am and had a couple loud gusts wake me up at other times, even with earplugs in (otherwise I would not have slept, as the roar was constant).  We didn't really have any damage and the power miraculously stayed on.  Other areas weren't quite as lucky--one road less than 10 minutes from us was closed until this past Tuesday because they needed a number of new poles installed--but as a whole we made it through fine. And then came this Wednesday.

They were predicting strong winds once again, but only once I was at work did I start to see that it could be worse than the last wind storm.  The winds started picking up by lunch time, and at 1pm there was a gust over 70 mph.  By 1:30, it hit 82 mph.  Right about then, Facebook started lighting up with updates from those who were out in the world--power outages, downed trees, roof damage, closed roads, you name it.  It was right about then that major anxiety set in about what damage we might come home to.  It was sort of apocalyptically scary, a total feeling of helplessness that I probably I hadn't quite experienced since 9-11.  The good news was that my office is practically a bunker.  We're on the first floor of a solid brick building where half of the floor is underground.  We're right next to the fallout shelter, in fact.  I couldn't even hear the wind most of the time, which was good for my mental state.  I was actually happier to be at work than waiting for the worst at home surrounded by horrible noises, but I was terrified of what I might come across on the commute...or once I got home.  We actually seemed to keep our power until about 3pm, which was at least a couple hours after other spots in town.

Luckily, Craig headed home first.  He was supposed to go to a late meeting, but he wasn't feeling well so he picked up Jacob from the afterschool program (which had lost power) and headed home.  Fortunately, our only casualty was our grill, which had flipped forward and shattered its handle.  It's possibly still technically usable but probably not feasible for the long run.  Of course, when he went to try to release our garage door so he could pull the van in, the rope broke right off, so we had to leave the cars out for the night.  Not sure how to repair that issue.  But all things considered, we came through well, at least as far as damage is concerned.

I came home a little bit later.  My drive was pretty uneventful other than seeing pretty recent aftermath of a light pole falling on the side of the highway.  But as I got off the highway and started toward daycare, the damage became more apparent.  Huge trees had been uprooted or lost half of their branches.  Huge pine trees lay on the ground, and giant maples were splintered.  Elsewhere in town (not on my path) there were telephone poles snapped and dangling.  When I drove by a house with a huge tree leaning on it, I knew things were in bad shape.  I was a bit shaken by the time I made it to daycare, which still had power.  I gingerly drove Carter home, on the lookout for more fallen trees or other road dangers.  It was still very windy at that point, so just the drive itself seemed dangerous.  Oh, and that road that opened back up on Tuesday?  It stayed open this time, but only because there were a half dozen trucks lined up on the side of the road, each with an arm holding up the new poles because they all started tilting precariously over the road again on Wednesday!

Upon coming home I was relieved to see that most of our neighborhood was fine--with the exception of a couple big trees around the corner.  I noticed later that a couple neighbors have flapping shingles, so I'm really feeling fortunate that our house is intact.  More than a few houses in town have been condemned, so it could be far, far worse.  Anyway, by this point the power was off.  We have an electric stove and we needed to avoid opening the refrigerator, so cooking dinner was pretty much out of the question.  But venturing out seemed like a bad idea since there was a state of emergency and a driving ban.  But we went out anyway.

Our first try was a few minutes--and a number of non-functional stop lights--away.  Both of our options in one plaza (Burger King and Mighty Taco), along with the entire plaza, the nearby stop light, and places across the street, were all out of power.  Thwarted, we continued south to the next town to see if a Pizza Hut was functional, but that also was not open.  We turned around and headed back toward the mall, which we saw did have power, but as we got there we realized the doors were locked and they were turning people away.  We found out later they closed a half hour earlier.  We drove down the road to check out Chipotle, but it was closed even though the restaurant two doors down was open.  We could have gone to Five Guys across the street, but I didn't feel I could stomach a greasy burger so we continued on back to Salvatore's Pizza and Subway.  We ordered Jacob's pizza, then headed to Subway to get subs for the rest of us.  I was so happy to eat by that point, and to my delight, the wind had died down significantly when we walked out.  The weather, by the way, was in the 50s, which made the wind a little less miserable than it could have been.  This weekend's weather in the 20s with blustery winds and snow more than made up for it, though.  Anyway, while we were eating we got the call that schools were closed the next day.

We went back to our now rapidly cooling house and settled in for a dark night.  Craig read to Carter, Jacob played on Craig's phone, and I read one of the two library books I got last week that I wasn't sure I'd finish in time.  We only had a little time to kill before bed, and both kids went down pretty much without incident.  I read while Craig snuggled with Carter, and eventually it was time for bed.  It was a dark night and aside from a couple kid wakeups and a 5:45am call from daycare regarding their status for the day, it was okay.  It was a cold morning to get ready for work, and I held off from washing my hair and tried dry shampoo instead because I'd never dry my hair in time.  Craig took the boys to work and I left for my office.  They went back home after lunch and started loading food into coolers with ice and putting small ice packs throughout the fridge.  I stopped for more ice on my way home and tried to salvage some other items.  By now it was starting to get colder outside so the garage was the best place to leave them.  In the meantime, I was charging up all of my devices at work, and when I got the call that school was closed again Friday, I decided to take the next day off.

Back at home, we headed out for another dinner quest, and this time ended up at McDonald's.  Jacob brought some of his leftover pizza since he can't eat there.  While we were eating, I got a good look at the goose egg Carter had picked up while running through Craig's office (we're still not sure what he fell into) earlier that day.  It had a large bump, a brushburn, and a multicolored bruise.  Its placement above his temple made me nervous, and I determined I'd like to make our doctor's evening hours just to make sure it was okay.  But when we tried to call, it wouldn't go through.  We knew there were a lot of poles down that way, but we took a drive up just to make sure they weren't open anyway.  No luck, so we opted to visit an urgent care a town over.  It was way overreacting, for sure, but it was one of those peace of mind things.  We were there for maybe an hour, and of course Carter was fine.  But when we came out, the nearby intersection was full of emergency vehicles.  We had just missed a nasty accident at an intersection that was not only missing its stoplights, but was also dark enough that it was probably easy enough to miss the temporary stop signs.  It turned out later than one of the accident victims passed away, and it really struck me how many after-effects come from a storm like this after the initial damage. 

Back at home, the house was getting even colder.  The boys watched something on Craig's computer before bed and I continued to read.  I finished up a book with Jacob that we'd been reading for about a week--a choose your own adventure style book that led us in circles until I finally figured out where we made a wrong turn--and Craig and I both snuggled the kids for a while under layers of blankets.  It was nice snuggling Jacob until he went to sleep.  It's so rare!  Craig watched a show on his computer and I finished my book before it was time for bed. 

Carter joined us in bed in the middle of the night for the second straight night--it's a bad habit we need to break but a night with a 50 degree house was not the time--and it made for another broken but okay night of sleep.  Craig headed off to work and daycare was open, so he dropped off Carter.  I took a shower and air dried my hair before Jacob and I headed out--into snow and wind--to do some shopping.  I needed to get a gift for a baby shower this weekend, and then we killed some time at the mall until lunch, when we met up with Craig.  We'd decided to go to Syracuse in the afternoon for a college lacrosse game.  Not only would it keep us out of the cold house, but it would help Craig scout a bit for the three college games he's working in the coming weeks.  After lunch Craig and Jacob headed to the gas station next door for some road snacks, and I went home to get a couple things done before we left.  After seeing a number of utility trucks nearby all day, I was hopeful we'd get power back.  And when I saw our neighbor's porch lights on, I got a little excited.  Alas, the garage door didn't open, and I dejectedly walked into the 49-degree house.  I went downstairs to grab a gift bag for the shower gift, and at that point the boys came home.  I heard them yell, "We have power!", and was momentarily confused until I looked at the stereo in the office, which now displayed 12:00 on it!  The power had apparently just come back on, and it happened to be the same moment Jacob tried turning on a light!  He insisted he had the magic touch!  We had a brief celebration before heading out to pick up Carter and go to Syracuse.  At least we knew we'd be coming back to a warm house!

The game was fun, and it was a nice diversion from the previous couple days.  Carter took his tiger hat and stuffed tiger to cheer the RIT Tigers on! 

He kept himself occupied with his Happy Meal Hot Wheels car, which he pulled back and sent shooting down the metal bleachers. 

You can just see him holding his truck, which by then was driving on the concrete instead of the bleachers.  Less crashes, but a sneaky way to wander farther away!
We battled through some snow on the drive home and decided to stop at Wegmans to get fresh milk and a couple other replacements for the lost causes.  The boys were chasing each other around as usual, and at one point we separated so we could make some progress, as Carter kept running away.  Jacob reluctantly stayed with me and we picked up a few things before we had to backtrack, at which point he found Craig and Carter and stupidly approached them.  Predictably, Carter ran from him, and somehow Carter got completely lost.  It took at least five minutes and two attempts around the store to find him.  Clearly we were furious with both boys--from Carter's penchant to run, to Jacob's insatiable desire to chase--and it made for a rough ending to the night.  Back at home, the boys ate small, quick dinners and went right to bed.  Meanwhile, I started working on the food.  I had to sort through multiple coolers and icepacked foods to determine which were salvageable and which were not.  Some might be pitched in the weeks to come if we discover it did not, in fact, come through okay.  But I think our efforts kept a lot of things in good shape, so I wasn't as upset about what we lost as I thought I'd be.  Regardless, I was happy to sit down with a bowl of fresh ice cream afterward as Craig and I watched a movie.  I forgot to mention that we figured out when we got home that the cable was actually still out.  So no TV, no phone, and no wifi.  Definitely disappointing, but at least DVDs work and my smartphone purchase last summer looks like one of the best decisions I ever made!

Today we savored our warm house and packed up for a planned trip to Buffalo.  We had Jacob's lacrosse game this afternoon and then headed west to Craig's parents'.  I have a baby shower tomorrow, and it's also Craig's mom's birthday.  Back in Rochester, people are slowly but surely getting their power back, but it's been a slow go in a lot of areas.  Tomorrow night is the target to have 90 percent of customers back online.  I'm honestly still marveling at how much this storm has transformed our landscape.  Every drive is a new spectator sport, trying to spot all of the damage.  There's an uprooted tree or damaged house around every corner, and a lot of cold, shell-shocked people left in the storm's wake.  It's been quite a crazy ride and I truly hope it's almost over.

In the spirit of hope, I'll leave you with some pictures I took the previous Wednesday, the day of the first windstorm.  As I was driving to pick up the kids there was some rain, and around that time the sun was peeking below some clouds.  As I approached Jacob's school, the most glorious rainbow appeared in my side view mirror.  By the time I got to the school and saw the whole thing, I was mystified!  Not only was it huge, with vivid color, but it was also a double rainbow!

Jacob and I marveled at it, apparently the calm before the storm of a very rough night.  But rainbows are always a reminder to me that God is watching over us, and I was so happy to see this one when I did.

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