Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Grace of God

We had a whopper of a storm here on June 11th, last Thursday. It’s probably one of the worst I have been in and brought with it lots of problems and complications. Just a simple reminder that we are not in control (of even the simple things like dinner time) and we tend to value “things” too much. Yet when we see how easy it is to lose much, we are grateful when we only lose a little.

If you’ve ever talked weather with me, you will soon learn that I have little respect for the TV weathermen or expect too much from their forecasts. They are just too wrong too often. Don’t even get me started on their false ice storm predictions just to get more air-time! So when I heard 30% chance of rain to severe storms for Thursday night, I thought we’d be lucky to get a drop. James was surprisingly home early (before 6:30 pm is early to us) that night and Nathan was convinced he had seen the neighbor boy out front. I was doubtful because of the rain and it being dinner time, but since our dinner was almost ready I thought a little walk might be nice. At least easier than arguing with an almost 4-year-old.

So we left Evan inside with Dad and went down the street. The sky ahead looked grim, black with mounting clouds and I quickly convinced Nathan that everyone was inside eating dinner. We were going to step up to our neighbor’s yard to say hello to their puppies on our way back when the city emergency sirens went off. Nathan and I ran back to the house and I grabbed a bag of toys, box of books and a few flashlights as we scooted into the powder bath with Dad and Evan. (Sorry Daphne - you’re on your own. She’d never let me catch her anyway.)

The storm came up fast and the electricity went off immediately. I entertained the boys with stories and Nathan determined that this was very exciting and he liked storms even better than rain! James checked outside a few times to see if it was safe to come out and finally the storm passed over. Being inside, we didn’t have a real sense of how bad it was but James looked concerned and said the wind was really bad.

The one thing I hate about our city’s emergency sirens is that after they sound for a few minutes, they go off. Then you are left to wonder if it is safe to come out or not. In some storms they have sounded and turned off several times within 10 minutes. So then I wonder did the first sound mean take cover, the silence mean wait and the next sound mean all clear? Or did the first sound mean take cover, the silence mean all clear, then the second sound mean take cover again? So many things in life should come with a manual!

When the winds had died down and we finally came out, we decided to have a candle lit dinner. Luckily I had gotten home early enough to have dinner ready and it was still hot when the storm past. We ate dinner in the flickering light, listening to the rain and thunder without any TV to distract. Funny how dependent we become on electricity! We waited about an hour and when the power didn’t come back on I called my mom. She lives 20 minutes away and she said the storm there was not as bad and she had power. So we decided it was time for a sleep over! Even more fun for Nathan.

James and I took turns gathering clothes and items we would need to sleep over at Grandma’s house and still go to work the next day. On a plus side, the kids would already be at Grandma’s so James could get right off to work. When we were ready to go, James had to figure out how to open the electric garage door manually! We took both cars so we could get to work and I chatted with one of the neighbor’s sons while I waited for James to close the garage and lock everything down.

We were grateful to see that our fence was still standing since it is the original fence that came with the house - paper thin and leaning in places. In fact, as we drove out of the housing development, we only noticed one large tree was down on the street below ours (more on that later).

As the evening developed and I thought through things, I realized what a good idea it was to go to Grandma’s for the evening. Without electricity and no idea when it would come on, we would have a hard time not having monitors to hear the boys at night. They would not have night lights to make their rooms less scary if they woke. Our bedroom is down stairs so we can’t hear them without a monitor. To add to that, my Dad had taken a vacation alone to the Grand Hotel and was due back that night. Mom had planned to just drive by the airport to pick him up. When we got to her house, she had called and found out that the flight from Detroit was diverted to Kansas and would be coming in later but not sure when. James quickly decided that he was going to the airport to wait for my Dad.

Evan fell asleep on the way over, so I slipped him into bed. Anticipating that the drive would put a sleepy guy out, I already had him in his pj’s. But he woke for a bottle while I was getting Nathan in bed. Mom was so great to get Evan back to sleep. I had forgotten how bright my Mom’s house is and how loud the old ceiling fans are, so I had a hard time falling asleep. Plus the storm was still raging outside with constant rain and thunder. Nathan slept like a log and I was up and down calling James to check on him and listening to Evan's baby monitor giving feedback.

James said the airport was one of the worst he had seen. Lots of people looking lost, canceled flights because all the planes were grounded and the boards were not updated so no one knew when or were things were coming in. There was also no one to ask at any of the desks - I figured they were hiding in the back somewhere. When Dad finally landed and they arrived home after 2 am, I found out that he left Kansas around 9 pm, circled the airport until they ran out of fuel, went to Oklahoma for more gas and came back to circle again until they landed. Dad looked a little worse for the trip, but he was holding up well. He had a great time at the Hotel so that helped a lot. We all crawled back into beds to try to get some sleep.

If I fell asleep at all, it was quickly ended by Evan waking - not crying but more of a quisical “ohhh? Ooooh, Uhhhh?” I grabbed a bottle and was up with him until he finally fell back to sleep after 6 am. He wouldn’t let me sit at all, so I walked the whole time expect for when I gave him the 3 bottles I hoped would make him sleep.

I maybe got 2 or 3 hours of sleep so I decided to take the day off, go back home to see if we had electricity and get some sleep. Good thing I did! After hearing a lot about the trip from Dad and looking a the photos in the digital camera, I returned home about 9:30 am.

Street lights were working, which was a good sign, and as I drove into the development I thought how nice that the city had picked up that big tree already (yeah, more on that).

I noticed a street sign leaning, a speed sign flattened and the community mailbox on the ground instead of it’s pedistol. It was when I rounded the corner that I realized things were not as we had left them the night before. People’s fences were down!

Not just a few panels or in one direction, but all over. I got to our house to find 3 sections of fence on each side down, wooden fence posts snapped off at the ground or bent until uprooted and our backyard stuff everywhere.

I found the grill cover, lid and sandbox lid at the side of our house. Nathan’s slide was halfway across the neighbor’s yard! I was glad to see the back fence was still up although leaning a bit more than before. Over all, we fared better than most!

I talked to the neighbors on both sides and found out that electricity came back around midnight and the second and worst storm came through at 6 am. Both families hid in interior rooms and said their walls were shaking. They heard 75-90 mile an hour winds! I was so grateful the boys where not there to experience that! Oh, and that tree we saw down on the right side of the street when we left at 9 pm was the tree from across the street (normally on the left side) it had been uprooted and dropped across the street with the first storm, then blown down the road and across a major intersection with the morning storm! When I left that afternoon, I saw it laying across the intersection in a different person’s yard!

You can see the round bricks where the tree used to be...

Now it is outside our housing development, across a major street!

What a wild storm! I spent the morning taking photos for the insurance, moving and putting things away in case a new storm came that night and talking with the neighbors. By the time I called insurance and ate lunch, I got about a 2 hour nap before I had to go pick up the kids! Oh well, sleep is overrated.

James got to spend 7am-4pm Sunday mending the fence on one side by himself. Our really nice neighbors on the other said they would take care of it since they have older boys and they kind of owed us for the fence extension we had done several years before. So, at least we only had to do work on half the fence. I was frustrated that I couldn’t help James, but someone had to watch Evan (Nathan could run around on his own and be fine) and it was just too hot to be out.

We did find out today from the insurance adjustor that our roof is in great shape and because our deductible is $1,000 they wouldn’t give us anything for the fence. But we did learn that trees are covered without any deductible and one of our pear trees lost a limb. He said they give $250 a tree for damage, so that will cover our fence costs! Had we lost a whole tree, that wouldn’t be much, but since we just lost a small limb, we are feeling more than blessed!

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