Sudden Storm

A father, a son, and a chainsaw. Time for some male bonding!

On Friday night at 10:25 PM, Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals’ electric 19-year old outfielder, provided the juice.  Ten-year old Alex leapt to his feet and fist-pumped.  The ball was in the stands, Harper was trotting ’round the bases, and the Nats, after suddenly squandering a 4-run lead, were back on top of their Atlanta rivals.

One batter later, as Alex and I still buzzed, everything went dark.  “Oh, oh,” he said.  Then the lights and TV came back on.

“Whew,” he said.  “I want to see this game.”  Then it was dark again.  I listened carefully.  No rain seemed to be hitting the roof.  All was calm.  Must be my wife, firing up her kiln.  We just had another 220v line installed because her art requires that glass be fused together at 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. 

I called upstairs.  “Lora, what did you just do?”

Then the room was lit up twice, three, four times from some huge flashes outside the house.  And it was dark again.  I love thunder and lightning.  So I opened the front door and watched.  For the next several minutes, I think we averaged a lightning flash every three or four seconds.  I saw three different colors of lightning:  blue, white, and orange.  But not very much thunder.

Then the wind came.  Back during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, I went outside because I never had experienced a hurricane before.  Isabel’s winds, in our neck of the woods, never got much above 70 mph.  During the peak of that storm, I stood out on our street, challenged by the gusts not to be knocked over, for about 45 seconds.  I saw the way the big trees were bending from the ground up, and I saw big branches fly past me like footballs.  Forty five seconds of that was enough.

Therefore, Friday night I was content to open the front door, which faced away from where the wind was coming from.  It was very impressive.  Not much rain, but the wind and lightning were incredible.  It howled like a banshee (writers are allowed to talk about wind and banshees).  Alex joined me at the door and said, “Wow.  This is fun.”  Then we heard big thuds and felt the whole house shake.  In the darkness, I made out what seemed to be a huge mass of branches and leaves fly over the house.

“Everyone in the basement!  Now!”  I yelled.

“Something hit our roof!” I heard my wife’s voice from another part of the darkened house.

I feared that we were in a tornado’s path.  The three of us made it safely into the rec room down in the basement.  Our fourth was hundreds of miles away, with friends.

“Dad,” Alex said.  “Can I sleep down here tonight?  For safety?”

When the winds died down, I couldn’t sleep.  First, I walked our property, flashlight in hand.  What a mess.  Huge branches had fallen, one of them right on top of our roof.  Couldn’t tell in the darkness how much damage.  So I got in the car and started to drive around.  The police probably didn’t appreciate people like me, out on the roads just to satisfy curiosity.  I stopped a few times to move big branches out of the street so cars could get by.  None of the traffic signals were working for miles around.

At 5:25 AM, I was awake, planning to buy a chain saw and ice.  I heard a big BOOM in the distance.  All the lights came on.  The sun was rising.  Holy crap!  My next door neighbor’s property got hammered ten times worse than mine.

The police are out at all the major intersections, directing traffic.  I make it to the Home Depot by 6:15.  Home Depot is on generator power only; the place is spookily dark.  But they’re selling lots of chainsaws, and one them has my name on it.  On the way back home, the all-talk station is all talk about the storm’s aftermath, but they interrupt to deliver one piece of news that will make my son happy.

I start up the chain saw at 8 in the morning and go to work.  It’s unbelievably loud, the kind of device a ten-year old boy cannot stay away from.  Sure enough, I catch him out of the corner of my eye.  He motions for me to stop the saw.  The noise stops, and I tell him,”Today’s going to be a workday for us, buddy.”

“Dad,” he says, “do you know if the Nats won last night?”

“Yeah, buddy, five to four.  I heard it on the radio just now.”

“Yes!” he says, smiling broadly.  “Dad, is the house okay?”

I point to the place on the roof where a half ton of tree had come down.  Earlier in the morning, I had figured out how to roll the thing off the house in a way that even kept our gutter intact.  We’re fortunate.  Our roof is fine, and the Nats hung on Friday night to win.  In Alex’s ten-year old universe, things couldn’t be much better.

See pictures from my neighborhood showing the storm’s impact:

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