I didn’t intend at all for the blog to “go dark,” so to speak, over the past five weeks. I really was gearing up to get really active with writing again. Then September hit.
Talk about a lost month. First, there was the big wind storm when the remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through. My mother’s power went out before I’d even left her house, and I arrived home to find my apartment dark as well. It was over 90 degrees that day as the winds first whipped; I was exhausted and wanted a nap.
There was no air conditioning or fan, of course. At first I thought my usually-cool ground floor apartment might stay moderately comfortable. In no time I thought I was suffocating. I tried taking a cold pack to bed with me (the kind you put on bumps and bruises to take down swelling), but that did nothing. Finally I opened the patio door, which I don’t like to do because my patio is full of dust and it all blows into my already dusty apartment.
At least it allowed enough ventilation to take the temperature down a bit. The sound of the gusts was unnerving, though. I heard it even as I dosed off and on. At one point I thought maybe the power was back on and the air conditioner was working because I heard a roar like the air flowing out of the vent in the ceiling. It turned out to be the wind, although I didn’t learn until later how really terrible the impact of all this was.
When I felt I’d gotten some rest, I phoned Mom. Not only was her power still out, but the top of her Bradford pear tree in the front yard had snapped in the middle and half a tree was on her lawn and in the driveway. I called Diamondqueen and her house had a power outage as well.
I hadn’t even unpacked my things from my usual weekend at Mom’s. I just picked up my bags, plus a hand-cranked flashlight, and started back up to Mom’s house.
My first shock was when I saw the state of my very pretty, very woodsy apartment complex. Huge branches were down everywhere; a pine tree one building over had fallen over, brushing the face of the building across the driveway with its tip. Out by the entrance, several of the small decorative trees (maybe Japanese maples?) had snapped in two. And this was just the beginning.
Getting to Mom’s was interesting because so many trees were down; roads were blocked all over. On those avenues that were open, the sights were heart-stopping, everything from enormous century-old trees complete uprooted to portions of trees split off and fallen on roofs and yards.
Just hours before Diamondqueen’s van had been parked where part of Mom’s pear tree had come down. Fortunately, the right side of the driveway was clear so I could park. I got to work right away on the tree with a small pruning saw, hoping at least to get the mess out of the sidewalk and driveway. The wood was soft and cut easily, but there was a lot of it! Soon a neighbor from across the street arrived with a special pruning contraption that allowed him to snap thick limbs in no time. As he worked, we talked about the storm and the damage. He’d seen shingles fly off the roofs of two houses at the corner as though they were playing cards. There was a large piece of what looked like a gutter in Mom’s side yard, but it wasn’t from her house. Except for the tree, she’d escaped otherwise unscathed.
Immediately we both started going through Internet and TV withdrawal. Not that we needed surfing or programs–we desperately wanted information. Earlier there’d been talk of tornado-like storms moving in after the wind. We didn’t know what to expect or what shape the city was in.
Mom had a combination radio/emergency light that one of us had given to our stepfather years ago. It got FM radio okay, but not AM. The FM stations were barely interrupting their music at that point with any updates; I figured talk radio would probably have people calling in, but nothing we did could get the AM band on the radio to work.
We read magazines by flashlight for awhile, then took a walk up the street before it got too dark. Branches and trees were down everywhere, and there was much evidence of damage. We saw where the shingles had been stripped from the corner house roofs, and one of them also appeared to be missing an upstairs shutter and the gutter was hanging loose. When soft rain began to fall and it looked as if there might be something about to move in, we headed back to Mom’s house.
At least it had cooled off. With the windows and back door open, and a still-stiff breeze blowing in, we didn’t suffer from the heat. We listened to enough periodic updates and call-ins on the FM stations to learn that most of the Cincinnati area was with without power. On top of that, some gas stations couldn’t pump fuel, which meant those stations that were open were had a run on their dwindling supplies.
After awhile Mom and I decided to amuse ourselves with a game of 500. We set up the emergency light at the kitchen table and dealt cards. Rusty, Mom’s dog, sat staring at us, disturbed by the darkness and the total disruption of his environment. There was nothing we could do. Eventually Mom went to bed, and I went out to the car and listened for awhile to the AM station on my radio there.
I had no way of finding out if work was open, or even of letting anyone know I wasn’t coming in; when I phoned, all I got was a busy signal. Later that day, Mom’s phone went out as well. Since gas in my car was low, I headed out looking for an area with power. I’d heard that the Montgomery Kroger had its own generator and was open, but after a long drive through nutty traffic coping with a lack of working signals, I found a “closed” sign on the door. The evening before we’d heard on the radio that the area in nearby Mason where all the stores were already had power back on, so I headed there. As before, I kept taking circuitous routes because streets were constantly blocked by trees.
The Kroger’s on Mason-Montgomery Road was indeed open. However, they were stripped bare of B-size batteries, one of the necessities I’d set out to find since Mom was low on them. I bought some new magazines with which we could entertain ourselves and a couple other sundries, and got some cash out of the ATM, just in case.
Gas stations were working, and naturally the lines wound and tangled. It appeared some pumps were already out of commission, so I just moved on. (to be continued)