Power to the People

A big rain storm with even bigger winds moved through our area early Monday morning. I woke up around 4:00 AM to a lot of commotion, but it wasn’t until I heard a sharp “pop” and what sounded like a falling tree just before 5:30 that I checked outside. That’s when I discovered a twenty-five-foot-tall white pine tree had uprooted and come down, with its tip securely cradled by the dent it created across the roof of my wife’s car. I stepped out into the rain and howling winds for a closer look — and that’s when I discovered our 320-gallon propane tank (used to fuel our backup generator) resting upside down on the grass.

I dashed upstairs to the bedroom and shook Carol awake, saying, “Honey, I think we need to leave the house quickly before our 320-gallon propane tank EXPLODES AND BLOWS US INTO AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE.” That seemed to get Carol’s attention, as she sprang out of bed faster anytime I could remember since I suggested during our honeymoon we try “something different.”

As Carol pulled on some clothes, I dialed the fire department to come and assess the situation. The Fire Chief actually answered the phone (we live in a small town; in an emergency you only have to dial “9”), and after getting our address said he’d send a crew right over. In less than ten minutes the chief himself came down our narrow, sloping driveway in his truck with a big pump rig following behind. The chief and another fireman made sure the gas was off at both the tank and generator inlet, and then had the dispatcher reach the owner of the fuel company to have him come and examine the tank more closely to confirm there was no leak.

Long story somewhat shortened — by noontime everything was put back in its proper place, and our generator kicked in immediately once the flow of propane was restored, since the power had gone out just as the firemen arrived shortly before 6:00 that morning.

We were mightily impressed with the speed of the fire department’s response and their concern for our situation. As things turned out, we had quite a long time to convey our appreciation since the crew got their rig stuck when they left. They tried to exit by backing up the driveway, immediately running off the edge and getting bogged down in the marshy field next to our property. The harder they tried to extricate the truck, the deeper the wheels dug in. It took attempts by two different tow trucks to finally pull them out, over two hours later. Fortunately (from an efficiency standpoint), they weren’t idle the whole time they were stuck — another neighbor’s tree came down, ripping power lines from the house and totaling his car, and yet another family lost a quarter of their roof when a huge tree toppled and fell on the house (that was the noise I’d heard at 5:30). Fortunately, no one in the family was hurt, but they are temporarily displaced while the house is under repair. As it turns out, other neighbors who are seasonal residents here at the lake were just getting ready to close their place for the season, and offered to let the family stay in their otherwise empty house until repairs are completed. Such a lovely gesture to let someone else live in your house and one I’m not sure I could have offered, since I get antsy when dinner company hangs around after the main course, waiting in vain for dessert to be served.

Carol and I spent four hours Monday morning clearing as much of the tree debris as we could — once daylight broke, I saw that a thirty-foot balsam fir had also fallen, landing on the driveway just inches behind both of our cars. I got to do the manly thing and fire up my chainsaw, which was fun for about half an hour and then increasingly tedious and painful for the remaining three hours and thirty minutes. As soon as the fuel company got the tank back in place and the generator running, we immediately stopped with the cleanup process and went inside for hot showers and hotter coffee. Exhausted from the morning effort, we were pretty useless for the rest of the day. My arms were aching, my wrists were stiff, my fingers were tingling. The cruelest thing anyone could have done to me that evening was bring Chinese food. Which I love. But then insist I eat it using chopsticks.

The next morning brought sunny skies and calmer winds. Carol went into work and I, in my capacity as President of our road association, decided to stroll along the camp road and see how everyone else had fared. I thought the least I could do was ask if the other residents were having a good time while cleaning up after the storm, as I benevolently tossed a few rolls of paper towels at them. Someone handed me a rake; I wasn’t sure what to do with it and so took a quick selfie with the implement before handing it back. So far, I’m dismissing rumors of impeachment proceedings as “fake news.”

Initial estimates indicated that nearly half of Maine’s residents lost power due to this widespread storm; however, as I write this there are no reports of deaths or serious injuries attributed to the weather. We don’t expect power to return to our street until the end of the week at the earliest, which is certainly an inconvenience — but that’s all it is, really. Our local supermarket is open, the service station is operational for people using gasoline-powered generators, and you can drive a couple of towns over, where power has already been restored, to shop for just about anything you need. The situation is nothing like what continues to face many of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who are now into their second month without electricity. Here’s to hoping I’m not the only sitting President whose job is in jeopardy — I think I can weather this storm, but don’t think that other guy can survive the multitude of ill winds swirling all around him.

3 thoughts on “Power to the People

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  1. Wow! You had it pretty bad in your neck of the Maine woods, John. We had at least a dozen trees go down but luckily they all missed our house. We had two that if they had blown down the other way would have taken the power line off our house, so we were very grateful that didn’t happen. We have neighbors whose power is still out because that happened to them. Like you, we have not asked them over to stay, but I know they have a generator so they are doing okay. Maybe we’ll ask them over for dinner – but no dessert!


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