in Checking In, Follow-Up, Weather

Raleigh Tornado, Part II

My night did not last long, though. It was too quiet and my urge to put my neighborhood back to right was too strong. I reluctantly left my bed and wandered through a dark home, wondering what I would do without any electricity or daylight.

I ate a breakfast of two cold mini-bagels and cream cheese, with an orange. The fridge temperature was about 50 degrees but I didn’t feel brave enough to get the other items from it. I picked up the paper from the driveway and mulled what to do next. A few neighbors stopped to chat after the sun had come up and we traded stories and tips. I got word that our power would be out for another three days. Turning down a “coffee run” offer, I gathered my gloves and new wheelbarrow and made a decision to go back to Longview to help clear trees.

I turned east onto Milburnie Road near Larry’s Supermarket, expecting to head back to Marlborough. Instead, I took a detour as a giant tree had fallen across Milburine. I soon made it to Brighton Rd where trees were down in the street but traffic was still moving along. Passing this guy I saw working with a chainsaw, I decided to stop and get out.

“Hi there,” I said. “Would you like some help?”

“Sure,” he answered. Chris was his name and we shook hands. He told me he and his wife Laura had decided to help clear the neighborhood, which was good because that’s what I had decided to do, too. After turning our attention to a small pear tree that had fallen onto Brighton, we turned onto Hartford Rd. where a gigantic oak had taken a dive across the road. That would be our task all day long.

There were dozens and dozens of branches that needed to be cut, and large trunks buried in the inside. With the help of a neighbor, Jamie, and Chris’s chainsaw, we began the slow process of cutting through the branches and dragging them to the side. It seemed like slow going. I suppose that’s because it was slow going. The branches seemingly never ended. It became clear that Chris’s chainsaw was not up to this task. Fortunately, Laura had just snagged the last chainsaw at Lowe’s: the display model, in fact. It was a hefty Huskuavarna, and soon it was cutting through the branches like butter.

After a few hours of work, we took a break. I wandered up to the intersection of Hartford and Peltham, where I saw a man with a chainsaw cutting into the tree blocking Peltham. I agreed to help him with that one if he helped us with ours. After rounding up the rest of my “crew,” we took care of this smaller tree and got a path out of the neighborhood. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw an elderly man hop into his truck once we were done and drive through the path we had just cut for him. There were lots of folks just like him who couldn’t eat because their refrigerators were out. That made me happy that we were doing such good.

I noticed another thing about the path we had just opened: it was like a real-life Sim City game. Sim City is a simulator game which lets you build your own city, with infrastructure and other items. Cutting that new path through the neighborhood was like adding a new road to Sim City: the cars seem to be attracted to it and come out of nowhere. Soon there was a parade of cars passing through, each filled with folks staring out wide-eyed at the destruction around them.

With Peltham cleared, we returned to the tree at Langford but the consensus was that lunch would be needed first. Chris and Laura invited me back to their home, where Laura’s brother had just brought over a few trays of food from Costco. I enjoyed a tasty lunch and good conversation while ate, surrounded by the menagerie of friendly dogs they own. After I was through with my lunch and a beer, we ventured back out to help other neighbors with the trees in their yard.

While Brighton was passable when I had first arrived, a tree crew from the city had blocked off the other end while they worked on a tree blocking the intersection. A parade of cars continued down the street, only to turn around at the end and go back the way they came. Needing a break from the limb clearing, I decided to stand at the start of Brighton and wave cars away from the street.

I had been wearing my yellow safety vest to be safe in the streets, so I looked very official. No driver challenged me as I directed traffic back on to the neighboring street. It was a bit of an ego boost to take charge of this little task. Fortunately for everyone involved, the city crew finished its work about the same time I has tiring of directing traffic. I returned to the neighbor’s house and jumped back into dragging limbs away.

I had made noise more than once about “this is my last tree,” but I kept finding I had more I felt like doing. We assisted some neighbors who had two massive oaks topple in their yard, missing their home but smashing their cars. Their entire yard was a sea of massive tree branches. A few cuts and drags later and they had a workable path to their doorway. They never did figure out to which neighborhood the trampoline that was now resting on their fence belonged. Everyone agreed that it hadn’t come from any home they were familiar with.

Nothing attracts company like success, and as the remaining limbs got hauled away from the Hartford tree a crowd had arrived to assist. With many experts sizing up the next cuts, we soon had the last path cut through! And, I’m proud to say that no one got hurt! The city crews expressed their thanks for our efforts, saying that it freed them up clean up the other trees. I was just glad to help and to meet the wonderful neighbors in my area.

Arriving back home, I called my dad to ask if I could borrow his generator. He agreed if I could find a way to get it home. With the help of my brother, we lifted it into my car. I visited for a bit before driving back home by way of Char-Grill. A neighbor helped me bring the generator into the house.

Now I’m off to Cameron Village to buy some groceries and mooch the library’s WiFi. I’ll probably be back tomorrow to work there as it will be another day or two before the power returns to my neighborhood.