Monday, July 9, 2012
The Great Derecho of 2012
(T-shirt above by, and available from, Traxler Tees)
On Friday June 29, 2029, a severe straight-line storm, also known as a derecho, swept through central Ohio on its way east. The storm and the high winds that accompanied it caused a great deal of damage, primarily to trees and power lines but also to homes and other structures. While we were not the hardest hit, our home did suffer some significant damage and power was knocked out for approximately four days. The entire event was quite disruptive. The lack of electricity during what has become a rather long-lasting heat wave made even basic living conditions challenging and prevented me from being able to get much drawing done as well. Still, my wife and I realized immediately how fortunate we were in so many ways. No one we know was physically harmed, much of the tree and property damage was repairable, and if the worst she and I ever have to deal with is a few days in the dark without air conditioning then our lives will be pretty easy. There were a few miserable, sweat-soaked hours at night, trying to fall asleep in the pitch-black silence of a 95 degree bedroom, but beyond that we were really very lucky. Here are a few of the photographs we took documenting the damage to the yard, the house, the roof, and the surrounding neighborhood.
We arrived home after leaving work a bit early, trying to beat the storm. That wasn't to be though, and we drove through the worst of it. Much of the fury was spent by the time we finally pulled into the driveway, and only a steady rain remained falling. This is the view from our front door, and you can see some broken branches and detritus littering the yard.
Looking back toward the front door, you can see the green plastic yard waste cans which had been by the curb and bits and pieces of the topmost roof which had been chewed up quite badly by the winds.
A wider view, showing a bit more of the damage.
Even more of the roof, littering the driveway and side yard. We found some shingles that had blown across two streets, well into the yards of other homes.
The top roof received the worst of the damage, while the secondary, lower roof was barely touched. This was due to the direction of the winds, which came from the northwest (behind the house) and the construction of the two roofs.
To the left, the side yard was absolutely filled with piles of living green leaves that had been stripped from the trees by the wind.
Although farther toward the back of that side yard, greater damage was evident.
It was in the back yard though that the scale of the destruction became apparent. Again, remember that this was a simple wind and thunderstorm, not a tornado. Behind our home, clustered near where several of the lots meet, are a few large stands of trees. These looked like they had literally exploded, having faced nothing but open sky and brutal wind.
The short span between the neighbor's yard and ours was a carpet of fallen branches.
Here you can really begin to see just how extensive the tree damage was.
Again, looking toward a neighbor's home.
My wife surveys some of the damage.
This is the corner of our home that faces the northwest, directly in line with the main force of the wind. You can see several holes in the siding that were made when the wind tore tree branches off from the trunks and turned them into missiles.
At first, my wife and I thought that this large branch, about the width of my forearm and approximately 12 feet long, was simply leaning against the side of the house.
Upon looking more closely, something didn't seem quite right though.
We raced inside to discover this. That tree branch had slammed through a layer of siding, a layer of insulation and two layers of sheetrock completely penetrating the house. This was the view from the dining room.
I went back outside, removed the branch, and came in to see just how big the hole was. Here is my hand, for comparison.
Still, we were very lucky. We walked farther back, into those small stands of trees, and saw just where the branch that had struck our house came from. This tree had fortunately been caught in the Y-shaped branches of a neighboring tree. Had that not happened, the wind would have driven the entire thing into our house, either in a straight line like a spear, or tumbling end over end.
We cleaned up what little we could, and since there was still some light in the sky, we drove around our block to see if there had been extensive damage elsewhere. There was.
This tree's trunk is so thick that even standing on opposite sides my wife and I would not have been able to wrap our arms around it and touch one another's fingertips. And yet the wind simply snapped it off at the roots.
Amazingly, nearer the freeway, this low brick wall had succumbed to the force of the wind. Terrifying.
There was no electricity, so the rest of the evening was cool, dark and quiet. We spent all day Saturday cleaning up what we could, but so much of the tree damage was beyond our ability and we had no real idea what the upper roof looked like. We assumed that the power would come back on relatively quickly but were proven wrong, and as I type this there are still a handful of residents in the county waiting for their electricity to be restored.
In spite of the fact that we were in the midst of the longest and most severe heatwave I can recall in central Ohio, the showers were shockingly cold. I expected the water, perhaps warmed by the ground, to be cool at worst and room temperature at best. The blast was icy, and this, combined with trying to sleep in what amounted to a sauna, was by the far the toughest part. Although again, my wife and I and everyone we spoke too realized that these were petty complaints compared to what many were suffering through and what those who had experienced far more significant disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes had to grapple with. That helped quite a bit, but it was still a filthy, sweltering, exhausting and demoralizing weekend.
Finally, after some of the power had been restored, my wife and I were able to find a hotel with electricity and hot showers. Yes, we were absolutely spoiled, and yes, we know how lucky we were to be able to pay for this luxury when many could not, but we took advantage of the opportunity. We checked in late Sunday, and the thing I was the most excited about was that I would be able to get some drawing done. The room turned into Studio West for a few short days, and this table is where I worked on the art.
Years ago, my father had given me this massive, heavy, oak box. I think it might have been a tackle box, but his intention was that I would use it for art supplies. Having a studio meant that this kind of portability was rarely necessary, but never have I appreciated this box more than last weekend when I had to pack as many bottles of ink and paint as I could and repair to a hotel room to work.
Preparing to unpack the supplies.
Studio West is ready.
We spent two days and two nights in the hotel. Our power was restored very late Monday night, a great deal earlier than we had anticipated and many days earlier than it was for so many other residents of the county. Again, we counted ourselves lucky. The next few days, including the holiday, were spent with additional clean-up, wrangling with insurance agents and contractors, and trying to settle back into some kind of routine. All of which was slightly disrupted again by having to fly to Nantucket early Friday morning for an engagement at the Nantucket Whaling Museum (which will be shared in tomorrow's post). Fortunately, Nantucket proved a welcome respite and my wife and I were treated with great hospitality there. The island is remarkable and the Whaling Museum is an absolute treasure.
It has been a fairly rough week and a half, but we have perspective. We know we suffered less than most, and we understand we have the means to alleviate that suffering better than many. All in all, we feel very very lucky, but also very glad to think of this as something that is in the past. Now, back to work on Heart of Darkness in earnest.