Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hurricane Ike (remnants)

We don't expect hurricanes here in southwest Ohio but having the remnants of one blow through happens fairly regularly. Usually we just get lots of rain. This time, the heavy rain passed to our west, drenching Indiana and Illinois. What we got was the wind - lots of it.

My weather station recorded a peak gust on Sunday (09/14) of about 65 mph (some stations recorded actual hurricane force winds of 80 mph). That's about when the power went out (2 p.m.).

This first shot is of our back porch area as the wind began whipping and sending corn plants - ripped right out of the fields - across the concrete and piling them in windrows against the pines.
You can see I managed to prop our two wooden rockers against the house. One had already been toppled. I've found this configuration just perfect; when laid against the house in this way, they seem not to budge. By the way, I've found corn up in the tops of the highest trees.

Along the south side of Pinehaven, maple leaves and branches began collecting. In the background, you can see we've already lost two limbs from the catalpas that line Clayton Road. At this point they're still partly in the roadway. Thanks to the Jackson Twp. Service Department who came by with a bulldozer and pushed them back into the yard. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle it.

A closer view of the catalpa damage. After the wind died down, I was out front with a hand saw trying to section the heavy limbs so that I could drag them to the field. That's when our neighbor, Rick Cornett, pulled into our driveway and asked, "Do you have a saw?" I held up my small saw. "I mean a chain saw," he said. "Nope." So Rick spent a few minutes sectioning the heavy limbs so that I could move them. That's neighborliness! I gave him the largest logs as kindling for when the winter winds are whipping.

Standing in Clayton Road, facing south, here's a close-up view of the damage. That's our mailbox buried in the leaves. From the picture, it doesn't look too bad but it was beyond my moving.

Turning around and shooting this picture northward, there's plenty of corn debris lying about but no trees were lost. Note the lack of any traffic. And this was the middle of a Sunday afternoon.

Here's (below) a better view of one of the limbs split off from the catalpa. The old tree just couldn't stand the strain. And while standing there taking this picture, nor could I. I had to keep covering my eyes to protect them from flying debris.

A day or so later, I took a walk over at the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Joint Park. They lost some trees, too. One (not shown) was girdled by twine which was left on when the tree was planted. The tree just snapped off above the root ball. There's a good moral there about proper planting techniques.

I'm including the next two pictures as an "after" and "before" shot of the cornfield across from our house. This shot (below) shows that the corn was pretty effectively mowed down by the wind. It seems the greenest corn was all that managed to stand; the mature, dried corn was laid down flat! Now, the million dollar (literally) question: can it be harvested from on the ground? I don't know. I wouldn't expect the pickers to be able to get that low. I'll have to watch and see what happens but I'm thinking "total crop loss" and "silage' here.

So you can compare, here's the "before" shot - nice, thick rows of mature corn as far as the eye can see. It's virtually all gone, thanks to Ike.

How have we been living the past three days? Carefully and painfully. Without electricity, we not only lost my livelihood (journalism) - the computer and electronic phones were dead - but we also lost any ability to heat (or refrigerate) our food. We also couldn't run water since we're on a well. No power = no water. And no water means no toilet!

Mother nature continues to call, does she not? For myself, a carefully dug latrine worked fine. A high fence of weeds was more than enough privacy. It's harder for my elderly parents: they managed with buckets. I kept getting large plastic buckets of water, too, and we managed to flush the toilets manually at least once a day.

How could our power company not get our electricity reconnected for three days (actually 75.5 hours)? It seems crews were dispatched to the Texas area because of - you got it - Hurricane Ike. So when the storm moved through here, there was no one to help.

Even after the power came back, it lasted only two hours and then went off for another few hours. Finally, after dark last evening it came back on and - so far - we still have juice.

But we're lucky to have not suffered any real damage. Sure, we lost every bit of food in our refrigerator but we have a solid roof and we didn't get enough rain to pose any threat at all. No storm surge here in the Midwest, either. So, all in all, we came through it just fine.

But had you asked me two days ago when I needed a shower and a shave, when I was itchy and irritated beyond belief, my answer wouldn't have been the same.

So, if anyone ever asks you whether Ohio ever gets hurricanes, tell them "Yes! They sure do!"