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Thursday, November 03, 2011

A fricken guide to crisis management: Snowstorms, Tree-falls, Blackouts, Back-feeds and Pit-bulls.

My neighbor had his christmas lights on two days before Halloween. There's a lot of ways one could react to that, disgust, delight, denial. We chose to run around like frickens with our heads cut off and call 911.

It was also snowing that day. Two days before Halloween. You might not like that sort of thing. You might feel it's just wrong. It's far too early for snow. Turns out you would be in good company if you hold that opinion. The Ents don't much care for it either. Y'see, in October, a good many trees still have their leaves. Thick canopies of big, shovel shaped leaves, perfect for catching and holding a sticky, wet snow. As anyone who's ever shoveled early and late snows can attest, that stuff is heavy. There were more disarticulated limbs and trunks scattered around this county last weekend than after a gas explosion at a manikin factory. i actually heard a dead tree snickering at a live one, "welcome to my world, sucker."

One tree that didn't fair too well was a great, red oak at the edge of the road right out in front of Elwood Station. It went down between one and two on Saturday, scythed through the power lines and was caught and held by the phone, tv and internet cables underneath; its body forming a low arch over our road. Side note: apparently our the entertainment industry is far more concerned with you receiving their product than the power companies. We had already lost power an hour or two before and so didn't think much of it other than to remark how dumb the motorists that still drove under it were.

Supposing this outage to be a protracted one, i went and got my folk's generator which i wired directly into my power panel to give us a few lights and keep the fridges and freezer running. Heat was coming from the woodstove on Bubba's side of the station. Dinner came from Vinnie's II pizzeria and we were just settling in for a long winter's evening when there came a frantic knocking at the door.

"Dude,canIborrowaphone,mine'sdeadandIgotasmokesituationinmyhouse,sparksshootingoutofevery outletandmyfrontdoorshockedme!" It was Brian, my next door neighbor. Normally a rather logy fellow. It seemed odd that he would jump the ditch and fight the thorn bushes i'd allowed to grow up between our houses to come see us but that night he seemed particularly energized and when he realized he didn't know his wife's work number he thanked me and ran home. i thought it odd that if a man thought his house was on fire that the first person he wanted to call was his wife so i put some boots on and battled the thorn bushes and hopped the ditch to see what kind of fire wives handle better than fire departments.

That's when i saw the christmas lights. Did i mention our power had been out since midday? It bears repeating, our power had been out since midday. This was seven o'clock at night but there were the christmas lights, glowing faintly on the gutter like something out of Poltergeist. While my neighbor put his kids in his car and started shuttling Rottweiler puppies to them and full grown Rotties yelped and shot out the door like, forgive me, scalded dogs, i followed the sizzling noises to the side of his house where the grounding rod from his power panel was glowing, arcing and smoking. That's when i pushed the panic button.

It might be the second or third time i've called 911. Next time, i gotta remember to take a deep breath first, get the facts in an orderly array in my head and THEN call. Yeah, gotta keep that in mind.

At some point it occurred to me that our two houses were fed off the same pole. So i hopped the ditch and fought the thorn bushes back to Elwood Station. i could hear the hissing-sizzling before i even turned the corner and saw the glow from my own grounding rod. Having already hit my own panic button, hitting it again didn't really do anything satisfactory. So i killed and unplugged the generator, ran upstairs, totally forgetting to take my shoes off before the carpet, and hit my family's panic buttons for them. "GrabsomethingwarmandgetoutofthehouseNOW!!" Totally cool under pressure, that's me.

About this time i remembered Nala. For those who don't know, Elwood Station is a twin so to speak. We live in the new addition and Bubba and the Bubbakins live in the old, original cottage. The Bubbakins were at their mother's. Bubba had gone to help a friend with a tree limb and torso problem so that just left one scared and freaked out pit-bull in the house. Normally she's as sweet and fun loving as the next seventy pound puppy but it was dark, there were men running around her house and pounding on doors and who knows if her senses could pick up the electricity coursing through the ground that night. Have you ever opened up the door to a completely darkened house where you know there's a freaked out pit-bull? i stopped reading Cujo as a kid somewhere in the first chapter, cuz i knew i didn't want to know what that would be like. But there i was, doing just that. With visions of white, shiny teeth and torn flesh i ventured in but she only retreated, growling just enough to let me know not to get too close. She was so scared, i couldn't even coax her out with pizza. Extra sausage and bacon! i know, right? i made several attempts but it was no use. Resolving to just throw wide the doors and let her escape into the night at the first sign of fire, i gave up.

The family was evacuated to the house of friends. Brian had finished de-dogging his own house. Bubba was on his way back to get Nala. Sirens wailed in the night from every direction and a long disused and unhooked dog fence sent plumes of sizzling steam into the snowy night. All that i knew to do had been done. So i stood in my driveway and watched to see if the houses would burn...


  1. Okay, wow. That's exciting, and a bit confusing (what's going on with the electricity? And is that the neighbor's dog? Do you live in a duplex? I hope there is a happy ending?)...

  2. Sorry for the confusion Katie. i'll explai...i'll attempt to explain the electrical situation in the next post. My house is actually two houses now. The old part where Bubba and Nala live and the new part where we all park. As for happy endings... i suppose it'll depend on your rating system. As with most stories in real life, the ending is equivocal.