Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Aftermath

(There were not many fallen trees in our yard, and even then those were mostly at the yard's edge.)

I woke up between 9 and 10. The air was calm but the sky was still cloudy. Everyone else in the house was awake. We were very fortunate that no trees hit our house. I originally chose the word ‘lucky’ but replaced it with fortunate. It turns out that luck was not the sole reason we had no fallen trees damage our house. A little over 40 years before Fran, another full fledged hurricane hit Raleigh, Hazel. The storm spooked my grandfather who soon after removed all the trees from the front yard to reduce the chances of trees falling on the house. Not even the cars were damaged. I thought for sure that a fallen branch would hit someone’s car. I did pull my car to the southeast part of the house where the closest tree was well over 100 feet away.

There were fallen trees on the street we lived on, so many in fact that traveling through was impossible. Fortunately, my cousin’s husband had some chains and a chainsaw and was able to cut a path to New Bern Ave. New Bern Ave. was passable all the way to Knightdale. My cousin’s husband and I went to Knightdale to retrieve something and on the way passed over the Neuse River which was engorged and overflowing its banks.

For those not in NC, it should be noted how many trees there are here. In western NC, there are mostly deciduous trees while in eastern NC, there are mostly pine trees. In central NC there is a mixture of deciduous and pine trees. The pine trees faired the storm better than the deciduous trees. I’m not sure why. Maybe the pine trees had more give in the heavy winds, or maybe the deciduous trees roots didn’t anchor the trees down as well when water-logged. Often when the deciduous trees fell, the trees were uprooted while the pine trees that did fall often snapped leaving the bottom half of the trees still standing. There were fallen trees as far as the eye could see. Photos could not capture the scope and devastation the area suffered.

When we arrived back at the house, I lit the charcoals. Much of the food in the refrigerator was still cold but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. After seeing the extent of the damage in the area, I guessed correctly that we wouldn’t have power anytime soon. I wanted to cook as much of the refrigerated food as I could, or else it would have to be thrown away. I cooked a whole lot of eggs and some sausage and bacon.

My cousin and her family went back to Knightdale, leaving me, my mom and Bobby at the house. The novelty of the day kept us busy for day one, but towards the end of the afternoon, we knew that night was coming upon us and with it--inevitable boredom. Bobby was anxious to get home to see how his trailer was but was worried that his place may be inaccessible. However, Bobby was able to go home, so by the end of the day, my mom and I were the only ones at the house.
My mom had a cell phone which she used quite a bit that day and for the week after. She used the phone so much that her bill the next month was in the hundreds of dollars. I read while Abby and Father hung out in the house. We had some flashlights and candles, but once the sun fell, we were going to be bored. We did have a warm dinner. Unbelievably, I cooked a pizza on the grill. I had a Boboli crust, pizza sauce, pepperoni and some cheese which was still cold in the refrigerator. The pizza turned out well, but that would be the last warm meal at that house, and I emphasize ‘that house’ because later the next day, my aunt’s power would be restored and we would stay with her until our power came back on.
I remember sitting on the back porch at dusk and drinking lukewarm beer. I went to bed earlier than usual. This night was noticeably warmer and muggier than on the night of the storm. It was a hell of a time to find out that my bedroom windows were painted shut. I know that there are some smartass know-it-all types who will say that the windows were warped because of the humidity and heat, but they were not there and did not see the paint completely filling the gap between the window sill and the window pane. I had a fitful short sleep that night.
The next day was sunny, hot and humid. Growing restless, I convinced my mom to accompany me to travel to a Home Depot in a futile attempt to find a generator. We even went as far as Greensboro, which also was hit hard by the storm but not as much as Raleigh, but a generator was nowhere to be found. I knew we wouldn’t find anything, but I was tired of being in that house and needed to get out.
When we returned home, my mom spent her time talking on the cell phone while I read and swam. The pool had not been filtered in a couple of days. Even though it was still relatively clear and well chlorinated, it was starting to feel a little icky because of an oily film starting to grow on the pool. It was a nice way to find relief from the heat and it gave Abby something to do, since she was getting bored, too.
On this day, my mom and Bobby were supposed to be in Key West. As a matter of fact, their scheduled flight was on the day after the storm hit. Talk about rotten luck. Instead of relaxing in a tropical paradise, they were suffering in the aftermath of a hurricane. They planned on flying to Miami, renting a car and driving on US-1 to Key West. That drive is awesome, and I recommend the drive if one has the chance. They eventually made the trip a few months later, but on this weekend, in a twist of fate, their vacation plans to south Florida were foiled because of a hurricane in central NC.

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