I’m not sure if the recent events in Western New York have had any effect on my daughter.
“Daddy, my crayons are broken like trees,” my daughter said.
“I see that,” I said. “It looks like a lot of broken trees.”
“Let me shake them up and watch them fall,” she said.
Every tree on our property has broken limbs hanging from them or are stripped down to the wood where the branches used to be.
“Daddy, does the radio have power?”
“Yes, it does, Little One.”
“Daddy, does the TV have power?”
“Yes, it does, Little One.”
We were without power for almost five days. Luckily the grandparents on both sides could take the family in during this little inconvenience.
These minor changes in our daughter’s way of thinking are definitely manageable. I couldn’t imagine what children absorb when they go through a serious hardship.
We’re lucky because we were able to maintain a positive attitude, especially in front of the kids, and actually had a lot of fun during the surprise storm of October 12th and 13th and its aftermath. We just did what we had to do and it kept us sane… in front of the kids.
We formulated a game-plan as we pulled into our dark driveway. We’d bring our now sleeping son up to his crib and reward our exhausted daughter with dessert by candlelight.
As my wife took care of our little girl I checked the water level in the sump pump hole. It was on the verge of overflowing. This meant I needed to connect to some sort of power soon or start sucking. I decided to go the power route because our neighbor with a built in natural gas generator gave me the green light to plug in anytime we’re sent back to the dark ages.
I donned some snow gear, grabbed a flashlight, gathered two outdoor extension cords and went to work on correcting our power deficiency. By this time the snow was ankle high and wet and my underwear started to creep a little too much due to the snow pants over my jeans. I trudged two doors down and plugged in the big cord while trees snapped all around me. It sounded like sniper fire, I think.
My neighbor’s wife, who happens to be my neighbor also, advised me that it was okay to sponge off of their power source. There’s no way she could have predicted how long our houses would be unified in electricity or she might have told me to plug the cord in somewhere else, like my ass. She and her husband are in their seventies so they should just say #$&^ the world, but lucky for us they’re generous people. I told her that if the situation was reversed I’d do the same thing for them and she believed me so I hurried back to my tangle of extension cords.
I tied the big cord to my next-door neighbor’s deck and headed towards my house with the other cord. It was too short. That’s when I remembered that the long one was in front of the house plugged into our classy inflatable pumpkin-witch that the kids love so much. Untangling that one was rather difficult because it ran along side the front of the house across the porch and through the flower garden which were all covered in a blanket of snow. The house and porch part were easy but the garden proved to be quite a challenge. Finally the cord popped out after an enormous tug and it even disconnected itself from the glorious pumpkin-witch to my pleasant surprise. I hoped that it didn’t damage this piece of lawn art that has grown on me, but I didn’t check because time wasn’t on my side. The more time I took the more water flowed into my basement and the longer I had to experience the irritating wedgie in my pants.
The new cord made it to the inside of the house so now we were in business. It took two more cords to reach the sump pump. When my wife inserted the plug into the power strip our potential flood disappeared down the drain. I let her plug it in to make her feel like she was helping, too. Er, I mean, uh, I couldn’t have done it without her. In actuality this is true. She took care of the wee little ones while I played outside. Actually one of them was asleep, so she took care of the somewhat wee little one.
Our daughter got to experience the awesomeness of the storm while my wife and she watched a tree limb crack and crash to the ground out the window.
“Daddy, the maple tree broke in the yard.”
“I saw that, little one.” I can be very supportive when necessary.
The two of them also got to witness something that I never saw before while they looked out the window, blue lightning. The snow turned an amazing blue during the lightning strikes. I was in awe, but I was also a little worried because I witnessed it while I was outside in the snow dodging tree limbs and holding a wet electrical cord . Did I mention a thunderstorm was going on during the cord to generator fiasco? The whole thing was surreal. Imagine the dark sky glowing blue and reflecting off of the snow everywhere you can see and loud thunder echoing all around you while being covered with heavy wet snow all in mid-October. Like I said, it was surreal.
In the house we also plugged in the fridge, a light and a radio. We didn’t want to take advantage of our neighbors’ generosity… yet.
Our daughter went to bed without incident even though the cracking sound became more frequent. She’s probably used to falling asleep to a lot of noise because her bedroom is right next to ours. Get your head out of the gutter, I like to pace around the room and we have a rather squeaky floor.
We listened to the radio for a little while and it sounded pretty bad. So I tuned it in correctly and the guy on the air said that a lot of people were without power and that meant it might be out for a long time. At this point 24 hours seemed like a long time. That seems funny to me right now.
I decided to head outside and see if anyone needed any help, and to check out the amazing carnage that unfolded itself by the minute. The neighbor guys were out there, too. We huddled up in the middle of the snow-covered street to see if anyone needed anything… like a hug. Nothing was needed at the moment except electricity. I noticed groups like ours up and down the street. Most were men, with a couple of exceptions, because the women were smart enough to stay in the house during a natural disaster. We cleared a couple of big limbs from the street and a driveway or two while always ready to run if we heard a nearby “snap”. No one got hurt and my neighbors went back in their houses.
I noticed a guy down the street trying to move a huge piece of tree from the road so I went down to give him a hand. He’s someone I didn’t know, but through our conversation I could tell that he was deaf by the way he spoke. The impressive thing was that he understood what I said even though it was really dark out there, since the lightning had stopped by now. We somehow managed to move the enormous obstacle from the road and parted ways. I figured I better get back in the house before my wife thinks I took a direct hit and I headed back home.
She was glad to see me alive, I think and we decided to go to bed so my wife and I made sure all the candles were blown out and that the doors were locked in case any looters tried to break in and steal some salami or bananas or whatever a snowstorm looter steals. That’s when it dawned on me that we were almost out of milk and both cars were low on gas. I took one last look outside in the yard before I crawled into bed. I hoped, but doubted, that the pool and especially our kid’s playhouse would still be standing in the morning. I wanted to sleep through the night because tomorrow was going to be a very busy day. Fat chance.
At work we thought the snow coming down was an amusing anomaly especially since it was 70 degrees a few days earlier and it’s only October. That’s very early for snow, even in Buffalo. It never occurred to me that this was the beginning of an unforgettable event in my life.
The ride home from work on October twelfth was kind of messy but manageable. I listened to a book on CD and took my time while I watched the landscape being painted bright white. I’m one of the oddballs that like to drive in snow. I get an adrenaline rush when the tires disobey a direct order and the vehicle slides in the opposite direction I intended it to go. As long as everyone gets out unscathed I thrive on those moments. I happily pulled in my driveway about 30 minutes later than usual. I found out the next day that I was one of the lucky ones because many people were stranded on the thruway for ten, twelve or fourteen hours that night.
The first indication that things could get dicey was the huge branch that blocked my next-door neighbor’s driveway. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on to the severity of a situation so I just pulled the monstrous tree limb to the side with my Herculean strength. I just thought to myself that a big piece of a big tree fell. What’s the big deal? No harm, no foul.
I had one task on my mind while I walked in the house; I wanted a hug from my daughter because she just got back from the hospital (see Tough Girl). She ran to me and squeezed me even tighter than I squeezed her. She was okay and that made me okay. My wife
and I already decided that we’re going to get winter coats for the kids this night because everyone will get them real soon because of the early snowfall. We had no idea that most people and stores weren’t going to have power for quite a while because none of this was predicted by any of the local weather forecasters. If they did think it might happen they kept it to themselves. I wish I had a job with that big of an allowable margin of error.
The ride to the store got a little crazy when we hit the section of Williamsville that was already without power. I started to think to myself how absurd this was for us to put ourselves in the middle of the storm, but we continued on with the hope that the store still had its electricity working. It did and we immediately found winter gear for the kiddies. It was easy because we practically had the store to ourselves. The only customers in the store besides us were one other family until a stunned woman wandered in and grabbed my arm.
“I need to know where I am,” she said.
The fear in her eyes showed that she comprehended the ferocity of the storm much sooner than my wife and me or that she’s just a wimp.
The clerk hurried her out of the store and we got back to the business at hand; buying winter wear and
little big girl underpants (she picked them out herself). We headed home with a satisfied feeling and no idea what challenges we were about to face.
The gas tank was kind of low but I drove right past a few gas stations because the boy started to fuss… a lot. It was past his bedtime and he knew that I couldn’t reach him from the driver’s seat (ha, ha!). We also needed milk for the house but decided to buy it closer to home. When we got to the store near our house we could barely see it because of the snow and the lack of lighting. By now the power was off in our area, too.
It looked like broken branches were everywhere when we pulled into our development. Little did we know that this was only the beginning.