July 7, 2011

Thar She Blows

Most of you might remember THE story of 2011 when we had THE blizzard of THE century back on February 1 (and I wrote about it here).

Well, that might have been a crazy, long night that I'll never forget, BUT what happened last Thursday night was even crazier, in spite of it lasting all of about 5 minutes.

Those of you who live in the southeast-Wisconsin-slash-northeast-Illinois region know what I'm talking about - that crazy storm that swept down the coast of Lake Michigan (does a lake have a "coast"?) and didn't leave even a drop of rain in our area (although some of you Illinois folk did get rain and hail), but brought a few minutes of 70+ mph winds that cost us our power for 2 days (in 100 degree heat) and cost many people far worse...

Let me recount the evening for you. After eating dinner and settling on the couch for a few minutes of TV watching, Joey and I see that rather dark clouds are heading from the north directly south and a news bulletin goes off on the TV that strong winds and storms are possible in the next 30 minutes for our area. We see the little radar on the news and it appears the majority of the storm is just raining over the lake and we think nothing of it...

20 minutes later we have no power. What? How did that happen?

We walk outside and see a few of our tree branches laying in the yard, and it is still somewhat windy out (like 20-30 mph winds).

We look up and down the block and see branches everywhere, and other families coming out of their houses trying to figure out what on earth just happened.

Since we had no power, we decided it's a good idea to drive around and see if other blocks looked like our block. I run upstairs to put on some shoes and realize our alarm clocks are still showing the time on them. It takes a second for me to think, "Hmmm...why do we have no power on the 1st floor yet have power on the 2nd floor?" Joey is as befuddled as I am. And by trial and error, we figured out that we had full power upstairs, partial power in the basement, and no power on the first floor except 1 outlet in the kitchen (the one the fridge was plugged into - thank the Lord!) and a couple over-the-counter pendant lights in the kitchen. No air conditioning though.

Why did we have partial power? This is the reason...

1 of 3 little wires came disconnected in the back of the house. It took us 2 days to get this 1 little wire reconnected so we could have full power and A/C again. But back to my story.

We tried to drive around Kenosha to see what was happening, but found out quickly downed trees + downed power lines + most traffic lights out = difficult driving. So, we made our way home and suffered through a night of sweating it out. Remember the sweaty-ness I mentioned in Tuesday's post? This is where it enters the picture...

The following day (Friday) was spent working (in an air conditioned office that I was VERY grateful for) and coming home to a warm house. Joey had to work late that night. So, I decided to take a bike ride around the area - hoping to make it down roads cars couldn't pass through.

I rode around for 2 hours along the lake front blocks and it was a sight to behold. Full grown trees were blown over like they weighed nothing.

Some houses already had their fallen trees cut off and removed to get the roads cleared, but still had stumps sticking out. It's common for trees in Kenosha to planted in the parkways - the grassy area between the sidewalk and road - and the falling of these trees caused major damage to said sidewalks and roads.

Many of the stumps in the park areas by the lake had caution tape wrapped around them. 4th of July weekend is probably one of the busiest weekends along the lake. There are so many activities and the place was already bustling with people by Friday evening. I wondered if the storm damage would keep people away, but it did not.

Back in June, I posted some pictures of the lake front, sharing with you why I love being there so much. The picture below was one of the pictures I took. Notice the 2 big tall trees in the open green space...

Well, those trees are no more. After many years of sitting in the shade of them, they are history.

The root systems were unbelievably huge and left a gaping hole in the ground. The grass looked like carpet pad that had been pulled away from the earth. The only positive is that these trees will no longer be a blockage factor for people sitting out watching the fireworks (which were shot off 3 days later).

After checking out the lakefront, I biked my way up and down the Avenues near the lake. I saw this on most streets...

Wires everywhere. Branches everywhere. Energy trucks and landscaping trucks everywhere. Men in hard hats everywhere - trying to clean up and put things back in order before the 4th. God bless these men who worked night and day to help bring back power to 29,000 people in Kenosha!

The following picture shows a large front yard with fallen trees and branches covering the ground in such a way that you can no longer see the house. The iron gate was open and people were just walking in and out through the yard looking at the mess.

Most houses were fortunate enough to have the trees fall in the street. Other homeowners were not so fortunate and had trees inside their houses.

Only those on foot and bikes made it down these roads as they were barricaded to keep cars from getting through.

The following house caught my attention as a little bobcat carried logs from the back of the house where a tree had fallen...

The logs were being stacked on the curb and then fed into a wood chipper...

My senses felt like they were going crazy. I heard the constant sound of beeping trucks, chainsaws and wood chippers getting rid of trees and branches, and back up generators keeping some people with power. The whole area just smelled like sawdust. And this was happening up and down every street.

Streets that had already been "cleared" had the branches neatly stacked and ready for the landscaping trucks to come by and pick them up and throw them in the wood chipper.

As I got further away from the lake, I found more streets that still had huge trees blocking them - as the crews of men were working their way west street by street.

And since we live about a mile west of the lake, I knew it may take a while for us to get power back. Especially since our little detached wire was hardly a concern compared to what many were dealing with.

I took a second bike ride Saturday night and saw much improvement with fallen trees removed and power lines re-strung. Most people, including us, had power back by Saturday night. So, the holiday weekend festivities went off without a hitch near the lake, but there are still many who have a lot of damage to deal with and many insurance claims to file. God help them.

So, that's the story of the windiest day of my life (that I can remember). It's a 4th of July weekend I won't quickly forget. Pin It

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