Saturday, September 4, 2010

Earl-- Part 3: The aftermath

2:00pm: It's brighter out, the winds have calmed. It must be the eye of the storm. I'm not worried though, I'm pretty sure the worst is over. I load clothes into the dryer, and the lights flicker. They flicker on and off 5 or 6 times. Then, they're off for good.

I can't believe we rode out the worst part of the storm only to have our power go out at the end of it.

3:00pm: It's still windy, but it's nice enough for me to go out and assess the damage. One of our small trees is practically horizontal. Another one has virtually no leaves. Several large evergreen branches are on the ground.

I move onto the apple trees. There are no apples left. None. Then I notice that one of the trees doesn't look right. I move closer and realize that the trunk has cracked about 3 feet above the ground. Everything above that has toppled over onto the ground.

At the barn, all seems well except that the wind apparently blew Murray's outside door open. It tore the chain right out of the wall. Oh well, it's nice enough that I think I can let them out now anyway. I'm sure they'll enjoy a nice roll in the mud.

Elsewhere, the greenhouse is in rough shape. The garden doesn't look too bad other than the corn. The hummingbird feeder is on the ground, but overall, no major damage.

Now, it's just a matter of waiting to get power back. My laptop battery is fully charged so I check the NS Power website. It says we should have power back by 11:30 am-- on MONDAY. It's going to be a long, long 48 hours.

Earl- Part 2: Starting to get scary

11:00am: I glance out the window to see the door to the hayloft waiving in the wind. The last thing I need is for five hundred fresh bales of hay to get soaked, and rot. I yank on my rain jacket and step out into Earl. I shouldn't have bothered with the jacket. It's just a short dash to the barn, but I'm already soaked from the horizontal rain.

The horses are no longer oblivious to the elements. Rain is pouring in through the cracks in their outside doors, and blowing into their open windows (I don't want to close them because it's very stuffy and humid right now).

I throw down the ladder to the hayloft, run up its steps, and climb across hundreds of bales of sweet-smelling hay to get to the loft door. The door is warped, and so is the metal loop that the sliding bolt is supposed to fit into. I have some strong ropes which I run from the door handle to the beams in the roof. I pull them tight and tie them, but there is still a gap, and the wind's ghost-like fingers won't stop trying to pry it open. I run back across the bales of hay, down the ladder, and into Dave's workshop. I scan the mess and find a set of pliers that I hope to use to fix the bolt.

As I'm about to scramble back up the stairs, I hear a crash, and the horses jump. Maggie's window swings shut and starts slamming against its frame. The wind has managed to rip the latch from the siding on the outside of the barn. I drop the pliers, run outside, and struggle to bolt the window closed.. Eventually, I get it. With rain dripping from my hair and clothes, I head back inside.

The pliers work and I manage to secure the bolt, though the wind still whistles through the small cracks, angry that I've managed to thwart its efforts. I'm just about to make my way down the ladder when everything goes dark, and the radio goes quiet. The power is out. Within 20 seconds or so, it's back on, but it's been flickering on and off ever since.

11:45 I really must have angered the wind, beacuse if I thought it was raging before, I was wrong. It's much worse now. The floor is vibrating and there's a deep, roaring sound each time the wind forces its way between the hurricane shutters and the picture window. I'm afraid that if this continues, the shutter will be ripped from the frame. I'm not sure what will happen then.

Riding Out Earl

6am: I wake up wondering whether the storm has started. The fan in my room has been running all night in an attempt to cool the oven-like temperatures. As a result, I can't hear anything outside. I sit up, wipe the sleep from my eyes, and take a peek out the window. I'm surprised to see the wind already bending the trees, and the rain already dampening the fields.

I lay in bed and doze for another hour or so before forcing my over-tired body out of bed. I haul on my pink rainboots and step outside into what feels like a tropical oasis-- hot and humid. The winds are strong, but nothing we haven't seen before. For the moment, the rain has stopped.

The horses are miffed at having been locked in their stalls all night, after a summer of freedom. But other than that, they seem unperturbed, and unaware that a hurricane named Earl is creeping our way.

Once they're fed, I head to the garden to pluck what bounty I can from the yellowing plants before Earl has his way with them.

I pick several pints of firm, red, cherry tomatoes, also about three-dozen or so almost-ripe larger ones. I'm surprised to see three or four plump pea pods dangling from some tired, twisted stems, so I grab those too. Then there are the thick, green cucumbers. I pick the four largest ones and leave a few more to battle the storm. I also tug a handful of good-sized carrots from the damp earth too just for good measure.

Sadly, my stunted cornstalks have been flattened, as have my not-so-stunted, six-foot tall sunflowers. I grab a knife and cut as many still-pedaled flowers from the broken stalks as I can carry. They'll look nice in a vase. I'm damp from the misty rain, but it's still warm, and the wind is bearable, so I head to our "accidental" squash plant which is growing in the manure pile. I slice through the green stems of six dinner-plate sized squashes and carry them back to the house in the wheelbarrow. I certainly won't starve to death.

9:15 am: The wind is now raging and the rain is pelting the deck as though it were hail. It's time for me to come inside. Unfortunately, I don't have time to grab the apples from the trees in our front yard. The hard, red fruit will have to swing and sway in the wind.

9:45 am: The lights flicker and the hurricane shutters vibrate against the picture window. Rain falls across the fields in horizontal sheets. This is the most wind I've seen since we moved here...and technically, Earl has yet to make landfall.

10:45 am: The winds had eased a bit, but are now roaring away again-- and it's very dark. I'd like to check on the horses, but I worry I might get whipped off my feet on the way to the barn. I'm thankful for the hurricane shutters, but wish they didn't block my view of the storm.