Friday, May 8, 2009

A Cruel Wind Bloweth

Today was supposed to be the last day of instruction before finals week. Two of my four classes were cancelled, so I planned a leisurely day. I’d get up at 8:15, eat a good breakfast, attend the review session for the upcoming (and much-feared) American Chemical Society comprehensive examination, and get home in time to assist with the pre-purchase exam on our new horse and help the vet check Bones, as she’s been limping pitifully for the past few days. It should have been a good day, and hopefully some of the ongoing equine health issues would have been resolved.


I woke up just a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off, vaguely aware of an ambulance. “Odd,” I thought groggily. “You don’t usually hear ambulance sirens out here.” But the sound didn’t fade, and as I drifted slowly into consciousness, I realized that the sound was in fact the tornado alarm. The background noise was rain smashing into my window. Fully awake now, I vaulted from my bed and peered out the window to check on the horses’ status. It was so foggy and dark outside that, coupled with my lack of glasses or contacts, I couldn’t see a thing. I stumbled down the hall and woke up my mom. “The storm siren’s going off,” I said. “Get Sawyer in the barn!” she replied, so I ran out in the rain to grab the horse and put him in a (hopefully safe) stall. I slipped in the mud and almost fell, and as I tore back towards the house, rain crashed down around me, and the wind whistled ominously. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled. I was starting to get a bit worried.

I wondered whether or not it would be safe to go to school. As I weighed my options, the power flickered, then went out. The phone lines were dead. The sky was black. Then the roaring wind suddenly stopped. I usually keep my calm in situations like this, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit panicky. I went to find my mom, and she was staring out the window, watching shingles fly from the roof and smash into the front yard as the wind picked back up. The legs supporting the decorative windmill snapped, and the whole tower collapsed to the sidewalk. The purple martin house bent on its stand at a perfect 90-degree angle. The house shook.

We took the dogs and hid out in the closet beneath the staircase. Every so often she would go out to check on things, and come back with a dire report. The door I sat against was vibrating violently. The sound of the wind and rain was unbelievably loud. Then the fire alarms starting going off, in that obnoxious way of fire alarms (a shrieking squeal punctuated by a woman’s voice calmly repeating, “fire, fire”). The culprit turned out not to be a lightning strike, as I had feared, but rather water leaking in from the roof and soaking the wires in the ceiling. The carpet was flooded. Water streaks ran down the furniture and across the ceiling. The stone on the fireplace looked like a natural waterfall, with a vivacious spring bubbling from its surface. It was the strangest thing I’ve seen in a while.

Outside, after things had calmed down, we surveyed the damage. Shingles littered the yard, the road, and the neighbor’s pasture. Many objects were either broken or tilted haphazardly. One of the barn doors had blown completely in to a symphony of shattered glass and busted beams. The door on the other end was badly bent, bowing outwards in a strange convex shape. Debris and rain and torn into and through the barn—it’s a miracle that the one stalled horse wasn’t injured. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been. Judging from the splintered wood and uneven flooring, the entire barn must have been lifted in the air and then set back down, destroying the structural integrity without actually collapsing the structure.

The pasture, too, was a mess. Besides being horribly flooded, many trees had fallen, littering the ground with huge sharp limbs. Some branches had fallen across the fence, and other trees had split right down the middle. A magnificently large black walnut had uprooted itself completely, while another giant tree had collapse right onto our electric fence, bending and/or breaking several posts on its way down and stretching the ropes to the ground. With no power and no height to the fence, nothing is holding the horses in right now. Hope they stay.

Well, I spent a good chunk of the morning helping my parents with cleaning up and assessing the thousands of dollars worth of damage (missing, of course, the studying that I so desperately needed, but that seems like a pretty minor issue now). The only consolation is that all of the horses survived and appear to be on four sound legs—with the exception of Bones, who is actually much worse today. But now the vet can’t see her, because her barn lost its roof and her house is completely flooded. She’ll have to gimp around for at least another day. Poor horse. Poor house. Ugh.

But such is life. Nothing to do now but pick up and move on.


ihateyoupetersmythe said...

Holy hell. Thank god you're okay, but sorry about the house. Good luck on finals!

Anonymous said...

OhGlad to hear that you and your family escaped unscathed - that's really the most important thing (as I learned when my family's house burned down).

Mozart said...

Thanks, Sebastian! Back atcha, if finals aren't already over for you...

Citizen--I definitely realize it could have been much worse. When I was younger, I used to be absolutely terrified of any sort of disaster: a tornado, a fire, finding a family member dead, getting lost, etc. I was a worrier. Hard to shake that mindset. I can't imagine the experience of losing everything...just totalling the comparitively small damage here is sickening.