On Wednesday night a storm blew through our neighborhood. And by blew I mean it was fast, not that it provided us with a stiff breeze. My weather app said “chance of showers” overnight. A 30% chance, in fact. And even having spent my entire life up until 2011 in the Midwest–albeit not the super tornado-y portion of the Midwest–I’ve never seen a storm do this kind of damage in real life.
Dietrich had been crying for hours before the husband and I went to bed and we attributed it to a sore back. When we woke up to the storm at midnight, a crack of thunder woke the husband so suddenly and so completely he got a charley horse. The power went out, which it will do when all the wires are wrapped around trees and lying in the middle of the street.
Some trees came up by the roots, obviously laid flat by wind. Others–lots–were hit by lightning and some once-magnificent trees are now really sad stumps. This one is next door to us:
Yesterday morning on our run, the little oyster and I felt like we were in a video game. Jump, go around, slow down, jump again, duck. I couldn’t run on Thursday morning because there was nowhere TO run. Even yesterday morning was dicey. This morning I ran by myself (it’s my birthday, happy birthday to me!) and continued to gawk at the trees, limbs, and branches, branches, everywhere. I ran past one enormous tree that had seemed to provide eternal shade one street over from us. It was split in half by lightning and while it looks like a normal tree on one side, on the other it is flat and black. You might think the lightning trees smell like camping or something tasty. They don’t. They smell like burn. 1 billion volts of burn.
Most of the pine trees that came down came up by the roots. Yesterday when the crews started cutting them a piece at a time for removal the whole neighborhood smelled like Christmas. There were six cars under the tree below, and another half-dozen trees of the same size felled in a perfectly straight line right behind this one, like pine dominoes. Those roots are easily 35 feet in the air.
Here’s the thing: I love a good storm. This was not a good storm. When the sisters and I were little girls and a storm came through our neighborhood, we would stand at the front door and watch the sheets of rain drive down the street, watch the clouds turn colors and snap lightning back and forth. It was always beautiful. I love the refreshing aftermath of a good thunderstorm. I have always felt like the trees and flowers bounce back a little greener, the rain scrubs everything clean, and the thunder and lightning are magnificent. A solid thunderstorm has always, to me, looked like everything was working in tandem, the weather, the trees, the rising water, all in it together. Nature! But Wednesday’s storm felt like nature turned in on itself and started devouring. It felt like all that was rooted in the earth was prey for what blasted down from the sky and stood no chance. It felt wrong and dangerous. This is what people mean when they talk about a storm raging.
The storm included a microburst that struck only our neighborhood. Essentially the opposite of a tornado, a microburst is an incredibly powerful and concentrated downdraft that smashes things flat instead of lifting them up and tossing them around like a funnel cloud does. This explains the havoc that a regular thunderstorm simply wouldn’t have wreaked. A house three streets over is split in half by a huge tree. Shutters from our buildings were scattered like cheap confetti.
Cars were crushed as if our streets are a movie set. We are grateful that ours, which is the little red Toyota below, wasn’t one of them:
We are all safe, though Dietrich lost enough fur to carpet a small condo. Clean up and power restoration started first thing on Thursday morning and the chainsaws and wood chippers are still going today. The mess was incredible but the clean up efforts have been impressive.
But now our gorgeously verdant neighborhood has bald patches; trees left standing have been shorn like sad little sheep, while others are twisted into macabre Seuss-like creations, jutting and jagged. It’s sad. I miss our trees. I miss our shade. I miss our green. I miss our beauty. And because we are all safe, even those in damaged homes, it is easy to say that things could have been worse. Truly, things could have been much worse. But the loss of beauty is still a loss and while capable crews work hard to set things right again, I’ll feel free to shuffle down our streets and mourn it.