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shameless pleading





August 2012 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Well, that was un-fun. So, when we left our intrepid heroes last time out, they were just about to experience a weather phenomenon known as a derecho, which is apparently Spanish for Didn’t there use to be a big tree over there? and involves 80 mph straight-line winds arriving with very little warning. Unlike tornadoes, which usually can be seen gathering on the horizon out here and generally move a bit slower (allowing time for NWS tornado alerts, getting Dorothy down in the root cellar, etc.), these derecho things are more like a shotgun blast or some awful cosmic chainsaw ripping through the landscape. The entire storm at our house (which involved no — zero, nada — ¬†actual rain) lasted 90 seconds, tops. But the blast of the wind bent major trees almost to the ground and filled the air with a mixture of dirt and vegetation that made it look like we were underwater. Very impressive.

Our appreciation of this stirring demonstration of  the Majesty of Nature was interrupted early on in that 90 seconds, however, by an explosion on the north side of the house accompanied by a very dramatic shower of sparks coming from up near the roof. A power pole on our property (we have four carrying the line back to the house) had snapped in two, breaking another pole up the line and slicing a 30 ft. pine tree (a former live xmas tree, in fact) in half vertically. More importantly, the force of the pole falling had ripped the power feeder cable out of the side of our house (thus the sparks) and draped it across our yard and driveway, and, in what I think was a particularly nice touch, suspended it a few inches above our ancient (and only) car. Power to our house was broken about nine different ways. No power out here means no water, by the way, since we depend on an electric well pump.

Long story short, everyone else on our road had power again within 24 hours. Because of the damage to the poles and lines on our land, we got our power back eight days later, during which time daytime temps were over 100 F. What made this more than extremely uncomfortable in my case is that people with ms can get hyperthermia — heat stroke — at fairly low temps, so we spent as much time as possible in supermarkets and coffee shops with a/c, all of which involved a 35-mile round trip from what was left of home. Giant Eagle, we discovered, has a “cafe” that closes at 7 pm, but they leave the wi-fi on 24/7 and don’t care if you sit there in the dark all night. (Not that we had the money for a week in a motel, but the few near us were booked solid the whole time, and were charging extortionate “emergency prices” to boot.) Driving down our road at night for a week and seeing every other house lit up with the a/c running and the Blue Glow of Happy Potatohood flickering in the windows was, I must say, a bit disheartening.

Eventually the power came back on and we began the grim task of cleaning up. My favorite part was emptying the freezer full of food out in the garage. The power line had fallen in such a way that it blocked access to the garage door, and the result, after a week in high heat, was the stuff of nightmares.

But within a few days it was mostly a bad memory. And then it happened again. Seriously. About a week after the power came back, another derecho with 80 mph winds hit us. Miraculously, it didn’t take out the power, but it did knock down a huge old tree which is still lying across our front yard.

While we’re on the subject of help, thanks to all the folks who have contributed to our continuing existence by subscribing to TWD-by-Email, and special thanks to those two wonderful people (you know who you are) who have sent us Holy-Cow-Level contributions in the past month or so. It’s no fun having electric power if you can’t afford to turn on the lights, and we really appreciate your generosity.

It has lately occurred to us here at TWD World Headquarters, and I’m being only slightly facetious, that our house, which was built during the Civil War and is verifiably haunted, may actually be trying to get rid of us by manipulating space, time, the weather, and various public utilities companies. As I write this, for example, we have no natural gas service (thus no stove or hot water) for the third time in as many months. Columbia Gas is yet again “fixing” the ginormous interstate gas pipeline that runs about 1/4 mile from our house, which seems to spring a leak with every full moon. A few months ago they “blew out” the yard-wide pipe one morning to clean it, creating a giant cloud of natural gas that predictably drifted down the road and settled suffocatingly on our house, leading to a brisk run for the car and an afternoon wandering through Walmart.

This morning I put water on to boil for coffee, got in the shower, and, upon walking through the kitchen ten minutes later, noticed the water wasn’t boiling. Weird. But the kettle was hot. Weirder. And the burner control was on. Weirdorama. But there was no flame. That ain’t right. Since I had, by definition, not yet had my morning coffee, I stood there for a full minute before I realized that this is what passes for advance notice from the utility companies around here. Or maybe they did call to notify us, but the house erased their message.

Anyway, I think I’ve definitely earned the right to say It’s always something. So here’s this issue, and I hope to get back on schedule next month, because that will mean that (knock some termite-ridden wood) at least most things around here are working.

3 comments to August 2012 Issue

  • Sam Long

    Wow, those derechos can be dangerous, can’t they? I would find them interesting–I’m a meteorologist by training–but I’m glad I haven’t experienced one like you did. You might enjoy the magazine WEATHERWISE for more information about phenomena like derechos.

  • Laney

    The saying we use is “If it ain’t one thing… it’s two.” Along with “Let’s burn that bridge when we come to it.” Here’s hoping for some good luck – you’re overdue for some!

  • Ron Eggleston

    Dear Word Detective,
    I have two comments on your Aug 20-31 posting.
    First, the discussion of Papa, Dad, etc. In our family, which is very much a WASP family, Papa is used for grandfather. Additionally, my brother-in-law, who is from the hill country in SW Pennsylvania, near W. Va, refers to himself as grandfather as Pap-pap.
    Second, the definition of diverse as separate or different (I had always just thought of it as “multiplicity”) made me realize why so many conservatives are emotionally distraught by liberals advocating diversity. I think of my 98 year-old mother who sees Obama as “unAmerican” because he does not fit her idea of what a President should be (a 60 something white guy).

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