One minute it was sunny, hot and humid. The next, dark clouds, buckets of hail and thunder and lightning.
It’s been that kind of summer around the country. Whenever I’ve heard stories of storms downing trees, cutting off electricity, flooding basements, making all sorts of mayhem, I’ve felt each person’s pain. From a distance, though, it never feels the same as it does when it’s in your own backyard.
Which it was. On Wednesday. For me.
The first crack of lightning followed immediately by a blast of thunder was a warning. Like many of you, after I see lightning, I begin to count. The number of counts it takes until the thunder hits is supposed to be how far away the lightning is from me, in terms of miles. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.
That first crack of lightning came and I counted to one. Actually, I didn’t even get to one. That had never happened before. I looked at the dog and he agreed. That was damn close. Time to hunker down in a mother-doggie cuddle.
The hail pounded on our deck as dog and I gazed into our back yard through the glass doors, from our protected spot on the kitchen floor. But that didn’t last.
Another flash of lightning, simultaneous thunder, crash, bang, vibrating house, shaking dog, and the house alarm begins to honk, loudly, in quick, rhythmic blasts.
First thoughts: We’ve been hit. Oh no! Alarm is loud. Where’s the fire? Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!
Second thoughts: Calm down. I’m overreacting. It didn’t hit us, just close enough that it activated the alarm system. Don’t be such a wuss. Don’t call the hubby, even though he’s only ten minutes away and could come home and take some of the burden off of me.
Third thoughts: Bzzzzz.
All this thinking has taken mere seconds. I jump to my feet. Do a quick search for smoke. Go to turn off the alarm.
It won’t turn off. Why hasn’t the alarm company called us? They always call immediately after the alarm is set off. Yes, it’s happened a few times. Once by the dog; once by a teenager who discovered how scary it is to have two firetrucks pull up to your house and fire fighters with axes rush your door.
I panic. I truly don’t know what to do. Call the alarm company? The fire station? Take the dog and run for the neighbors’ house? Pray.
I call the hubby. I’m shaking. I’m feeling foolish that I have no idea what is the best plan of action. I tell him it felt like the house was struck by lightning. The alarm is shouting in the background. He asks a few questions but my blank stare answers, which he miraculously can see through the phone, convinces him to head straight home, after warning me to go outside and check if there is fire on the roof or smoke coming from anywhere. Was I sure that lightning actually hit us? We both asked me that question. My answer: Nope. Not sure.
By the time he got home, the hail had stopped and the rain had slowed down. There wasn’t any obvious smoke or fire. Hopefully it wasn’t smoldering in the walls. Hubby goes first to turn off the alarm. Doesn’t work. Tries a few different things to turn it off. Still honk, honk, honk.
Meanwhile, we’ve discovered that our phones are dead. Our internet is out. And a couple of neighbors are standing behind the fence in our backyard, pointing up at a tree that we’ve been talking about taking down for two years. But haven’t. Obviously.
Hubby deactivates the alarm by disconnecting the system. Tries to call the alarm company. No answer.
We go out to see what the neighbors are doing. The backside of the tree in question is stripped at the top, clearly a direct hit by lightning. On our side of the tree, by the base, a huge hunk of roots and bark is missing and in place a hole and melted bark. Yes. Melted. A foot away, on the ground, another hole, this time an exposed root with two burned out wires from our sprinkler system hugging it. We walk back toward the house, on the deck, and notice a big dirty splotch on the outside wall and below it, the root chunk that was missing from the tree.
So the lightning struck the top of the tree, shot through it and at the bottom, pushed out a large chunk of bark and root, shot it across the deck until the house stopped it, and it fell to the ground.
But what about the burnt out wires?
Hubby does some checking. In our garage, far from the site of the hit, the sprinkler control box is blown up. Parts on the ground. Transformer melted.
Still no obvious sign of fire. Thank God.
In the end, it was a huge inconvenience and will end up being a pretty considerable expense to remove the tree, replace the sprinkler system, replace the phone that blew out, possibly replace the alarm system, and fix the now brown, backyard lawn. But nobody was hurt. The house is still standing. We were damn lucky.
As we get back to normal life, I feel like if we are not so lucky next time, whatever unanticipated natural disaster strikes next, that I need to do something, learn from this, so that in a similar situation, I can put a plan in motion immediately to limit any damage and to keep myself, my family, and my dog safe.
But how does one prepare themselves for knowing how to respond in emergency situations? Especially a person for whom such behavior isn’t in the least bit instinctual (ME)?
There is a part of me that believes it can handle anything life throws my way. That confidence has been shaken. I want to feel that way again, but I’m not sure how to make that happen. Any suggestions?
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