Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Snowing Branches...Hallelujiah

Holy fucking shed!

I know. It’s tough to feel sorry for me and my shed, because other peoples’ properties (OPP)—especially their homes—sustained more serious damage in the 2011 “October Surprise” snowstorm on Saturday the 29th.

Actually, the Nor’easter wasn’t much of a surprise—except that we got snow totals that far exceeded predictions. We received about 14 inches in Wilbraham.

Yes, there is something seriously wrong with this picture of my deck at the beginning of the storm. Snow in October? My son and I enjoyed a backyard football game in the snow, and I knew full well that power outages were expected. But who knew of the extent?

Fans at Western New England University enjoyed a “snow bowl” of sorts, watching the Golden Bears defeat Endicott 40-37 as a cheerleader caught a snowflake on her tongue:

It was a winter wonderland…until the bullshit started. My son and I, during our own football game, heard a branch crack, and then we watched it fall to the ground. It was time to go inside.

Boom! The explosion, around 6:00 p.m., was louder than an M-80, and then our power went out—sound was the result of a blown fuse on the telephone pole at the end of the street. We had experienced it all before, right? The electricity will come back the next day, just like after the June tornado and the July microburst right? Wrong.

The snow was wet and it stuck to the leaves on the trees, bringing limbs crashing down on power lines all over the valley. Although the snow totals were higher in other areas (32 inches in Peru, MA), the wet snow caused more damage in the Connecticut River Valley. It was perhaps the longest night of my life spent listening to branches crack and fall to the ground every few minutes. My wife and I had our six-year-old son sleep in our bed because we feared that the big pine outside his room would come down.

Pictured above are cars driving around a limb on Bradley Road near the South Branch Parkway.

Overnight, the snow totals, blackouts, and the fatalities started piling up. A Sixteen Acres resident, 20-year-old Jeffrey Matarazzo (pictured at his June 2011 wedding above) of Shady Brook Lane died after being electrocuted when he touched a wooden guard rail next to the South Branch Park (pictured below) on Parker Street.

It was unknown why he exited his car, but a downed wire there had caused a brush fire, and apparently he was investigating the scene and, according to his obituary, “was the victim of an accidental electrocution while assisting during the storm.”

On Sunday, October 30, six members of a Sixteen Acres family without power on Genoak Drive were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from two lit charcoal grills. They were taken to the hospital, but they should consider themselves lucky—25 deaths were attributed to the storm, and at least four of them were linked to carbon monoxide poisoning.

But there was also some good news out of Sixteen Acres during the blackout. The Springfield Republican reported on residents of Talbot Street (pictured below) who banded together and pooled their resources to get through the crisis, hosting community dinners and sharing quilts and firewood with each other.

When the Church in the Acres regained power on Tuesday morning the pastor began calling elderly congregants and inviting them over. Pictured below is a family plugging in at the church.

My family and I got the hell out of Wilbraham on Sunday because, well, a cold house is no place for a five-month-old baby. It didn’t look like we’d get power too soon with the limbs pulling the wires down on the side of our house.

Good thing THAT limb just missed our house!

But before we evacuated I had to remove some branches from our driveway (below) and then joined neighbors in clearing a few limbs blocking our street.

Oh, did I mention my beloved shed? This sucker survived the February 2011 blizzard with minimal roof damage (below). All I needed to do back then was go inside push it up with a rake.

But now I don’t think a rake will do the trick.

Nearly 3 million people in the Northeast had no electricity, but the Berkshires, where we stayed with relatives, had pockets of power so things weren’t all that bad. In fact, I ran into a friend from The Acres at a coffee shop out there. I hadn’t seen him in 30 years, and he and his wife, just like us, were electricity-less storm refugees. They couldn’t find a hotel room in the Springfield area, so they found a room in a Pittsfield Hotel for a little “stay-cation.”

Meanwhile, back in the Springfield area, working gasoline pumps were scarce, so lines formed, and the wait at such stations as the Sunoco on Wilbraham Road and Breckwood Boulevard (below) was two hours. Two cops were assigned to the Breckwood Sunoco to prevent gas rage, which was erupting at other stations in the city.

Power trucks from Missouri used a parking lot at Western New England University, replacing tree-clearing trucks from Missouri that had parked there earlier.

How did some of my other Acres friends make out? Craig Stewart sent me this photo of his deck:

Stan Janek, who works for Northeast Utilities/Western Mass Electric Co., says there is no way he can wear his company windbreaker in the Springfield area because he fears certain assault by irate customers. He did send me a photo to show me the extent of the damage caused by the storm:

Ah, yes, on Wednesday morning, after four days without electricity and heat, the call came from a neighbor: everyone on our street has power! Time to come home. Below is a video I took of the limbs and branches in our yard:

Maybe I should leave this tree up in my backyard and use it as a goalpost for football:

In the midst of the cleanup, Mayor Domenic Sarno, raising his arms in a Christlike jesture, blasted Western Mass Electric Co. for a “lackluster” effort restoring electricity to Springfield.

At Western New England University, X marked a tree destined to come down:

Sure enough, by Friday, it was gone:

Branches being fed into a wood chipper on the University campus:

On Wilbraham Road next to Gateway Village the debris on the sidewalk forced a detour:

Also near Gateway Village this limb hung precariously on a wire, pulling the line partially down. This was a disaster waiting to happen…

…until someone removed it on the weekend of November 5-6, preventing another potential electrocution in Sixteen Acres:

I think I’ll have some kind of funeral for my shed. Below is the last photo ever taken of the intact structure, lovingly haloed by the setting sun weeks earlier.

Ever since I moved to Wilbraham, I’ve kind of seen my shed as my adopted son. Protecting my lawnmower, grill, and lawn furniture, it survived Mother Nature’s assassination attempt last winter, but not so this time, caving in as the limbs and branches snowed down from the sky. I looked at it in sadness and dismay.

Look how they massacred my boy!

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