Gone With the Wind

A.V. Walters

It’s pretty quiet now, though the valley thrums with the low hum of generators, punctuated by the occasional whine of a chainsaw.

We live in a place that is blessed with steady winds. While our current impetus is to finish the house enough that we can move into it, Rick and I can’t help but take note of our regular winds and nod at each other. Sooner or later, we’ll do something to harness that power. To my way of thinking, wind power is a better bet than solar in northern regions; you can always count on the wind, summer or winter. Still, most of the alternative energy attention goes to solar. Our neighbor is installing a bank of solar panels now. We’ll watch to see how they perform come winter.

Early last week, we were pre-staining 4X8 panels to use to enclose the soffits. It’s a lot easier to apply the stain when they’re still on the ground. We set up on a series of saw horses–we’d stain on one, and then move the sheets out to dry on the others. Each panel needed first to be perched on its edge and vigorously swept clean of milling crud, before we could apply the stain. While I brushed down the next sheet, a gust of wind behind me picked up one of the stained ones, and pitched it directly at me. It caught me on the backs of my calves; Rick heard my yelped cursing from the basement. Wind power–it can leave you badly bruised.

I shared my story with our builders, who all had construction wind horror stories of their own, with injuries ranging from bruising to quadraplegia. Clearly the lesson was that wind is a powerful, and unpredictable force. When working on a construction site, you must consider the placement of any material that could catch the wind and act like a sail, including (as we learned last winter) tarps and plastic coverings.

Now that the house has a roof, and is partially enclosed (upstairs windows installed) we worry less about the impact of weather. Armed with this new sense of immunity, Rick and I headed north this past weekend, a break to visit my mum. It was a marathon trip, a 900 mile round trip in a three day window. It was a wonderful break–even with the drive. The surprise came on the way home.

Two counties away, we started noticing a number of trees down. Many were snapped, mid-trunk, like toothpicks. Soon, we were obsessed, scanning the sides of the highway, and finding plenty of damage. We were only gone two and a half days–what happened?

In Traverse City there were areas without power, or signal lights. Traffic snaked along, on single lanes squeezed between emergency equipment, cutting downed trees from the roads and from where they’d fallen on homes. We were anxious to get home to check out our new home under construction–where we already know the winds can be fierce.

We didn’t stop at the apartment; we went straight to the house. There it was, safe and sound, without even a leaf out of place. There was no indication that there’d been a storm at our house. Of course most of the county has no power because of the fierce storm that ripped though on Sunday. We missed it. It’s the biggest weather event since we arrived in Michigan, and we were away!

There’s argument as to whether there were tornadoes. Leelanau County doesn’t get tornadoes, or so they say. Yet a number of people swear they saw funnel clouds. The weather service flatly denies that there were tornadoes. At least this is what we hear. We are still at the mercy of the rumor mill, because there’s no power–no internet–and no “hard” news. Wanting to know, I did the next best thing, I went down to our local hardware store. Indeed, the damage was pretty bad. Many cars and houses have been hit with flying trees. At least three pontoon boats were picked up from small lakes, flipped and smashed to bits in shallow waters. We’ll have to wait until the power resumes to get the whole story.

We walked the back woods today, and we’re not completely unscathed. We’ve lost at least thirty trees, many of them fell and took out their neighbors, like dominoes. The unfortunate part is that the standing dead ash trees did not fall. The maples, the basswood, trees laden with summer foliage, those were the ones that caught the winds and came down. There’s a lot of clean up to do, we’ll have to re-open all the trails that we opened when we first arrived. We’re in good company, power company employees are out, surveying the damage and calling in the “tree boys” to free the lines of downed trees. We talked to one of the line surveyors, who warned us it could be days before we see power. We’ll be fine. We can take “flushing” water out of the creek. We have a generator, to keep the refrigerator and lights running. (Too bad it’s not powerful enough to run the well pump.)  We can cook on the propane barbecue. We’ll be just fine. Maybe I’ll even find a way to post this update.

That wind though, it certainly would be nice if we could harness it for the power of good, instead of ….

Posted courtesy of laundromat wifi.