Thursday, October 13, 2016

Buffalo's "October Surprise"

Back yard
   We were in Toronto in October 2006 to visit with our out-of-state daughter who was attending a medical conference. Early in the morning of Friday the 13th, we got a call from our son who was house and dog sitting for us. Barely able to hear him above the loud cracks and thuds in the background, we learned that Buffalo, Amherst, and other areas of Western New York, were in the midst of a devasting early "lake effect" snow storm that had begun the night before.
   The noises were tree branches and limbs snapping off and crashing to the ground. The weight of the snow accumulating on the still leafy trees was too much and down came the limbs.
   Power was out, and with it the furnace, but the landline phone still worked. Our son and dog were safe inside. A huge limb, some 10-feet in diameter, was across our driveway. No one could come or go, anyway, since there was a driving ban in the area. We opted to stay in Toronto until the next day..
   We arrived home Saturday afternoon to an incredible landscape. The destruction was unbelievable. Our beautiful tree-shaded street was now largely open to the sky. Limbs and branches clogged the street, although a single traffic lane had opened up down the middle.
   We parked in a neighbor's drive, climbed over the limb across the driveway and went into the house to be greeted by son and dog. With no place to leave the car overnight, we gathered up a few items and all departed for our summer cottage about 50 miles to the south.
   When we returned home Tuesday, it was bright and sunny and the snow was melting. Some of the debris had been removed from the street and piled up on the tree lawns, but the limb was still across our driveway. After we got that sawed up and out of the way, we could park the car off the street and stay home.
   There was still no power, but we did have plenty of flashlights. Luckily, it was about 54o in and out and we could have a fire in the family room. Thanks to a manual can opener and a propane grill in the back yard, we even had some decent meals (food in the freezer remained almost frozen).
   The worst - the melting snow was too much for the water-logged ground, and water began pouring into our basement. No power meant no sump pump.We were fortunate that nearly everything was in plastic totes or on raised pallets and  we lost nothing of value.
   Our power was off for nine days. Our son, five minutes away, had power after three days, so we saved most of our food in his fridge. I could even charge my laptop at his house and get back to genealogy.
   The Town of Amherst went into panic mode. Citing possible lawsuits for tree-caused mishaps, the highway department began cutting down all the damaged trees in the town. Although one of the three trees in front of our house was marked for removal, ultimately it was spared.
   Ten years later, the old trees left on our street have recovered somewhat and the new ones are no longer spindly saplings. But the tree cover will never be what it once was.