No longer complacent

It was a hot muggy day yesterday. Our heat is usually dry, benign. I should have remembered storms of the past, thundering and lightning across the skies, but it had been a long time since storms like that roared across the valley.

I was complacent.

And then, about 9 p.m., I looked out the window and saw through the trees the flashes of light. There was lightning to the west.

I walked beyond the perimeter of trees around the house to get a better view of the light show, hoping to get a photo. Ben went to put his truck in the shop. Within minutes, I felt the power of the storm. I scurried to the house. Although we’ve had our large elms pruned and tied between the larger T’s so we don’t get a branch on the roof, there are still large brittle branches that could snap off. I wanted to be inside looking out.

It came, quickly, violently…thrashing trees, and fortunately just cleaning the dead wood from the trees, scattered everywhere this morning. No branches came down.

Across the valley it was a different story.

People wrote on Facebook that transformers were blowing all over town. Power lines and trees down.

Then someone said there were three houses on fire not far from us. The power went out and we were preoccupied.

The storm passed, leaving a remnant of thunder and lightning in the distance. About 10 p.m., we decided to drive up the road to the ridge to see the night sky and the lightning to the east and south.

What we saw instead were flames 1/2 mile away, 3/4 of a mile from our house. Fifty foot flames blew sideways and the side of the hill was ablaze. We thought three homes were engulfed. We were shocked and sickened by the sight. We knew who lived in the homes. Other people drove up and we stood in the rain and wind and watched the lightning streak sideways above the hills beyond as the flames did their work. If the wind had shifted, we could be having a different conversation.

Our neighbors got out safely, but later, when I was lying in bed with the silence that comes with a power outage, a warm breeze blew in the scent of smoke from a fire burning through a lifetime of belongings.

I awoke this morning and went for water. I’ve lived here 20 years and with all the precautionary tales, we didn’t have enough water.

I was complacent.

Ben bought a generator some time ago to hook to the well pump in case of an extended outage, but as he hooked up the refrigerator and freezer he informed me we needed more “accessories” to make the well work. After the power went on, he filled two five-gallon containers and went for gas for the generator. No longer complacent, we will work on the accessories.

Our dog Taz did fine through the storm, curious to be out in it. But when the power went on and I turned off the generator, she was standing next to me when it backfired.

For the next hour she wouldn’t leave my side. I rubbed Peace and Calming essential oils into her fur and she looked at me like, “Look, I did fine through all the storms and thunder and lightning, but that was really the last straw.”

I’m wondering how our neighbors are doing. Was it the last straw for them? A lifetime of family photos and keepsakes, their the furniture and art, gone in moments. They barely had time to get out of the house. I hope they are resilient, with a faith to sustain them, but I wonder how they grieve today.

Recently blogger, Shore Acres, reminded her readers to have a briefcase ready in case of an emergency–legal papers, passports, favorite photos–whatever is most meaningful that will fit in a briefcase to be grabbed quickly. No longer complacent, no longer thinking that we never have bad weather here, I will prepare that briefcase.

Note: I just discovered that one home and a garage burned, not three as we were first told, and not two like I assumed because of the last names reported. So one family grieving instead of three. Yards charred, cherry trees damaged, but houses still stand. The good news and the bad.