I am physically and emotionally drained and exhausted. Thankful for my blessings, yes, of course. But, tired to the core in many aspects. This has been one tough week. Friday we woke up to two feet of snow and downed tree limbs strewn all over the yard and the street. A travel ban was imposed on our town and in several surrounding areas. Power was out. The basement was flooding. The weekend was spent trying to deal with the immediacies of the situation. Candles, flashlights, bottled water, batteries... the well-meaning, but futile, assistance of friends with makeshift solutions to the nasty sump pump situation.
Monday, which was actually a gorgeously clear and beautiful sunny day, was finally a day of action and results. I got my hands on a crew of guys with some chain saws and they were able to take down the majority of limbs that were laying all over the yard and threatening our property from above. The resultant pile of tree debris was stacked at the end of the front yard in front of the street. $500. It formed a wall about 9 or 10 feet high! The hedge I never wanted. My next door neighbor was able to run an extension cord from his generator to my sump pump, and the water began to be pumped out. The kids and I spent hours raking up the leaves that were left on the ground. (God, my shoulders were sore that night!)
Finally, after 96 hours, the power went back on. Thank heaven. As each day has progressed, more and more people got generators, some driving distances of up to 3-4 hours away. They are noisy and dangerous (4 carbon monoxide deaths in the county already and at least one case of serious burns,) and you cannot run them in the rain or snow (?!?) but with one you CAN keep your sump pump running, your furnace and hot water heater going, your fridge and freezer on (at least in intervals) and maybe even keep a lamp on at night. A friend of mine drove over an hour down to Dunkirk, NY, after work the other night to buy 3 generators, one for himself, one for another friend, and one for me. He arrived with it just about three hours after our power went on, so it is still sitting in its box in my garage. And I owe him $800.
Fast forward: My once finished basement is now quite unfinished. A crew came in yesterday morning, and for about $1000, removed just about everything that was in there (furniture, toys, games, garbage, stored books, grad school stuff, baby bedding, broken dustbusters, an old bread machine, discarded computer equipment, you name it) plus the carpeting, padding, and ceiling tiles. Two entire dump truck loads of stuff. (The silver lining? Someday when I move or die, it will be 18 less years of stuff stored in the basement for somebody to have to sort through. It only cost about $1,000.) In order to clean and dry out the environment down there, they also had to cut up the drywall 24". That has helped to dissipate the smell, but not entirely. I spent over $300 today to rent an industrial dehumidifier and fan -- which are so heavy, I can't get them down to the basement until my husband gets home. In addition, we did get a plumber out the other day to put in a back-up water-driven sump pump. Another thousand dollars.
The first floor of the house is laden with all the stuff we pulled up from the basement to save: files, memorabilia, books, food in cans and boxes, paper goods, toys and games worth saving, computer equipment, an old mah jong set, the kids' Nintendo or whatever it is, old video tapes, etc. etc. etc. Thankfully, the fridge and freezer in the basement suffered no damage (neither did my hot water heaters or my furnace -- hallelujah!) and I cleaned them out quite thoroughly, so we can go back to using them whenever we're ready.
I heard some guys on the radio joking about what electric things were most important to them and their
families. What do you turn on first when you get your power? Younger kids immediately go for the t.v. and the Nintendo (or whatever they play with today.) For those of us with wet basements, the sump pump is the most important. For me, after that would come hot water and the fridge/freezer. Then probably my hair dryer and my computer. I could live without heat. (Well, not forever, of course.) Funny to think of your priorities.
My heart is breaking for those still without power. As of last night, we could still hear the generators running from just one block away. Sounds like the hugest bee hive in the world. One of my neighbors thinks the only reason our street got power is because we're probably on the same grid
as the local Elementary and Middle Schools. There are houses across the street from the schools that still don't have electricity, but we are on the same side as the schools (although down a few blocks.)
The Town of Amherst, where we live outside of Buffalo, has called in the National Guard to haul away some of this tree debris. I'm looking for handsome young men in fatigues and tall boots to come and take away my tree junk. There's like a 10-foot hedge in front of my house (which is now also adorned with a gross, old couch and chairs from the basement.)
I have been taking pictures to document this whole experience. Some of them are of the weather and its effects outside. Some are just of our stuff stacked up to show the all crap that was stored in the basement, or the water level, or just to show the insurance adjuster. Enjoy.