|As its beginning to be light|
The call came at 5:30 AM, an obnoxious buzzer from the 911 app on my phone. Yesterday, the pager system went down, which is a bummer as the storm approaches. I crawl out of bed, step into the bathroom and look at the phone. I can’t read a thing, so I find my glasses. It’s not a fire, but a public service call. Someone has a tree on their roof. I no longer rush, but dress listening to the rain and wind. The storm isn’t supposed to be here until later this afternoon, but we’re definitely in a storm band from Hermine. When the rain abates for a moment, I can hear distant thunder. Grabbing some snacks as I don’t know how long I’ll be, I put on my raincoat and head out. Without the pager, which allows you to hear radio traffic from the trucks, I’m unsure what I’m heading into.
There are now two calls, one on Village Green Circle and another on Hunting Lane, both on the north end of the island. I drive through the dark, down streets covered with Spanish moss, leaves and needles, but no real obstacles. That all changes as I enter the Marshwood section of the island, that changes. I dodge limbs and then pull to a stop behind the firetruck. In front of us is a mass of trees in the middle of the road. Ben and Shawn, who had stayed at the station overnight, brought out Engine 9 and are among the debris along with a couple of workers from the association. Together, we worked to clear the road. I haul limbs to the side and hold a flashlight for Ben who has the chainsaw. It’s slow going. After a bit of hard work, without making much headway, one of the workers for the association suggests that it would be a good idea to get out the backhoe. We agree! It would make things easier.
|On Hunting, as the sky lightens|
We continue to cut and haul for the next fifteen or so minutes, but soon he’s back. Instead of a digging arm, he’s put on claws that allows him to effortlessly grab logs and move them aside. We walk along the backhoe so that we can cut logs that are too long for him to handle. In ten or fifteen minutes, we have a path through the down trees and are able to make it to Hunting Lane. We find a couple with two trees on their home. “What took you so long, they ask?” There isn’t really anything we can do and the trees look unstable. Looking around, I see other trees that are broken. One is a live oak about four feet in diameter with a crack at its base. It’s leaning toward their neighbor’s house. I go over and see a light on in the back (the entire island has underground utilities so electricity has stayed on despite an obvious tornado. In his backyard, I realize he’s lost part of a porch. I tell him about the other tree, but he doesn’t seem too worried and says he’ll stay in the far end of his house. As we head back to the truck, I realize that it’s getting a little lighter. Also, the rain has stopped. We look around and can’t believe the devastation. We head over to where a truck and crew from the station at the north end of the island are working. Move devastation. This wasn’t supposed to be a bad storm.
|The only home I saw that lost a roof|
|A natural area, notice the twisted pines|
For the rest of the morning, we’re constantly being called out to help clear a fallen tree from a road or to help someone get their vehicle out of a garage that’s blocked. One house has a gas lantern by the street, which has been knocked out by a fallen tree. Gas is coming out and the woman of the house sacred her house might blow up. I assure her she’s okay and eventually find the shut off valve for the lantern. Other homes with major damage have no one at home and we cut the power and gas just in case. Sadly, one of the homes destroyed was my secretary’s and her husband. They told of how scary it was to have the skylights sucked out as the storm passed over.
|A stray tree on a house outside of tornado area|
Our last storm related call is around 1 PM. The eye has already passed us and the rain has abated. At home, I check the gage and we’ve received 3.41 inches of rain in the past twenty-four hours. Combined with yesterday’s 1.65 inches, we’ve received a little over five inches in two days. After a dry summer, we can use the water. Thankfully, there are only small branches, pine cones and leaves down at my house. Labor Day will be a day of laboring for many of us on the island as we clean up from the storm.
|Driving through the tornado area after a fire call|
This was later in the morning after the street had been cleared
A few days later, the National Weather Service published a bulletin on the storm. It was an EF-1 tornado which developed over Romerly Marsha and moved westward for 1.3 miles, or about half way across the island. The maximum winds were only 110 miles per hour, which while doing a number on trees didn’t flatten any houses. The storm, at its largest, was 350 yards wide. Although there were a number of trees down on the rest of the island, most of the major damage to homes were in the tornado’s path. Thankfully, no one was hurt.