Sunday, September 13, 2009

Looking Back at Cincinnati Windstorm 9-14-08

It's the one year anniversary of the Cincinnati windstorm. September 14, 2008 was a day exactly like today---crisp blue sky, bright sunshine, temperature perfect. We heard a "high winds possible" warning on the radio on our way to the Bengals game. As we walked down Elm Street toward the stadium, it felt like a wind tunnel, but everyone was caught up in game-day excitement and no one was concerned. As the game went on, the winds increased, but the sun continued to shine and it just seemed like a windy day. Hot dog wrappers blew around the field and a few paper cups even flew out of spectators hands, but it still didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary.
A few minutes before the game ended, our daughter called to say roads were closed due to fallen trees and she'd have to take a detour home from work. A few minutes after that, she called back to tell us she was afraid to drive and stopping at a friend's house until the wind died down.
As we started home from the game, we began to see the seriousness of the windstorm. Trees and branches were down everywhere, and stoplights were out along our route. As we approached home, our neighbors called to tell us the driveway was blocked with a big tree. As we pulled in, we realized the severity of the situation. A huge ash tree (probably 100 ft. tall) was on our roof. We could see the drywall of our bathroom and bedroom ceilings through the opening. Hundreds of other branches and sticks were scattered around our yard. We had a huge mess that you can see in this video
I remember entering the house behind Barry. We walked carefully into the bedroom and stood gaping at the branches and leaves that were in our bathroom and closet. Somehow the tree had come to rest on the walls of the house so that nothing was actually crushed. The windows weren't broken; the shower was still intact; the vanity and sink were still there. Yet, the bathroom and closet seemed more like a forest than a house.
It wasn't long until the cleanup was set in motion. Several neighbors appeared out of nowhere to start pitching in. First, a few branches were cut away so that a tarp could be applied over the entire roof. The sun was still shining, but if any rain would have begun, we would have doubled our troubles. Luckily, Mother Nature cooperated for the next 2 weeks as not a drop of rain fell during that initial cleanup time.
For the first 3 days, we didn't have electricity. The only sounds you could hear around the neighborhood were the whirls of chainsaws and circular saws. We quickly discovered that the biggest problem for us was that the tree was balancing on the walls of our house...with no way to get a crane to the area and no way to remove it other than foot by foot. Precise calculations were made each time a cut was made. Take too much off one end, and the whole tree would end up in the house. So after 6 days of cutting and calculating, the tree was finally rolled inch by inch off the house using a spud bar for leverage and chains for safety.
It took 6 more weeks to get everything back to what I would call "normal." Rebuilding was a project no different than any other remodeling project. Once materials arrived, roofers and carpenters followed, plumbing and wiring were completed, drywall followed, and ceramic tile and paint completed the finishing touches.
When I look back a year later, it's amazing what was accomplished in a short amount of time to put our house back together again. I never really worried that we had "lost everything" or that things couldn't be repaired. After 21 years in the building business, we knew plenty of contractors and suppliers who could help us when called. The best thing, however, was how we got so much help from friends, relatives, and neighbors.
It truly was a time to appreciate that a home is much more than a house.

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