Joe Truinis Blog

Hey Irene, Thanks for Nothing!

Cutting fallen tree with chainsaw

Me, my chainsaw, and the fallen black locust tree. Let the cutting begin!

As Hurricane Irene roared up the eastern seaboard, it blew through western Connecticut and passed directly over our home. We received a month’s worth of rain in less than a day, and the storm produced sustained winds of over 75 miles per hour that raked the landscape for hours.

We awoke early Sunday morning to find that we had no electricity, and no land-line or cell phone service. And, since we draw water from a deep well, which operates via an electric pump, we didn’t have any water either.

Plus, there were so many fallen trees, flooded streets and downed power lines that most roads were blocked, and we couldn’t even get out of the driveway. It was as if we were all suddenly thrown back to the 17th century—and not in a good way.

However, the biggest surprise came when I looked out the front window and saw that a 50-foot-tall black locust tree had been blown over. It didn’t snap in two, it just toppled over; the tree’s shallow root system simply lost its grip in the sodden soil. Thankfully, it fell just to the north and missed the corner of the house by about two feet.

Tree blown over by Hurricane Irene near house

This perspective shows just how close the 50-foot tree came to crashing through our house.

My son, Christopher, and I spent the next three hours chainsawing the tree into 16-inch-long chunks, which I’ll eventually split into firewood.

We were without power, phone service and water for nearly four days. Fortunately we had plenty of bottled water and flashlight batteries; and our kitchen is equipped with a gas range, so we could at least cook indoors. We also have two streams on our property, which provided water for flushing the toilets. (Few things are as humbling as having to use empty joint-compound buckets to haul water into your bathroom.)

In retrospect, we were very fortunate. No one got hurt, and the house and yard sustained minimal damage. Hurricanes are very rare in Connecticut; and, as we played Scrabble by flashlight one evening, I couldn’t help but think about all our friends that live along the Gulf Coast states and in North Carolina.

I called my best friend, Keith, who lives in south Florida. He and his wife—and two dogs—rode out Hurricane Andrew back in 1992 while huddled under a mattress inside a closet. As Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane, blew through Keith’s neighborhood, it hit sustained winds of 165 miles per hour! They were without electricity for 35 days and had no phone service for more than three months. The storm left one-quarter million people homeless and caused nearly 27 billion dollars worth of property damage.

After that phone conversation, I didn’t feel so bad about having to spend the past few days hauling stream water and listening to baseball games on a transistor radio, instead of watching them on TV. I have a newfound respect and appreciation for all those who live in a hurricane-prone region, and must face the very real possibility that all could be lost in a split moment. My thoughts will be with you the next time a wild wind blows trouble your way.

For expert advice on preparing for hurricanes, visit our Hurricane Help page.

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