After the Storm, the Cleanup Begins

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A week after 90 mph straight-line winds whipped through North Longview — our neighborhood in particular — the cleanup is well underway. The near-unending hum and whine of chainsaws, leaf blowers, the rumble of diesel engines for clean-up trucks continues from just after sunrise until dusk.

We were without electricity for six days, as was nearly the entire neighborhood. The winds apparently took down many of the poles and wires bringing the power to our homes. Many of our neighbors decamped to their lake homes or hotels. We stayed put, relying on the trusty Honda generator to keep our refrigerators cold, run the tiny microwave I bought rather than disassemble the built-in, our phones charged, Internet running and our television still streaming. It only ran out of fuel a few times, usually going 12 hours straight. After five days running nonstop, the little guy deserves a rest – and a long-overdue oil change.

The cool weather was a blessing. After the storm ended, temperatures stayed in the low 70s during the day and high 50s at night – almost unheard-of temperatures for East Texas in May. Even the next round of storms on Saturday were relatively benign, with lots of thunder and lightning but little wind. When the skies cleared, it felt more like October than May until mid-week.

We were lucky compared to some of our neighbors, whose homes have been split or punctured by trees snapped off near the top or uprooted from saturated soil. The three huge pines that landed on our house did little damage to the roof – maybe a bundle’s worth of shingles that must be replaced. The deck is a wreck, and there are several piles of cut-down branches and slices of trunk to be hauled off.

My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I began cleaning up in earnest Wednesday morning after the insurance adjustor finished inspecting the premises. I raked the yard, while she raked and swept the deck, thick with branches and sawdust. After lunch, I fired up Big Red, our 1965 Ford F100. The ol’ boy was about to be put to use.

That truck, with a bed that spans 5-by-8 feet, can haul a lot of branches. I filled it up until it was about a foot over the top of the bed, tied it down and headed to the compost yards, located on the charmingly named Swinging Bridge Road. I had never been there so the location was plugged into the Maps app on my phone. It turns out Swinging Bridge Road veers off to the left just before one gets to my late grandfather’s old house on Stewart Street.

At the guardhouse, a hound dog lay sleeping on the small front porch. I made a lame joke about letting sleeping dogs lie to the custodian. He just grunted while the dog never raised her head. I am sure the custodian has heard that chestnut before. He asked where I lived, and when I told him, waved me through. “Nice truck,” he said.

Mountains of brush line the dirt path, with compost on the other side, free for the loading to city residents. Maybe another time. I backed up to one pile, as the front-end loader operator watched. He climbed out of the cab so we could discuss the truck, similar to one owned by his grandfather. We discussed engine displacement, the benefits of having a four-on-the-floor gear shift (Big Red’s) or three-on-the-tree (his grandpa). I finished unloading and left the tailgate down so the few leaves would blow out.

On the next trip, I got stuck in a convoy of commercial tree folks and decided it would be the last trip of the day. The volume of trees destroyed during this storm is hard to comprehend until one takes a trip to the compost yard.

By the time I got home, my BMC had managed to clear off both decks and fill more than a dozen large paper bags with debris. I joked about hiring her out for yard work, which did not seem to especially amuse her. I have a talent for that, apparently.

We are still at least a few weeks away from having everything back to normal, whatever that is. That is more than some of our neighbors in this beautiful neighborhood can say.

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