SOUR GRAPES: The storm, Part 1

by Jim Magdefrau

Across the path of the storm, from Ames to Chicago, there are thousands of stories.

Working at Van Horne’s brush pile.

For my part, I saw it as another wind storm. A neighbor had called my sister and warned of high winds from his central Iowa location.

OK. Rain is finally coming. I just might move my outside chair, table and grill into the garage.

The lights went out at 12:14 p.m. That’s standard. I was going to just stand by my window and watch it pass.

A few minutes into it, I suspected this was not an average storm. A few minutes after that, the trees in the park were swaying. Debris was blowing sideways. My windows were closed, but they all swung open at the same time. I’ll latch the windows this time. I looked out the windows again. I couldn’t see anything. It was raging. It felt like the house was in a car wash, cranked up to 11.

It just might be time to head to the basement, I figured. I grabbed the guitar. I can’t replace that. I was in the basement through the worst of it. Or so I thought. It just kept getting worse. It was a gust of wind that didn’t stop.

Being an Iowan, of course I had to head back upstairs and watch it, when I sensed slight lull.

The view became clearer, but still murky. I couldn’t see across the park. I couldn’t see the houses around the corner. My yard had trees in it. Sideways. It had siding from a block away.

Our little town was rocked. So what does a small town do?

Immediately, people started clearing debris. Everywhere was the sound of generators and chain saws.

My niece, great-niece and great-nephew came into town. Once we started raking, the kids had join in. The leaf blower was a lot of fun until the batteries went. Then they helped my neighbor. They helped load a neighbor’s truck. That’s what we do.

We walked around the town and school, and each house we passed, we just shook our heads. I realized how lucky I was in terms of damage and amount of debris.

The mayor stopped by. He was getting a crew together the next morning. Hands, gloves, saws, trailers and trucks. We hoped to start on the east side and work our west. It took all day to clear one block. Dang. This town has a lot of trees.

Between yard cleanings, I worked to set up a system to keep my communication tools going. Other than that, my phone was going black. I was going Amish light. Without electricity, I had the strong urge to start churning butter.

My vehicle was my bicycle. As I biked from street to street, I saw friends, family and neighbors helping each other. “Only in a small town,” was the line I heard several times.

Agreed, as bad as it looked, one knows that small town people work twice has hard to make it better.

As I type, I’m in Day 3 of cleanup in town. Appliances are charging. I survived a cold shower. I figuring out laundry, probably pounding the clothes with rocks.

Everyone hang in there, and thanks for helping each other. Here’s to you and the crews who are working hard to bring back our power. Then we won’t hear chain saws, generators, and the sound of my snoring.

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