Wednesday, February 10, 2010

After the Storm

I have been home a few days from the ice storm in Purcell, OK. It is making me crazy. There is still work to be done there and I need to be in the middle of it. My husband assures me that the phone calls, paperwork, and sorting fuel receipts is just as important. Whatever! So while I enter another piece of paper that makes me want to gauge my eyeballs out, let me relive a little of it for you.

On January 30th I arrived with two crews and two bucket trucks. We had driven most of the night and pulled into this frozen, disaster at 3am. It was bleak. We took the first exit when we should have taken the 3rd, but it gave a very real view of what was going on. What looked like a main street through town was deserted but the row of Bradford pairs that were split and hanging. They looked more like my houseplants after I've been gone for a week than this communities landscape to welcome visitors. The whole town was dark on the north side and the task ahead was coming into view as I held tight to the steering wheel because even the four wheel drive on my truck couldn't prevent the sliding on these ice and snow covered, gray streets.

After a couple hours of sleep it was time to start. We were working for the city to clear the alleyways that the main power lines traveled through. From our first meeting with the Power and Light crews it went smoothly. They had sectioned their city and put people in charge. We went to work. I wanted my alley's to be safe and clear for the trucks working on lines and setting poles to come after me and to set a pace that keeps everyone moving and power restored. It was going well and we were getting on a course until the city official in charge of my sector asked us to come to another alley after that was finished. It was a mess. Then after that he took me to another alley that was even worse. I began to see a trend. My trucks weren't moving in the orderly up and down that others were. So with a smile on my face I asked; "I must be your favorite because you seem to be giving me the extremely messy ones." He confirmed my suspicion and later said; "You can drive TWO Cadillac's down the Goode Alley's without scratching the paint." The compliments and communication by the city officials of Purcell was amazing and made the day of the only pink hard hat in town.

I think there are some advantages to having a woman running crews in an emergency situation. I think my natural instincts of organizing, multi-tasking, caretaking, homemaking, talking on the phone and mothering lend well to it. I can talk on the phone, start a chainsaw and look ahead for challenges while making sure my jobsite is nice and tidy. I bet tidy wasn't a word used by the other crews. I also bring with me compassion and I've seen the ice storm from all angles in its different phases. I am compassionate to what the homeowners are going through and an easy person to approach when they have worries. I also have the sixth sense of when the guys might need a snickers bar from raising kids and knowing when to pull out the bag of Cherrios.

I have to brag about John helping a resident. We get a lot of homeowners asking when the power will be back on, but as the tree trimmers we do not know. The man had just bought half a beef before the storm and was worried about when the power would come back on. John had brought a generator but hadn't needed it so he took it to the man's house and plugged in his freezer till his power came back on. It was one of those moments that you see how we are all having struggles and you can't forget to look at the worries on someones mind because of the ones in front of you. My struggle was making sure the crew safely removed limbs over a power line of a Huge Pecan tree next to a house, but I know if I had just spent hundreds of dollars on a beef to feed my family in a time when none of us have that money to just throw away that would have been my struggle also. My favorite part of storm recovery is becoming part of the community. My second favorite part is the satisfaction of working so hard and being recognized for it.

My least favorite part is the time after the storm. Roofers, tree trimmers, and electricians start to fill the parking lots and then the jaw dropping scenes unfold. If you are having your trees trimmed after a storm. Please do NOT top your trees. You may see a lot of drastic cuts in the right of ways under power lines, but do not top the trees in your yard. It will only make them weak and fail worse in the next storm. If a tree trimmer advertises that they do Topping or Top Trees, this is a sign that they are not 1. a Certified Arborist or 2. educated in the best tree trimming procedures or follow ANSI Standards. Once you cut big chunks off the top of your trees it will then force growth to that spot to try to repair it and you will see little branches shooting from that cut over the next years. These branches are small and weak and will fail if put under stress. If you want to top your tree, please consider removing it completely. I realize everyone is mad at the trees after a storm but by topping them will only compound the problem in the future. I am not saying this to bad mouth companies, we are contracted with the city and they are not our competition. Topping is UGLY and does more harm than good. The Arbor Day Foundation has a great website for more information. This link will take you to the #1 thing to know about trees; DO NOT TOP TREES. Oh, and if your Tree Trimming company hooks his guy up to a crane with a metal hook and raises him up kicking into a tree while holding a chainsaw, that might be a sign too. I really saw it just the other day. I wish I'd had more time to take pictures, but I was busy making alley's you could drive a Mac Truck through. Check out this article and pictures from the Purcell Register for more on the Oklahoma ice storm. By John D. Montgomery - The Purcell Register

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