Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Still Cleaning Up

While the rest of the world has moved on to tornadoes in Oklahoma and waist high snow in Maine, we are still weathering our ice disaster in this corner of Kentucky. Even though the ice is melted and everyone’s electricity is back on, things are far from normal. A lot of folks dug deep in their pockets to pay hundreds or in some cases, thousands of dollars for tree trimmers. Many people needed electricians, lost freezers full of food and in some cases were too poor to replace the food lost in a warm refrigerator and landed on the steps of charitable agencies. Some had hotel bills and others spent several hundred dollars on new generators. Businesses that were closed for several days or lost product are filing for insurance benefits and in some cases are finding that their insurance won’t pay much if anything. It all adds up to a big financial blow to an already ailing local economy. Cleanup alone is a multi-million dollar ticket.

Out of town folks visiting our community lately have been astonished at the amount of damage and the cleanup required. Our city, county and state governments have started clearing debris off the right of ways, and frankly, it’s a mess. State highway crews have set up temporary dumping sites near each work area because there is so much to pick up in all parts of the community. One big site simply won’t work because their trucks fill up quickly on each block. This site has been used for only a couple of days and serves just one small section of the county.

The rural countryside looks like this.Every home on every street has a brush pile. This one is about the average size, but many homes have piles much larger...or multiple piles.Keep in mind; this doesn’t include the stuff that’s already been hauled off by commercial tree trimmers. There’s really no need to ask folks what they’re doing each weekend. You can just assume that everyone is working in his yard, because it takes days to clean up your property.
The trees are a mess. I don’t think there’s a tree in this county that wasn’t touched by Mother Nature’s temper. This is pretty typical. And everywhere you look are “hangers”, big limbs that are just waiting to drop on your head or your car when a big wind finally wrenches them loose. They are dangling dangerously over some main roads, and it’s just a matter of time before they hurt someone.

Most of our city parks remain closed because you can’t navigate them. This was taken on the edge of our largest city park. It’s a disaster in there. The picnic shelters are either damaged or surrounded by limbs. I can’t imagine how long it’s going to take to make them pretty again.

Cemeteries are a problem too. I pity the folks who have had a death in the family in recent weeks. First, the funeral homes couldn’t hold funerals because they didn’t have electricity. Some cremations were done by generator. For a while, the ground was too frozen to bury people, and family members couldn’t grieve in peace in their own homes without the power to take a warm shower or wash clothes. Some cemeteries are still struggling to get the trees and limbs cleaned up, so holding a funeral is questionable, depending on where your family plot is. What a mess.

Our community has a beautiful dogwood trail each spring that has already been canceled. It will be a struggle to get the town cleaned up in time for a big convention which brings 30,000 visitors to this area each April. Even when all of the debris has been hauled off, I don’t think the landscape around here will look good for a very long time. It’s just too damaged. It’s such a shame. This is a beautiful tree loving town.

On the home front, the Hula-gen’s managed to get their debris cleaned up. The tree trimmers cleaned up our trees, attempted to save my sweet little fringe tree and chopped down the big old pine tree that dropped its branches on the corner of our house. The rose trellis is gone, and I probably won’t replace it. The electrician was very reasonable and did good work. That was a blessing. Others weren’t so lucky. Our freezer is limping along, but it may be on its last leg. The power outage did something to it. I thought we had managed to save its contents, but I discovered Monday night that the stuff on top had thawed. I cleaned it out, but more stuff is thawing now, so everything will have to go into Mama J.’s freezer until we fix ours or give it a decent funeral. We have several hundred dollars worth of beef in there that I don’t want to lose.

I still can’t catch up on my rest. I think my body held up until I finally allowed it to stop, and now I can’t get enough sleep. I tried running a couple of times. That was nothing but a reminder of how tired my body still is. Besides, it’s really too dangerous to run along the tree laden streets and sidewalks. Going out in public feels weird. For four weeks, I saw practically no one except my immediate family and my co-workers. I didn’t see any news and focused only on personal survival and intense work. I can’t really explain why, but it feels very odd to be at the mall or in Wal-Mart now. Like I don’t belong. It’s as if I lost a month of my life that I’ll never get back. Like the world kept moving forward, and I’m stuck in time.

Everybody I see wants to share their personal disaster story with me. I smile and listen, but honestly, I just don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m tired of disaster, and I’m tired of winter. I’m ready for spring and for the local news to carry something, anything, other than follow-up news about the storm. It makes me wonder how the Katrina survivors, many of whom are still displaced, are able to keep from going insane. What a slow process. We’re getting there, but we have so many more miles to go.


Kelley with Amy's Angels said...

Hula, that is a great perspective on the events of a natural disaster. Too many people think it's just easy to "pick up and move on" and it's not like that at all.

I'm keeping you & the Hulagens in my thoughts! : )

The Girl Next Door said...

I feel so selfish because I am complaining about the cold and can't wait for spring - and here you and your community are still struggling to survive each day. It is too easy for the rest of us to forget how hard getting back to "normal" is. I'll be keeping you and all the folks who have suffered in my prayers.

Gattina said...

You know when you see disasters on TV you think it's sad for the poor people but it touches you less than if you read a post like yours !
I am lucky to live in a country where we never have such disasters. Yes, from time to time a heavy storm but nothing compared to what happens in the States. As far as I can think we never had an electricity dammage because of weather. Belgium has a lot of rain, but that's it and when I think I am looking for a company to cut a piece of our wheeping willow and I can't find anything and see the mess you have with all these fallen trees ! Terrible !

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karisma said...

Hugs Hula, I know what you mean about not wanting to hear any more stories, too many just gets to be too much for the soul to bear. I know also that the pictures do not do justice to the mess, your storms were far worse than the floods we had and we still had mess piles like that too. Hopefully some of the wood can be used as firewood rather than wasted. I hate seeing such devastation.

On a lighter note, nature does repair itself amazingly. Today as I walked my dogs in the bush near home I noticed new green ferns and leaves sprouting through the burnt branches. Life goes on! Its a long haul but all will come well with such a great community spirit.

Big big hugs and smoochies xxxxxx

Janis said...

It is so hard to recover in the wake of a disaster that happened in your State. There are reminders all over the place of what occurred and its hard to put it behind you. Clean up takes so long, and patience is short. Just keeping the faith and counting blessings, helps to maintain your sanity. Hang in there, better days will be here soon.

Mia said...

I ditto that sentiment...don't want to talk about it anymore! Whenever I feel sorry for myself I call my sister up and ask her to tell me again about her days in the stadium and 3 months in the hotel with her seven year old son during Katrina. Then she says "I don't want to talk about it"
: )

Trailboss said...

I pass that huge pile on the southside everyday on my way to and from work. It just keeps growing! You are right about how expensive things have been. We were fortunate but there are many that have overextended their funds and are now paying for it. Of course, if we all got food stamps we could just go to the food stamp office and get our January amounts again. People that work and pay the taxes have to just do our best. Sorry, but it pisses me off.

J.G. said...

When the little leaves pop out in the spring, that will cheer things up a bit. There's something so hopeful about that. Meanwhile, so much work to be done! Mother Nature is a messy but powerful gardener when she decides to redesign.