Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Guy With A JEEP And A Chainsaw ... And About 8 Elves PART 2 OF HURRICANE MATTHEW

So, where were we ... oh yes,... I was at Mom's in St. Augustine, the worst part of Hurricane Matthew had just passed and ... the phone rang.

It was my wife, Liz.
She, Emma, and Kyle were on their way south to Tampa. My daughter Katy's blood pressure was 210/114 and she was being admitted into the hospital.
The baby might have to come now ... 7 weeks early.

All my other hurricane plans, staying with Mom for the aftermath and cleanup, helping her get through days without power, helping her neighbors, ... ALL of that crashed to the ground around me.

I got myself together and broke the news to Mom, while apologizing profusely.

She said, "Go! Don't worry about me, Terry will come over."

Everything I had unpacked the day before, was packed up,  tossed into the JEEP, and I was off again.

The view driving out of Mom's neighborhood.

At I-95 and State Road 16, I hesitated.
I-95 traffic or CR-208?
208 is a country road through some pretty low, possibly flooded piney flatwoods.

I chose 208, the road less traveled, and that made all the difference.
The narrow 2-lane road west was clear with puddles and downed trees along the road, but none on it.
A few minutes and I was turning on to 13-A, and in no time I was at Molasses Junction. I continued on 13-A , driving past flooded farm fields that looked like vast shallow lakes.

The JEEP was making good time with nothing more challenging than some road ponding when I came to a bend in the road and the scene below.

Are you kidding me?

A good sized sweetgum tree, multi-trunked, long and lean, lay across the road blocking both lanes.

In my rush, I considered just going around it. I sure as hell did not want to backtrack.  This was a time sensitive mission to get to my daughter ASAP.

That option, going around it, turned out to be NOT an option ... even in a JEEP.
The guardrails that the tree rested on were there for a reason.
Almost directly beneath where the tree lay, a hurricane fueled creek was full and rushing to the nearby St. Johns River.


And then ... it hit me.

In the back of the JEEP sat a Husky chainsaw, oil, and gas. The Husky had sat there all this time, patiently waiting to help in the post-Matthew cleanup.

I'm sure the poor thing thought it had missed its chance to help out, since I was rushing back so unexpectedly.

And yet, Sara N. Dippity had intervened and that Husky was exactly the thing to save the day at this moment.

I shut off the JEEP, got out, put on a pair of work gloves, fueled the Husky, and fired it up.

I began to cut the tree, working down from the smaller canopy branches on the right.
As I sawed in those first few minutes, my plan was to just clear one lane since time was of the essence here.

It was a big tree and I could be here an hour completely clearing it.
I could get through that way and so could other people if they just took turns.

And then ... through the branches, I saw a white van pull up on the other side of the tree. 
Without saying a word, two guys got out and started pulling branches off the road as I cut.

Yeah baby!
I gave them a thumbs up and kept cutting.

I was focused on my cutting as the Husky went through the wood like it was ... well wood. You thought I was going to say "butter", didn't you?

Ever use a chainsaw to cut butter?

Exactly, ... just know that this chainsaw rose to the occasion in high fashion.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw branches moving away to my right, but my two helpers were in plain view to my left.

I glanced behind me and two other cars had stopped to help.
One older guy and a handful of 20-somethings were grabbing branches as fast as I could cut them.

We smiled at each other, but no words were exchanged over the roar of the chainsaw.

I kept an eye on them, but they had the good sense to stay away from the saw zone until I moved on. As soon as I did, that branch went over the guard rail.

It was like a small swarm of ants dissecting a dead grasshopper that was too big to move intact.

", work, work, work, work, work ..."

As I moved down the tree, where the diameter was increasing along with the weight of each piece, I began cutting shorter chunks that could be easily managed by my helper elves.

In 15-20 minutes, we had that entire roadway cleared.
It was a beautiful thing.
The view after our team effort.

After the last cut, I shut off the chainsaw, and we all spoke for the first time.
I thanked the van guys who hopped in their vehicle and drove off with a thumbs up.
The "kids" who had worked so hard were still there and I turned to them and said, "YOU GUYS WERE AWESOME!"

One of them, a redhead with a beard said, "Hey, we came around the corner and there was this guy with a JEEP and a chainsaw, so we had to help!"

With the way now open, we all went back to our vehicles and moved on.

I just couldn't stop smiling.

This simple event, a bunch of strangers helping each other fix one thing in a storm that broke so MANY things, things that will be broken for a long time to come, was just the positive energy I needed to ease the worry for my daughter and unborn grandchild.

I cruised past many downed trees blocking parts of the 2-lane farm roads before I hit Highway 207 with its 4 lanes heading west.

Some of those downed trees were off limits, leaning against power lines, but most were safe for cutting and I yearned to get out and cut them away, but I had to keep moving.

When I arrived home hours later, I unloaded the chainsaw and gas, and grabbed a few hours of sleep. 

Early the next morning, I headed south to St. Joseph's Womens Hospital in Tampa ... where my Katy waited in the Intensive Care part of the maternity unit...

Part Three:


Julie Zickefoose said...

As it always does, your writing, perfectly constructed and timed, takes me there--I can smell the fresh-cut sweetgum (thank you childhood in Virginia); the flooded creek; I can hear the roar and feel your amazement as the elves assembled unseen. And Katy and Rob and your family there helping, Liz at the helm, all deploying their own version of heroism too. Blue ribbon on this post FC. Heart in throat.

R.Powers said...

Thank you, Julie!
A Blue Ribbon from you is a Gold Medal to me :)

Chris Fooshee said...

Brilliant. As we have been traveling about the world we have found, and you have again discovered just down a country road, that most people are basically good and want to help those in need. It is in our nature regardless of politics or religion. Bravo to you and to all who stopped to assist when needed. Faith in mankind is not undeserved.

robin andrea said...

This is such a wonderful story. It brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Thank you for writing it all down. I can't wait to read Part Three.

roger said...

one of those wonderful moments to speed you on your way. you do have a way with words too. your family is, as always, in our thoughts.

Miz S said...

God bless those good people for helping out. Oh FC, when I read the part about Kate's blood pressure my stomach lurched. Thank goodness I have seen the pics of a smiling Katy and a beautiful baby boy. This story has a happy ending. But oh my.

Island Rider said...

Keep going now! I agree about the book!

Vicki said...

Crapowski! you make me laugh out loud. I'm glad that your elves were there for you- perfectly suited karma. We're also glad you got to your Katy and Oliver.

Marilyn Kircus said...

I hope your daughter (and possibly baby) are doing well. I drove around Moosehorn NWR all summer with a little hand saw in the back of my truck. Many times, I had to report fallen trees, but a few times I was able to clear roads of little trees. So I was already thinking you had all your're equipment as I was reading your blog. But thanks for helping.

Lisa Greenbow said...

Angel with a chain saw... Or was that Santa and his elves???
What a traumatic day. I am glad everyone is ok.

Mark P said...

We occasionally have the odd tree fall across the road that leads up our little mountain. In our case, it's not a hurricane, but usually just a tree that has reached the end of its time. It felt a little odd for me to realize that if I had been down there helping out, I would have been another "older guy."

Deb said...

I just got around to reading this. Great story! Can't wait to read part 3, though I know how it ends! :)

Kim S. said...

Eagerly awaiting the rest of the story. Hope all is well. Kim in PA