Monday, August 29, 2011

Earthquakes & Hurricanes... that's how we roll in VA

To say the weather has been a bit crazy this past week may just be an understatement. We started the craziness off on Tuesday. Emma and I were working in the studio, Ellie was watching a movie in the family room and Steve was in Nashville. All of a sudden there was a vibration sound and the windows started to rattle. I was thinking it was a military helicopter flying by our house. We are on some sort of travel path and often one or two of these large, low flying helicopters will go by and rattle the house. As I stood up thinking 'Just how many helicopters are out there because that is some shaking' it got louder and the ground began to violently shake. I headed out of the studio with Emma following close behind to find Ellie with a panicked look on her face. I said "We're having an earthquake" (which sounded extremely strange to say & hear) which quickly made Ellie burst out into sobs. I had to yell at her and tell her to calm down that it would be OK that I had to get us outside. As soon as we stepped outside it stopped.

Many of my neighbors were outside already and we all confirmed that we were OK and just what the heck was happening. Earthquakes in Virginia? Who would have predicted that? The only other earthquake I have experienced was in Los Angeles 3 years ago. That was a 5.5 and we barely felt it. This was much different. It was scary. My legs shook for about 45 minutes after the earthquake was over. I tried to call Steve right away but phone service was out. Oddly, after knowing we were fine and there was no damage, I knew Steve would have disappointment about missing out and not being here. He loves wild weather. Turns out the quake would rate as a 5.8 magnitude and it would be felt all up and down the eastern part of the US. It was centered about 35 miles or so from Richmond so I suppose that is why we felt it so strongly. Amazingly, not one frame or book or anything in the house was disrupted. Hard to believe because we were really shaking. There were a few aftershocks but I just felt one of them. I am hoping to never have to experience that again - once in a lifetime is enough.

All of the earthquake news, took center stage for the next two days but Hurricane Irene news was begging to be back in the spotlight and by Thursday she was. I am so grateful we live in an age of communication and technology and we can predict hurricanes and prepare for their arrival but man, the news loves to scare you silly. Our local news went back and forth I would say 4 or 5 times with "it's going to be really dismal for us in Richmond to we barely will notice the hurricane". All the models showed we were on the outskirts of the wind and rain so we weren't too worried. Storm chaser Steve secretly had his fingers crossed for bad weather because, well he likes that - but me, I was thinking long term and thinking about no electricity. And I certainly do not like that. So we did the normal storm prep things. Bought ice, charged every electronic device we own, washed clothes, stocked up on pop tarts and Steve went and bought a generator. What? Come again? I totally thought it was an impulse buy (encouraged by CNN and the weather channel) and we would be returning it right after the storm still safely within the walls of its cardboard packaging.

The storm begins to roll in early Saturday morning. The wind picks up and the rain is falling. There are a few wind bursts here and there but nothing really exciting. We watch North Carolina and the Outer Banks get pounded on TV. The storm creeping along at a snail's pace of 14 miles per hour is not expected to really affect us until late afternoon. So the afternoon was spent appreciating a gloomy day. I actually enjoy a storm and since we have had a very hot and dry summer, the rain is quite welcome. Steve and I cozy up on the couch on the screened-in porch and watch the wind blow and feel the rain lightly spray our feet. Around 2 pm the electricity finally flickers out and we are left in the gray afternoon without the hum of the air conditioner or the sound of the news filling our ears. The girls love a power outage so they run off with flashlights but as I mentioned, I am not a fan. It's fun for about 2 minutes and then I was itchy to get that generator up and running. I know, the irony. Within the confines of that box, my computer will work, the refrigerator will get cold again and we can have light. Open it up...OPEN IT NOW!

We decide to wait to see if the storm gets worse because we cannot see any real damage and the power may be back on soon. As the afternoon goes on conditions do actually worsen and it gets very windy. Tree limbs and leaves litter the yard. We can hear trees falling in the woods behind our house but nothing in our yard. Around 7pm, after the winds die down, we go for a drive around the neighborhood and witness trees down in many yards. We fared well at our house but many neighbors lost trees. Nice, decorative trees. We decide to get the generator up and running because it looks worse than we thought. Within 45 minutes, Steve has the refrigerator running and the big screen TV is reporting all the damage in our area. Emma lets out a big sigh and says she doesn't think she could ever make it for more than a few hours, she says this while hugging her laptop. Ellie loved the excitement of no electricity and using lanterns and candles but I am sure it would have gotten old pretty quickly. I decide I love the new generator even if it noisy and I am glad we are keeping it. The local news confirmed about 1 million people were without power in Virginia and it would be several days before it was restored. I loved the generator even more after that newscast. I am thinking we need to give it a name.. I guess Irene would be fitting.

That night we had the windows open for air circulation (it was getting hot!) and I did not sleep at all listening to the wind rage outside. I thought for sure the trees had had enough and they were going to start snapping and landing on my bedroom. It was a long scary night. By morning, it was over and the sun was shinning once again. Around 5 pm, to our surprise, the lights came back on. How wonderful! We were lucky because there are still many homes in central VA that are in the dark as I write this. It was great to get all the extension cords that were crisscrossing the house rolled up and put away and to sweep up all the leaves that made it into the house and vacuum it all up. The generator has a nice resting spot in the garage now and the piece of mind it brings knowing we are more prepared for disasters is comforting. Earthquakes and hurricanes in one weeks time... and we survived! Invigorating!

Ellie has her bug lantern all set to go when the lights go out.

Ipad & Irene
As the storm raged outside, I enjoyed a fun game of scrabble on the ipad. Thank goodness for battery powered technology.

I think Hummers like Hurricanes
The hummingbirds seemed to enjoy the rainy day.

Calm before the storm
Great place to watch the storm... that was until the sight of Pine trees bending way over scared us back into the kitchen.

Presenting the duke and duchess
Tucker is a good sport once the power goes out. He played dress up with Ellie

Burning down...
candles.... the staple of every good hurricane

Blackout Fun
Fun in the dark... Steve is quickly assembling the generator as we wait in the darkness

Back Porch
My vinca that line the stone wall took a beating. These are the before photos. Hoping the sunny weather perks them back up like before.