Storm Update

So we made it through. Let me just note, however, that anyone who says that Irene was a wimpy storm that didn't do much damage shoulda been here. We're safe, but it was a near thing.

We had close to 9 inches of rain and wind gusts that I'd estimate above 60mph - they took down two big locust trees and several willows. One of the locusts came down 10 feet from the buck barn where the buck goats and the calves were, another 10 feet from the rear of the house, while my kids were sitting in the room reading. Our enormous beech tree was entirely surrounded by the rushing creek (it is normally well up on the banks) and it rocked and creaked a few times, but did not come down, which is a good thing, since it would have taken out a good chunk of the house.

Both barns held up well - they got a little wet but not too bad, and will need only minor repairs. The goats are presently outside clearing fallen brush, and in the net pretty happy that these yummy trees came down. After they are done with them, we'll move on to firewood.

The creek did cross its banks, but the house is on enough of a rise that we didn't flood - but again, it was a nearer thing than we've had before. My neighbor, she of the shared sheep was not as lucky - she evacuated, her home flooded and her livestock are spread among friends and neighbors. Our friends down in the Schoharie Valley and at the lower ends of Schenectady have it very rough.

We lost power on Sunday afternoon, which worked out very well, since the sump pump ran most of the day. We were out until this morning, which again, isn't anything I can complain about - we've had longer outages in winter from random storms. As always, we're pretty power-loss ready.

Besides the trees and one of the barn doors ripped apart by the winds, the biggest loss was my garden - the main garden was under nearly 2 feet of water. I had debated harvesting a lot of things on Saturday, but elected to spend the day at a foster parent event instead. I lost a lot of stuff - including, sadly a lot of the flowers that were slated for table and bimah decorations at a friend's bar mitzvah this weekend - I've been planning all summer for this event, but most of the flowers were blown down or broken. I'm working on finding more, but a lot of the farms around here have similar damage Still, this should be the worst thing that ever happens to us! A few broken flowers and rotting squash are small potatoes.

I'm not sorry I spent Saturday at the foster parenting event, however, instead of harvesting. Some of you (who track my stuff on facebook) will know that we were called on Wednesday to take a group of five kids (and no, not the same group of five kids that they wanted us to take the previous week, believe it or not), several of whom were suffering some severe health problems due to neglect. We got the call Wednesday afternoon and expected to have the children (ages 6 1/2 to 5 weeks) arrive that evening, then we were called suddenly and told that the judge removed only one of the children, the one who was actually hospitalized.

We weren't able to find out a lot more information immediately afterwards, and I admit, I've been losing sleep worrying about the kids not being safe. I hadn't intended to spend my Saturday afternoon at this picnic, but went in the hopes of getting more info on the kids. Fortunately, it worked - I met someone involved with the case who was able to tell me that in this case, she thought the decision was right. The parents are young, overwhelmed and have missed some major medical issues they should have caught - but from ignorance. The parents needed services and support - and now they will get them. I have to say, that did more to let me sleep well than knowing the basement was dry.

The creek has gone down enough that I'm not scared either the kids or the baby goats will fall in and drown, and I'm grateful for our near miss. I don't usually put "hurricane" on the list of major threats to upstate NY, but I might as well add it to the list of reasons why I'm glad we stay prepared.

I hope all of you are safe and well. Please let us know how things came through in your neck of the woods!


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Thanks for the update, Sharon. I've been checking your site multiple times, hoping to hear that all was (relatively) well after reading Jim Kunstler's column about how bad it was up there. Hoping all get the help they need asap.

I'm glad to hear everything's okay, and the beech didn't come down! Mmmm...nuts...

Too bad about the other trees though, but at least no one got hurt and the house and outbuildings are allright.

If you've seen my address, you know I've got to ask you you have flood insurance? (Yes, yes, a bit late for Irene, but the one think that has irritated me to no end in the reports is that heinous statement "no one ever tole me we needed flood insurance!" Yes, someone probably did, because they wanted you to buy it...from them.) If you do, make sure you contact FEMA as soon as possible, funds are running low, and Congress is...well, we all saw how Congress is acting when it comes to money this year. And there have been many disasters already this year and are likely to be many more before years end, even in too minor to garner big time coverage in the news. Something you may not realise, something your agent may not even realise, is that under the flood policy, outbuildings must be insured separately. The coverage on the house will not carry over to the barns (and sheds?) on its own.

Also, if you do not have a flood policy at least on the house, I do urge you to get one. A federal disaster area must be declared before FEMA can go help in any way if you do not have flood insurance. Your state must request that the Office of the President issue a statement of a Federal Disaster Area for this to happen. Also, FEMA "grants" for the uninsured when this takes place are actually loans. You will get a very small fraction of the money that you will actually need to repair/replace/restore your damaged property, and depending on your own available resources that amount can be vanishingly small indeed. In fact during the last flooding event here in Iowa, there were several homewoners who ended up with less than $9000 in FEMA loans to repair damage to basements and first floors. In one case, that $9000 was barely suffiecient to dry out the house completely, and the homeowner is still having mold problems.

So, after a disaster is, I suppose, as good a time as any (and better than most, as what did and what could have happened will be fresh in everyone's mind) to check up on your family's protections.

By Kate from Iowa (not verified) on 30 Aug 2011 #permalink

Sharon, it's good to hear that your family is OK and that your farm sustained minimal damage. Just a thought from someone who lives in tornado country: you might want to cut down any trees that could fall on your house. We built a new home in a former hayfield and have made the decision that we're not going to plant any large trees near the house. Much as we like the shade and beauty of trees, given the extreme weather that climate change is bringing, we feel that falling trees or branches could do severe damage to the house or kill us. We're thinking of other shade strategies such as awnings, planting smaller trees such as birch near windows, vines that could shade in the summer etc.
Our thoughts are with you and everyone in the Northeast. The destruction in beautiful upstate New York and Vermont is heartbreaking.

By Lorna from Wisconsin (not verified) on 30 Aug 2011 #permalink

Kate, we do in fact have flood insurance - we are too close to our creek not to. Lorna, for that reason we will not be cutting down all the trees - we need the erosion control - that's more important to the house than the risk of trees falling on us. Honestly, if it werent for the trees we would have lost the house.


That makes sense. Here in our rolling hills in southwest Wisconsin we think of grass/pasture as main erosion control. But obviously, it's different in your mountainous area. Still, hope there's a corner of your house where you can hunker down away from falling trees and branches. The thought of that locust tree falling near the room where your boys were makes me nervous.

By Lorna from Wisconsin (not verified) on 30 Aug 2011 #permalink

Yay. Sounds like it was way more exciting than anyone wants; but you made it.

Something for everyone to understand- a bit of science that seems hard for folks to grasp- the destructive power of wind does NOT vary in a straight line with wind velocity. The relationship is more complex- last I knew they were still arguing about whether it's to the 3rd power; or to the 4th power of the velocity. 60 mph is definitely bad enough- but 80 mph is FAR more dangerous; and 100 is nearly incomprehensible to people who've never seen it.

Inland where you are it's hard for a tropical system to sustain the higher wind velocities; but the flooding is NOT barred. I've got a good friend in Vermont I've not heard from yet- some of the flooding pictures coming out now are really terrifying.

Which kind of locust, honey or black?

Sharon, glad to hear you survived relatively unscathed, though the damage to your garden is heartbreaking. We were fine, with a little less rain than you and what sounds like milder winds. Minimal garden damage here.

Regarding Lorna's suggestion, I wonder if you could replace any iffy trees in a flood plain with bamboo? I hear their roots are phenomenally good at erosion control, and if some came down on a building I imagine it would be far less damaging. I know the potential downside: invasive. But if you ate a lot of bamboo shoots you could nip that problem in the bud, so to speak. Just a thought.