The Great Grainbin Invasion of 2012

(From my diary)

DAY 1:

That Friday was much like the rest of the week had been, in Central Ohio … humid, no breeze, and HOT… about 100-105 degrees, hot.

I took a break from doing laundry and working in the garden, and booted up the ol’ laptop. A longtime friend of mine (who happens to be a meteorologist) had sent me a message.
“Big storm, headed your way. Winds over 50 mph. Possible hail, up to two inches in diameter.”

Puzzled, I looked out of the big double windows. Blue skies. Not a cloud in sight. He must have me confused with someone else. I sent him a reply… “Clear skies, sunny, and bright, here.”

After I sent it, I waited for an answer.
To pass the time, I watched the men working across the street. For nearly four days, these guys had been toiling away in the scorching heat, building a new grain bin. It was finally done… 48 feet tall (not counting the roof) and 30 feet around. They were installing the anchor bolts, now. Pretty neat to watch, actually.

Three minutes later, I sent my friend a second message.
“Sky grew dark. Hearing the first roll of thunder, as I type this.”
Black clouds had suddenly rolled out of the Northwest, and it was obvious that we were going to have one doozy of a thunderstorm. My oldest daughter ran out to collect the grandbaby’s toys, so they wouldn’t get blown into the cornfield if the wind picked up.

One minute later, she came into the house. Her nose was bleeding, heavily. I asked her if she had fallen. She shook her head no, and opened her clenched fist to show me two pieces of hail. Each was roughly an inch in diameter.
Now, the hail was pelting the house. Concerned for their safety, I looked out at the men across the street. Two had sought shelter. The third was frantically trying to collect tools and keep papers and plastic buckets from blowing out into the street. I saw a large (2 1/2 foot by 4 foot) piece of steel sheeting fly up off of the ground, and soar over my rooftop like a plastic bag in a heavy breeze. The man ran for shelter.

Instantly, the rain began to pour. My daughter and I began closing windows and unplugging electronics and appliances. The electric flickered off, then immediately came on.
There was a tremendous crash, as a section of our front porch wall slammed against our front door. The trailer began to sway, like a boat on a rough river.

A huge POP exploded through the house. Flames shot out of every outlet, as the electricity shut off completely. I heard a second POP, and saw a 2 foot ball of fire, where my surge protector had been.
“Take the baby and get into the storm cellar,” I said. “I will be right out. Leave the back door open.”
As she headed out the door, I smothered the flames and shut off our main breaker. I grabbed my “document binder” and cellphone, and bolted to the door. My daughter was standing there, in horror.

“Why aren’t you in the storm cellar?” I shouted.
“Lightning hit it, Mom… it’s on fire!”
I told her to take the baby, and head to the doorway of my room. I ran outside and dumped the raincatch onto the flames. The rain was extinguishing it pretty well, so I ran to the corner of the house and looked up the driveway (Plan B was the tornado shelter at Chew’s workplace, across the street). An electric pole was lying across our driveway, splintered like a toothpick.Two more leaned at a 45 degree angle, ready to fall. Downed power lines were strewn all over my yard and the road in front of our house.

I ran back into the house and dialed 911. No answer. I called three times. No answer.
We took refuge inside the walk-in closet of my bedroom. The trailer kept swaying, and there was an ungodly metal sound, like our roof was being stripped from the top of our house. When it finally died down, I went back out to survey a safe route, to get us over to Chew. That’s when I saw it.
The new grain bin… all 80,000 pounds of it… was lying on top of our barn. The roof was wadded like a piece of foil, in our driveway.

The wind had blown that 40 ton building across the street, digging deep ruts across our yard. It had, apparently, been deflected by our old maple tree, and crashed into the barn.
The roof of our chicken barn had been stripped like a banana peel, and was hanging to the ground.

The electric company came, 5 hours later, to move the power lines off of the road. They said it would be a couple of weeks before we could have power again. The important thing? Everyone is ok… AND we learned an important lesson.
Having an emergency plan is good, but it isn’t enough. A “Plan B” isn’t enough. Have plans for your plans, and then have back up plans for THOSE.

DAY 5:
Living without the electricity was an inconvenience, I won’t lie, but we managed. We cooked and heated water on the grill or firepit… washed laundry, using a wringer bucket… lit the house with lanterns… and made sure we get the chores done before nightfall.
Chew set out a “solar water heater,” of sorts… we filled buckets of water, and left them in the sun, all day. By dusk, they were warm enough to use for bath water.
Over the prior couple of days, friends had brought us coolers full of ice. We put those in the ice house, and were pleased to see how well it worked. Our frozen foods had not even begun to thaw, on day 5!
There were a few reminders that things were NOT “normal,” though. The obvious one is the 40-ton bin, laying on our barn. The owner of the bin and the construction crew each filed a claim with their insurance companies, and the two companies decided to go to court, so… no one is allowed to move the bin. The weight started shifting, and three of the rafters were now broken in half. This section was where we keep our hogs, so we had to skip the next round. This put a damper on our pork plans for the winter.

Another “reminder”… all of the cars that stopped to gawk and take pictures. I wasn’t comfortable with this, at ALL. I began approaching the stopped cars with a bucket, saying, “Hi! Thanks for stopping. We are taking donations for the Grain Bin Memorial Fund. How much would you like to contribute, today?” That slowed things down, considerably.
The only real inconvenience was the heat. We never had A/C, but I DID miss having fans! We kept a cooler full of ice water, on hand, and the girls made good use of the wading pool and creek. With the well pump down, any water that we drew had to be done by hand. It was so cold and icy, though, that it was worth it. We were grateful to have supplemented with city water, as it was running just fine. I would hate to have to trapse back and forth, to the well house, getting buckets of water.
All in all, we were glad to have made it through, without any injuries or destruction to the actual house. We had food, water, and a roof… flushing toilets and a way to bathe… a grain bin, on the roof of the barn…
What else can you do, but laugh about it?


DAY 6:

So, on Monday evening, we sat in our front yard and watched guys from the construction crew gather up their busted jacks, scattered tools, and remaining materials. They loaded them in the construction trailer and hauled out.
Tuesday morning, the trailer was back.
I thought nothing of it, until I was awakened by a banging on the back door.
Turns out, the guys we saw were thieves. They backed the work trailer (full of tools and materials) up to the rubble, threw everything in, then drove the truck 72 miles. They unloaded it, then brought it back. Unbelievable… in plain sight, unafraid of getting busted.

The electric company stopped by, last night.
They surveyed the damage to the exterior poles and lines, shook their heads, and wrote some notes. They said that we were looking at a lengthy wait. They told us to consider finding someplace to stay, until they can get to us. I laughed.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” I said. “We were here before that dang grain bin was! Tell IT to go somewhere else!” I thanked them for stopping out, and offered them a bottled water, for the road. The looks on their faces? Kinda cool.

On another note…
Even though most of our neighboring town has had the electric restored since Saturday or Sunday, the stories are astounding.
One apartment building had a roof collapse. Fortunately, it was empty and being renovated, at the time. Looters busted holes in the walls. They stole all of the wires and copper pipes… and the furnace!
A man was assaulted, Friday evening, as he returned from the store. The attackers stole his ice chest, two bags of ice, and three jugs of water.
One gas station closed down, Saturday. They were requesting cash only. People started acting violent, so they locked up.
Generators were stolen from a retirement center.

Made our first trip to the store, this morning.
No bread.

Lost three hens and a roo, since it all started. Not sure if it was shock or heat related. The others seemed to be doing well, with the extra shade we put over the pen, and the flaps on their doors left open for cross breezes.
Emotional stress reared its head, for the first time, through this event.
My two daughters started bickering, the grandbaby dumped my fiance’s dinner on the lawn, and the fireworks went OFF. I walked out in the cornfield, sat down, and bawled like a baby.

I’d like to say we were all prepped and ready, but there are just some things you can’t really prepare for. Having every member of your family experience stress and negative vibes at the same time is both overwhelming and disheartening.
It’s amazing how much the family unit can mean to you, at a time like this. Most of the time, we all work together… lighten the days with jokes and laughter… encourage one another to keep on “chinning it up.”
Today, though, it seemed unbelievably hot. The air was heavy, and you couldn’t keep that sticky sweaty layer off of you, no matter how many times you soaked down. It seems like every routine in our lives had a dozen extra steps… bathing, laundry, dishes, cooking, tending to the garden and the chickens, housecleaning… EVERYTHING.
It’s not that HARD, really… but it’s not “fun” and “interesting” after 6 days. We’ve done the two week camping trips… but we weren’t ALSO trying to keep our gardens from wilting, our chickens from suffocating, our work clothes laundered, a one year old baby from overheating, regulate the house temperature without a fan, AND download pictures and create videos online… while constantly keeping a battery, phone, or computer on the car charger.
Our newer generator had stopped working… the big one is in the barn, beneath the splintered rafters and creaking grain bin.

To complicate matters even more, our normally quiet little paradise was a nonstop parade of visitors. Insurance guys, the grain bin owner, the construction crew, the sheriffs (regarding the tool theft), friends and wellwishers, and every nosy gawking passerby with a camera in their cellphone or I-Pad.
(Note: I’m not whining, just venting. If anyone is wanting to know what this is like, this is it. No sugarcoating, no Superhero syndrome… this is just…well… reality. The crap they don’t warn you about in the disaster movies.)

We all split up (my fiance went out front, to sit under the big maple… I was in my plot of personal space, in the cornfield… my youngest went back to the creek… and the oldest sat in her bedroom, with the baby),and we all collected our emotions.
I was ashamed of myself, for letting a petty event like this get to me. We had everything we need… we were healthy… what was WRONG with me?

The storm warning sirens went off, in town.
I headed back to the house. The rest of the family was waiting for me. They had sliced up a watermelon, and we all sat and munched on our big slabs of chilled pink sweetness. As the storm rolled in, we laughed at the funny shapes the clouds made (“Look… it’s a duck!” “Yeah, and he’s talking to two elephants and a mouse!”). As it grew darker, we watched the lightning show come dancing across the sky.

I guess I just needed some time alone, to find my “happy place.” I did. It’s called “family.” Tomorrow would be a new day.


DAY 7:
We woke in better spirits. I’m wondering if we didn’t need that little spell of emotional meltdown, to remind each of us of what we need… what’s REALLY important.

Chew had to leave for work early. He was delivering some farm equipment to one of the other hard-hit areas, in our state. It was past his usual lunchbreak time, and he hadn’t returned. I could only imagine the closed roads and downed trees he had to navigate around, as he rolled through the side streets and country access roads of the Buckeye farmlands.

I got up, did a load of laundry, and started in on the chores.
I read that FEMA was dispatched to Central Ohio… supposedly handing out generators and water. I assume this is for the 425,000 people in Columbus/Franklin County who had no electric, because there was no sign of them around here. That’s ok by me, but I wonder about all those lesser-prepped people who were (most likely) among those looting and panicking, over the past week. That had really been my biggest concern. It sucks that we have to worry about people like these… ones who’d rather steal or commit violence, than to take the time to stow away a few jugs of water or a jar of peanut butter. Fortunately, the only case we saw close to home was the theft of the trailer full of tools, across the street. I’m actually feeling relieved that so many people have no clue what an icehouse or root cellar are, if only for the comfort of security this ignorance brings.

The storms last night cooled things down, but only for a few hours. Just after noon, and the sun was beating full force. I set off to check on the chickens’ water, fill the wading pool, and start fixing lunch.

DAY 8:

We were heading to WV, and then MD. We would be home on Sunday, as I had to be at work.
My older daughter and the grandbaby would be staying home, this trip. As hot as it was, expecting a one year old to do well on a 6 1/2 hour trip, with no A/C… spend 2 nights sleeping on the ground, with day times spent at a racetrack… then to make another 6 1/2 hour trip home? That’s too surrealistic to qualify as “doubtful.”
So, we charged up her phone and a computer, to give her two ways to reach someone… made a list of emergency numbers and a reminder of the “chicken chores,” asked a few local friends to pop in and check on her, and loaded her up with some little-to-no-cook foods and a special treat…lemonade drink mix.

Meanwhile, I got our gear charged and ready through the car adaptor (except the big computer… I’d have to find electric, en route). I had our clothes washed, dried, and packed… I even “pressed” our professional media shirts, by pressing them between two sheets of the steel sheets we picked up, in our yard.

As I was packing food into coolers, and boiling water for coffee, two detectives came to the back door. They wanted to know about the thieves, who robbed the items across the street. I noticed them, eyeing the kettle of water on the grill… the girls, eating chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs…laundry, on the line… me, with hair coloring settling in… and the sounds of a Disney movie, coming from the living room. Must not be what they were expecting, in a house with no electricity. This made me chuckle, to myself.

There is strength in self-sufficiency.

DAY 11:

We returned from our work, in Maryland, on Sunday afternoon. I took in water from the “solar buckets” and got a quick bath, changed clothes, and headed into town for my other job.
The oldest (and the baby) did fine, while we were gone. She even had the bed linens washed and drying on the line. The dishes were washed, and they had followed the meal directions I had left, to a “T”… no “extras” were nabbed, from the icehouse. This was a HUGE accomplishment, as two years ago, my oldest would not have cooked anything more complex than a microwaved Hot Pocket, couldn’t go an hour without SOME kind of internet/DVD/video game/cellphone/etc.

One of the hens had gotten her leg tangled in some twine, that had blown into our field. She was SO proud that she had found the hen and cut the line off of her. She has the right to be proud… the hen would have surely died, by heat or raccoon, had she not been found.

I came home from work to find a message from the sheriff. I called him back, and he brought out reports for my fiance and I to fill out, regarding the stolen tools. Funny. It happened a WEEK ago, and they wanted us to fill out the reports NOW?
*shaking my head*
I don’t like having folks show up, ininvited, here. That has been the most difficult part of the week. Police, detectives, insurance guys, nosy passer-bys, well-meaning neighbors and coworkers, church representatives… apparently, having a grain bin smashed into your building is the structural equivalent of being a very pregnant woman, at the store. Everyone wants to ask questions, offer advice, and gawk. At least no one is rubbing their hand on it, or asking if it is our “first.”

I was terribly annoyed by random “stop-inners”… even the detectives, who felt the right to just walk into our house (apparently, no electric means your house is no longer a private home).

Last night, to our delight, the electricity was finally restored! UNFORTUNATELY, the surge had burned out some of our fuses and outlets, and melted most of our wiring. We had two working sockets in each of the two bedrooms, an overhead light and two sockets in the living room, the hot water heater worked, but our kitchen and bathrooms had no electricity.

We put a fan, in each bedroom. We had an extension cord running from our bedroom, to power the refrigerator. I unplugged our fan, at night, and used the outlet to charge my big computer. My daughter used her spare outlet for a light, or to charge her school computer. The surge fried all three of our computer chargers. I bought a universal charger, and we shared it. It also fried our phone charger… we use the car’s cigarette lighter to charge it. If we needed to wash clothes, we had to unplug the refrigerator, and use the extension cord.

Chew got the little generator working, but we had already adapted to being without electric. Already, today, I had started a load of laundry in the tub… hung it out to dry… only to have him come home on his lunchbreak to remind me we CAN use the washer. I won’t lie… I’m truly grateful to have the luxury of a hot water heater… a refrigerator… and fans.

This morning, the electric company came back. It seems that they accidentally wired us directly to the pole, bypassing our meter. They said they have to shut us off, again. Once they saw how limited our usage ability is, though, they offered to wait to do this.
We may not have been in our comfort zone, fully, yet… but, by Golly, we had reached the perimeter!


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