A tree falls in Albany

Estimated Time of Restoration – Assessing

tree falls
this was actually in Oregon
As I’ve noted, my family had this great week in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts in mid-August, most of which I’ve noted. My daughter went to a Six Flags amusement park with her three cousins and an uncle when my wife and I saw a play.

We get home around 2 p.m. on a Friday and start putting things away, including a lot of leftover perishable food squeezed into the refrigerator.

There was a thunderstorm warning for Albany County from 4:45 to 5:45 pm, and some rain did fall, but it didn’t seem so bad. So my wife drove out to the bank. A few moments later, a deluge worthy of Louis XIV fell.

It was raining the extreme rain when the umbrella and slicker are useless. Then it rained even harder so that a couple young women walking by started screaming. I ran out to see if they were being assaulted, and they were, by the skies.

The house lights flickered three or four times, then stayed on for about 10 seconds, before going out altogether. This was roughly at 6 p.m.

Interestingly, there was a notice on my phone from our power company, National Grid. “6:15 pm We detected power outages near [address]. There are currently 229 other customers also associated with this outage. We are investigating and will provide updates around progress when we get more information.” That was 229 in OUR section of the grid; there were plenty of other outages, I later learned.

“Outage Status – New Outage; Estimated Time of Restoration – Assessing.” Now I didn’t actually SEE this information until the next day, because my phone, which had died, which it does regularly. Even my daughter, who is much more diligent about these things, had no phone eventually.

My wife finally got home – she waited out the storm, wisely, and reported a tree down on Lancaster Street, a couple blocks away, and insisted that I see it. It was impressive. A large branch on a tree between two houses, almost certainly struck by lightning, toppled across the street, taking a power line with it, but barely missing someone’s car.

We got out the flashlights and the candles. My wife got pizza from the place a couple blocks away, which had power. But it was so quiet in the house I walked to the local CVS and bought batteries so we could at least listen to the radio.

I carried a flashlight because my block was dark except for the school, which must have an emergency generator. Suddenly, I started craving the same until my wife told me the process would cost us thousands, which somewhat dampened my enthusiasm.

We played UNO by candlelight. I think not having electricity actually got my daughter to go to sleep earlier than usual. But I couldn’t sleep because it was Too Darn Hot.

In the morning, I went onto the front porch to read the newspaper. Then at 9:03 a.m., I heard our air conditioner kick on. Others in the neighborhood got power overnight. National Grid said the neighborhood power was back at 12:41 p.m.

Subsequent to that, we had a couple more periods of large amounts of rain falling in a very short period of time, with the attendant flash flooding. My wife told my daughter to put away the candles, but the teen was understandably resistant.

What an interesting homecoming. Note: I said “A tree fell in Albany,” but there were quite a few, I believe.

Perpendicular yellow lines to dig safely

What do YOU call the strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb?

Dig safely New YorkOne evening late last month, my wife and I noticed lights from a utility truck. Soon, two guys in uniform are on our lawn.

The next morning I noticed they had sprayed perpendicular yellow lines from the middle of our lawn to the sidewalk, then in the grassy berm. They’ve placed little yellow flags indicating where our utility company, National Grid, had determined there are gas lines.

(Sidebar: what do YOU call the strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb?)

What are they doing? I email the utility because you really can’t find anyone to talk to unless you smell gas or the power’s out or they’re cutting off service.

The next day I receive this message: “We were notified by Dig Safe to mark where our service is. Please call – NY – Call 811 or 1-800-962-7962 (Dig Safely NY) to see why the lines needed to be marked.”

Curiosity got me, so I made the call. The woman to whom I spoke did say that someone had requested the action but was reticent about saying who. Finally, she looked up our address to tell us it was the city of Albany. “They’re checking to see if they can use a wood chipper there.”

Interesting. There’s no tree on our property line, but the ROOTS of the tree just to the north DOES have obvious roots in front of our house. And the tree DOES have branches that can get tangled in the overhead wires.

Moreover, the berm on the adjacent property is also marked off. It would be a real shame to lose that large oak, which provides shade on our house. It would, as my wife put it, “change the climate.”

But she suggested another scenario. Maybe the city of Albany is going to fix our sidewalk, again. Back in 2012, they paved the sidewalk of five residences, the last of which is ours.

Ever since, it has drained poorly only in front of our house. When it rains, our sidewalk is a lake. When it’s cold, the lake turns into an ice pond. Vigilant snow removal, followed by melting and refreezing, turns the walkway into an ice rink.

My wife has bugged the city officials at least every other year, with at least one city official acknowledging that our sidewalk was constructed in a way that it’s the lowest point on the block. It was done by a contractor the city doesn’t use anymore, but there were other priorities before our redo.

Could the periodic lake in front of our house disappear forever? It would be a happy day! The tree scenario is far more likely. Hey, maybe they’re doing both.

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