Given the urgent superstorm needs of our compatriots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I’d say the proper post-Sandy role for Arlingtonians should be: Send money to the Red Cross, count your blessings and evaluate the state of your tall trees.
Though Arlington escaped the brunt of the hurricane, my neighbors’ house was among the 22 in the county to be clobbered by a falling thick tree. Sixty-plus-mile-an-hour wind gusts combined with marshy root networks to wrench from the soil a massive aging oak tree from another neighbor’s yard and drop it on their roof and side porch. The late-night invader punctured shingles, bent gutters, cracked patio railings and shattered a brick chimney.
Anticipating potential impact from the well-predicted storm on our foresty street, this couple was smart enough to bring their infant son downstairs and sleep in the basement. (My wife had made the same suggestion, pointing to the trees that tower over our house, but a certain unnamed columnist ignored her.)
So, on that Tuesday when the federal government and Metro were closed, the whole gang from our cul de sac came out to watch as a handily designed 60-foot crane promptly positioned itself on my driveway.
A skilled crew labored five hours in the drizzle on my next-door neighbor’s property to remove, chop up and haul away five tons from the lethal natural missiles. The professionals from JL Tree Service were most impressive in their ability to climb over splayed branches on the tilted rooftop while operating a gas chainsaw one-handed. They ended by spreading and anchoring enormous blue tarps to leak-proof the pried-open colonial home.
The thousands of dollars in damages are now in the hands of the insurance company and contractors. But a group of us neighbors are teaming up to heed nature’s message and invest in some safety treatments to the remaining, still-beautiful trees.
Beyond my block in the days after the storm, the county reported 2,077 homes without power, 20 unfunctioning traffic signals and 18 blocked streets. One private home ended up destroyed, 17 suffered major damage, and 27 suffered minor damage.
The 911 call center received double the usual calls that week. County crews removed more than 80 tons of brush and debris. The free Arlington Alert electronic system grew by 2,000, to 50,000 subscribers.
Also noted was the Animal Welfare League’s receipt of reports of two sightings of beavers, whose shelters were upended by the storm.
Storm-related costs are estimated at $1.17 million, well over the minimum needed to request federal disaster aid. “Unfortunately, we’ve gotten quite good at doing this,” County Board Chairman Mary Hynes said on Nov. 1, referring to past responses to rough weather and emergencies. “Everyone knows their jobs.”
Which, of course, included making sure voting machines and early-voting lines were not disrupted.
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Mindful as I am of reader fatigue with all things Obama vs. Romney, I’ll insert here one modest recommendation. Save those campaign buttons!
Earlier this year, my old friend Glen Schneider sent me a bag of rusting political pins left over from the 1960s. They feature national candidate names like Lyndon Johnson, Nixon plus Agnew, Gene McCarthy and George Wallace, along with Arlington icons like Joel Broyhill, Clive DuVal, Leo Urbanske, Ken Haggerty and Joe Wholey.
They bring back memories of youthful engagement and idealism!
Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at [email protected]