Monday, September 05, 2011

Drought + wind = power outages (and fires!)

Well, it turns out that the "dry" side of Tropical Storm Lee, which passed through Louisiana last weekend, did last Saturday night what the "dry" side of massive, panic-inducing Hurricane Rita couldn't do back in 2005: cause my power to go out.

The prolonged drought that has plagued the Houston area (and most of Texas, for that matter) has killed or at the very least weakened the local tree canopy such that Lee's wind gusts caused massive tree limbs to snap and fall all around my neighborhood. A couple of limbs landed in the streets, impeding vehicular access until they were cut with chainsaws and removed. And, right down the street from me, a limb fell on the power line that serves my house.

Not only did the limb take down the line, leaving my entire block without power, and snap a utility pole, requiring its replacement and therefore causing a lengthy delay in power being restored, but it also caused a transformer to blow, which in turn caused a small fire in a garage apartment three houses down from me. Needless to say, the presence of several fire trucks on my street late Saturday night was as dramatic as it was disconcerting.

The fire was quickly extinguished, but power wasn't restored until the following evening, which was rather annoying. Kirby and I sought refuge Saturday night at his mother's house two blocks away, and, being unable to start the generator that served us so well during Hurricane Ike a few years ago but which hasn't seen action since, Sunday afternoon Kirby and I went down to Sugar Land to stay with my girlfriend Michelle. (Yes, I have a girlfriend now. More about her in a future post.)

I've joked in the past about a tropical storm or hurricane being what it would take to break the devastating drought here in the Houston area. However, considering the weakened condition of the city's trees, maybe it's better that we not get our much-needed rain in that manner. These trees are so parched and fragile that a direct hit from even a minor hurricane would certainly cause much more tree-related havoc in the form of power outages, road blockages and structural damage than what occurred during Ike.

At least the rainbands from Lee that did reach Houston brought a little bit of precipitation Saturday evening. Not much, obviously, but until this drought finally lifts every little bit helps.

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