Hard-Hearted Tropical Storm Hannah takes our Driveway Entrance

So here is the story, gather ’round as we tell the tell of Captain Walker. Um, I mean Jean and Ed. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome reference, don’t feel bad if you didn’t get it. That means you are not a big dork.)

Saturday morning, September 6 2008. Rainy rainy day. (ED: I was enjoying sleeping in on our new mattress and the rain on the dome roof was intoxicating. Plus, having worked the previous evening past 1am, I was exhausted. ) I wake up and paint the trim in the office because we are expecting delivery of the murphy bed today so we can have an actual guest bedroom instead of offering either the top bunk or the couch to our guests. Well, Fiona – since she’s the only one who visits us, but still.

Post breakfast Ed gets a call from a coworker who needs to set up a server rack and has forgotten a screwdriver. (ED: Fortunately Mark was just in Fairfax, so not a long haul) Ed tells him he’ll go out and take him a power drill. I tell Ed to take my car because we want to borrow a bookcase or two from his parents for the office, and he can pick them up on his way home. Ed drives out the driveway, and sees that the tunnel is already very flooded. He is astute enough to reason that though he might get out now, the water would be considerably higher later in the day and he might not be able to get back(ED: Seriously, Jean gives me way too much credit here. It was much more basic like “Thag see waves where road normally is, Thag not go there). So he heads to his parent’s house and picks up the bookcases.

When he comes back down his parents driveway he sees that the right hand side of ours has sunk down somewhat and he calls me to say that he doesn’t think he should drive over. Here is what he saw:

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He no sooner hangs up the phone with me and walks back to the driver’s side of the car when he hears a loud noise (ED: “Kersploosh”) and looks back to the driveway and sees this:

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He calls me back and tells me that half the culvert has washed away. I say “holy crap!” or something like that and hop in the car with the kids to come rescue Ed and check it out. We take some cute pictures. (Our neighbor, partly pictured, was nice and stopped to see if we were ok. He plays a major role soon, so don’t discount him.):

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Then Ed decides to jump over to the far side where I am standing to see what it looks like from there. Now here I have to stipulate, since I know I am prone to hyperbole, that I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. If you look at the picture above, imagine that Ed is standing right about where his hand is. He leaps from that part and I KID YOU NOT at that exact moment, as if it were CGI’d in a la Jurassic Park when the velociraptor almost gets the girl’s leg, the rest of the asphalt caved away beneath him and he barely made it across. (ED: I have to diverge from Jean’s description here somewhat; more like when Strider throws Frodo up the collapsing steps in the Mines of Moiria a la Fellowship of the Rings) This is what it looked like as soon as he leapt:

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Then we decide to go home, now that the excitement is over. We’ll figure out a way to get some boards across to walk over once the rain is done tomorrow, and thankfully my car which has all the car seats is safely on the right side of the collapse, so I can still take kids to school and whatnot. I tell our neighbor in the big white truck that we’re fine, thank him, and jump back over (umbrella in hand) to head home: (ED: You have to imagine serious slo-mo deep voice of Jean here, it’s great)

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We gather the kids to start having lunch when the moving company calls. They have our bed, but they can’t fit through the tunnel. (the water is not a problem for them, the truck is actually just too big.) I ask them to wait, jump in Ed’s car, drive to the collapse, jump across, and run through the tunnel. I ask them if they don’t mind waiting while I run over to my in-laws to borrow their truck, to put the bed pieces in so we can bring it through the tunnel and store at their house until the driveway is fixed. They tell me they’ll wait, no problem.

So I run, rainboots completely filled up with water from the tunnel, pant pant, up to the front door at Ed’s parent’s. knock knock, “May I borrow the truck to get the bed?” “Sure! Here are the keys.” “Thanks” run (pant pant) to the truck put the key in, wait for the engine to warm up because it’s a diesel (jeopardy tune), turn over the engine, vRRRRRROOOOM tear down their driveway and plow SHHHHSHSHSHHSPSHSH through the tunnel to the other side. Then the guys unloading the bed have only these sheets of plastic to try and keep them dry and they’re putting them on. Then they ask me to turn around so that the bed of the truck is facing the back of their truck. Now. for starters, I want to say that, yes, what I did was monumentally stupid. I acknowledge this. However, it wasn’t without precedent so please don’t judge me too harshly. Rather than be smart about it and ask them to drive their truck up the road (it takes up the entire one-lane of the road) so that I could follow and then turn around in someone’s driveway, I attempt a k-turn right there in front of the tunnel.

But wait, there’s more! As I roared out of the Dyer’s driveway, I noticed that there was a Uhaul, a white pickup, and SUV and my neighbor’s large F-250 truck all lined up before the bridge. The bridge was flooded over, so I was pretty sure they weren’t coming through. However, as I attempt my monumentally stupid k-turn in a large pickup truck, in flooding water where I can’t see that the sides of the road are washed away, the rear wheels fall off the road. I try to engage the 4×4 and then try to drive out again. The two mover guys decide to “help” me by jumping in the bed of the truck and then jumping up and down to attempt, I guess, to “rock the truck” out of the rut. However, at the exact moment they did that and I tried to drive forward, the was a very loud, very horrible sounding <<CRACK>> and the truck would not go. It still ran, but it would not engage, not in any gear. I thought maybe I broke the axle, or perhaps just dropped out the entire transmission. Whatever the case, there I am in a giant white pickup truck literally perpendicular to the road, blocking the whole thing. And what should happen at that exact moment but that the caravan above-mentioned decides to go for broke and comes roaring over the flooded bridge and through the tunnel (they can’t see us) and then suddenly ERCK! stops short piled up inside the flooded tunnel. People get out, wade through the tunnel to find out what’s going on and why I’m blocking the road. After calling Ed and asking him to request a tow, the 10 or so guys and I are trying to figure out what to do because in the half hour since we have all arrived, the rain is still coming down and the tunnel is getting more and more flooded. At least 3 of the guys have popped in the truck trying to get it to move or engage, to no avail.

Finally, my neighbor has everyone back out and he comes through, wraps a chain to Ed’s parent’s truck, and tows me through the tunnel because we clearly cannot wait long enough for a tow truck. They have dogs in the SUV and the tunnel is flooding and we can’t have people still stranded. The bed guys leave, with a promise to come back and deliver some other day,and the caravan makes it through the tunnel.

I apologize profusely to Ed’s parents about breaking their truck, promise them our insurance will cover it, when Ed’s dad gets in, engages the 4×4, and the truck drives fine. Unbelievable. Well, at least I didn’t destroy as I’d thought. We cancel the tow, and our neighbor comes back through the tunnel. Turns out his daughter was moving and that’s what the whole caravan was about. He wants to drive back through the flood over the bridge to get back home. It is a raging river rapid that looks about 5 feet deep. I tell him that that would be very dangerous and to please not try it. He keeps thinking he’s got to go because his wife has an injured hand and needs him, and I keep begging him not to drive through it, offering him coffee and cookies and asking him to wait the flood through at our house. He decides to test the waters and before he’s even to the electric pole, way before the bridge, the water is raging above his wheels, about 3 feet high. In that time watching him, I thought he was going to go for it and I had no phone on me to dial 911 and I honestly thought he was going to go out in to the water and get washed away and I would see my neighbor die before my very eyes. It was just about the most stressful/scary thing I’ve ever experienced. Then I saw the little white reverse lights come on and a wave of complete and total relief washed over me as he came back this way. Since he lives at the end of the road, he was going to drive out the other direction and then hike through the woods from the other side to get home. I was so thankful for all his help, and so thankful he didn’t drive through that. Here is a picture of the road and bridge:

The water was much higher on our driveway than before, but I was still able to jump it and get home. The water was so high, however, that it had filled the field on the other side and flooded through the backwash tunnels from the railroad under our driveway and filled in our floodplain on the other side as well. Here’s how high the water was compared to our driveway:

So that was our grand adventure with Hurricane Hannah. Life is never dull here at Hearthwood! Next saga: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a home equity line taken to the extreme to repair a driveway!