Massive trees toppled by the roots blocked motorists' paths, smashed cars and wedged precariously over houses. Prolonged power outages and massive downpours made recovery that much worse. For us, that was 1998, when this picture was taken, and the recent double-whammy of storms seemed all too familiar when we woke up Saturday and tried to navigate through South Minneapolis, supremely grateful that this time it wasn't us dealing with cleanup, and feeling great empathy for residents walking the streets to take in the transformed landscape, bearing the dazed look we knew quite well.
As rain and tree branches lashed at the window, we heard a terrific crash, a massive boom and were plunged into darkness when the power went out. With a large tree draped over the power lines in the alley, it was no wonder. (That power outage lasted three days and we had a houseful of weekend guests at the time, so as a hostess, it was memorable.)
We could see the damage more clearly in the light of day. Thankfully, the neighbor's tree had toppled away from their home, just crunching one small corner of their garage roof before smashing through our back fence and blocking the alley. No one was hurt, the damage was comparatively not pricey to repair, and I could truthfully assure the neighbors that I'd never particularly liked that fence. Like many residents this weekend, we got to make friends with neighbors with chainsaws. Professionals eventually took care of the large trunk in the back yard, managing the astounding feat of removing the tree without hitting our porch or garage, and amazingly, sparing our lilac trees that the fallen tree was straddling.
The major cleanup was over in less than a week, as I recall, but as a gardener, it took a little longer to adjust and smooth out the crater created by the tree. We took down what was left of the old fence, and eventually built a new open fence with built-in trellises that let us see the back-yard alley garden from the porch. With the neighbor's tree gone, it opened up new prospects for sun-loving vegetables. But it took us a few years to finally relocate all the shade lovers that were now baked by the sun and plant more suitable replacements.
So 15 years later, I'd have to admit there were silver linings to that storm. It forced us to transform our back yard for the better, with a fence that lets in more light and air for the plants, and sunny place for us to put in raised beds and paths around them. It's not the way you want urban renewal to happen, and I mourn the cooling shade of the trees we've lost over the years, but part of gardening is continuing to adjust to each new opportunity, even when it comes in the form of a calamity.
We knew at the time that we were very lucky to have the tree fall where it did, and were reminded of that again yesterday. For all those out there struggling to clean up the mess and live without power, you have my profound sympathy, and I hope that at some point, your stories will have a silver lining, too.
What's the damage like in your gardens?