Sunday, August 28, 2011

Not Deja Vu All Over Again....Luckily.

In the aftermath of Irene, thoughts turn to an earlier storm. In June of 1972, Hurricane Agnes wreaked havoc throughout large portions of the northeast, including little old West Corners. Dad and the rest of the department worked for well over twenty four hours straight during and following the storm rescuing trapped people, pumping flooded cellars, and various other incidents.

The department had what looked like a pretty decent-sized boat; at least it looked decent before Agnes came. It was a V-hull with three rows of seats and an outboard motor. There was only one pond of any size in town and, on a normal day, the boat wouldn’t even float in Nanticoke Creek, which flowed through town. The boat was plenty big to serve the community.

When Agnes arrived, Nanticoke Creek didn’t stay small for long. It raged over its banks and flooded a big swath of the surrounding area, including a nearby trailer park, trapping a number of folks who had ignored evacuation orders.

Dad and the crew got the boat ready to launch. There was no problem floating it now; plenty of water was available. Not a strong swimmer, he was nervous, but he had a job to do. They got the boat in the water and started upstream. That’s when the trouble began. The boat and its motor were no match for the now rampaging creek. At full throttle, the boat would do little more than stand still. The boat would go cross stream, if angled properly to handle the current, so they adjusted.

There were no swift water rescue teams or Gumby suits then. Thick hemp ropes, hip boots, and waders were the primary tools to get these people out. Going cross current, they walked in to the stranded folks by holding onto the side of the boat operating cross current. Not a textbook maneuver, but it worked. Nobody died, but there were a whole lot of very tired firemen after that.

The boat? Well, shortly after the floods were over, a “For Sale” sign went up on it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Shaker Makes New Memories

It’s not often the east coast experiences an earthquake, 1897 by some accounts being the last one in the Virginia environs. The DC metro area including sections of Maryland and Virginia are used to major incidents, other than snow, an inch of which cripples the entire area. I waited an hour and a half before trying Mike to see how things were first hand. A fast busy was followed by a connected call, which surprised him as he couldn’t make calls at all, so busy were the circuits.

“Did you feel it?” I opened.

“Oh yeah, you could say that. I was riding the squad and we were on New Hampshire Avenue on an 8 inch high pressure gas main leak. “Montgomery County Squad 15 is a heavy rescue with a 32 ft. walk-in box, not a small rig.

“I was putting my airpack back in the bracket when the squad starting shaking. I thought somebody was screwing around in the back until I stood back and could see the whole thing moving.”

The officer was Fitz, a captain. “He came around the rig and yelled for everyone to get dressed again.” If the gas main ruptured, it could get interesting real fast.

Luckily it stayed quiet after that, Mike told me. I’m sure 5.8 is nothing to get excited about on the west coast, but it’s different back east. This will not rise to the level of where were you when Kennedy was shot or on 9/11, but a lot of people will remember it for a long time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Damn Those Were Good Cookies....

Sometimes the taste of the simplest foods brings memories shooting into my mind. In this case, it was nothing more than a slightly stale chocolate chip cookie.

The screams cut through us like a well honed knife, over and over. Peter and I were waiting for the Rescue and could do nothing but listen. It was early Sunday morning, and where the call placed the accident, I figured a car had gone into the ditch. I almost didn’t go, as it sounded like it would be a minor routine deal, and I had a bunch of plans that morning.

The young lady had definitely gone into the ditch. The car had then rolled and with her not wearing her seat belt, she had been partially ejected. Unfortunately, she had gone through the windshield and was now pinned by the car which was on its roof.

We were able to barely get to her to try to calm her a bit until the rescue got on scene, but that was all. It didn’t stop the screams. When the rescue arrived, we had the crew pull every stitch of cribbing off. The air bags were set up and we started to lift. Greenfield arrived and began to add their cribbing to the pile. We had to build multiple Lincoln Log towers with the 4 x 4 lumber, then lift again and build higher. The pile was decreasing a lot faster than it was increasing. It was taking a lumber yard to get this car up.

Slowly we began to get access. The mud and the proximity of the ditch were complicating factors, greatly adding to the amount of wood we had to use to maintain the stability of the vehicle.

With only a few precious pieces remaining, the car was finally high enough that we could slide her out, and onto a backboard. Her injuries were not severe but it took a while before we could get close enough to verify that. She was a lucky kid.

A couple of weeks later, a thank you note and a tin of home baked cookies arrived at the fire house from her. She was a pretty young girl, going to school and working part time. That she’d taken the time to bake those cookies to say thank you meant a lot to me and others. By the time I got one, they’d been there for a few days and were starting to get stale. Didn’t matter; damn those were good cookies.