Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Humming

Yesterday Hurricane Sandy blew through the area. Really, it blew through much of the Mid-Atlantic - it was that big, it covered most of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Connecticut simultaneously - but locally it amounted to a lot of very powerful, sustained wind.

Work let out at 5:00 yesterday - waiting later might have risked having someone get killed by a falling tree on their way home - and I went straight to my house to try to secure the porch furniture. Last year, during Irene, the Adirondack rocker skated across the porch and jammed up against the railing, so I wanted to make sure the rocker and my rocker bench stayed put. (In the end I had to content myself with flipping them over and wedging them against the railing preemptively. It worked.) Upon arriving at my house, I opened my car door, held onto it by the upper door frame as I prepared to exit, and nearly had it torn out of my hand and twisted off its hinges by a powerful wind. I realized that the wind was going to be a problem.

We survived, at least locally. Hundreds of thousands of people nearby are without power due to downed trees taking out electrical lines. An eight year old boy was killed not far from here by a falling tree branch while trying to make sure the family pets were safe. Another person died of carbon monoxide poisoning while using a gas-powered generator inside his garage.

But my hometown is OK. I didn't see much damage on my drives today. Maybe we got away relatively unscathed.

Which is not to say that Northeastern Pennsylvania got through unscathed. This is a map of electrical outages for customers of PPL as of 11:11 last night. Each green dot represents 1-50 customers, each yellow dot represents 51-500, and each red dot is 500+. Nanticoke is on the edge of PPL coverage, so there may be local outages not shown on this map.

Late Monday night, just before flickering lights made me realize I should shut down the computer, I heard a noise I've never heard before. It was a humming sound, like the sound a propeller-driven airplane makes when it flies slowly past. I wondered if perhaps some utility vehicle was idling just outside my house. After some thought I decided that I must be hearing the wind in the trees - specifically, the wind along the river blowing through the few remaining leaves clinging to the trees that line the riverbanks. The sound, I realized, was a lot like the sound you get when you blow through a piece of tissue paper draped over a comb, probably for the same reason. Friends on the other side of the river confirmed that they were hearing it too.

I've never heard a sound like that. I've read about certain hums and sounds that used to be audible when the world was a quieter place - including the almost-subsonic hum created when wind blows over mountains. I've always wondered what it would be like to hear such a sound. Now I have heard something related, and perhaps even rarer - the humming sound of wind blowing through mostly-denuded trees during a late-October hurricane in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

1 comment:

Don Williams said...


That is awesome...wish I could have heard that firsthand.