The Continuing Chronicles of the FNG(irl): Monsoon Season

I was dreading drill night all day today....which is uncharacteristic for me, I'm usually so antsy to do something new or get that opportunity to learn that I end up spending my day at the office watching the clock...WILLING it to be 4:00 p.m. already.

Originally I was pretty excited about the planned drill, we were slated to go to Guilderland Center (our neighboring mutual aid department that has all the fun stuff....aerial ladder truck, Jaws, training tower etc.) to participate in a three-department confined space training. I was looking forward to this for two solid weeks.

Then the heat wave hit. Today's high temp was 97 degrees at 4:00 p.m.....high humidity, and just plain unpleasant. There were also tornado watches in place most of the day. My allergies had been killing me and the a/c in my apartment had died over the weekend (but was mercifully repaired early Monday, otherwise there might have been bloodshed), so I wasn't exactly in the mood to sweat off ten pounds of water weight bundled up in my bunker gear and wiggling my way through a 50 foot tunnel.

I got to the department, and the training was still "on", even though the muted grumbling from most of the members was becoming audible enough to classify as anarchy. We were en route to G.C. and we got the call that all training at the Tower was suspended due to the heat. Thank you lord....oh thank you....

Drill morphs into running the rigs and replacing all equipment to the apparatus bay (we had cleared everything out the week prior to get the floors redone), washing and waxing the rigs, and checking all the SCBA's (for newly mandated clamps).
No biggie....yeah, it was hot, but it was manageable. Drill ends at 8:30 and the general stampede to the bar has commenced, when a pretty violent storm blows through.

Then the tones drop.

Our first and second due head out and I end up on the brush truck with four other members. We find out that that there are wires down in three separate locations around the village, and we get assigned to the perimeter of the village redirecting traffic. Then we hear the second and third calls go out, and the entire department and all apparatus are called out.

The entire village is in blackout, and the first couple of hours were pretty hectic trying to determine which roads were open and where to send drivers. Things settled down a bit, which is when it started to dawn on me that I had been funneling traffic for three hours and had yet to see a National Grid truck.

Then we hear a rumble of thunder......and see a good-sized flash of lightning......the breeze picks up and intensifies. Then the monsoon moved in. I didn't know it was possible to drown standing upright during a rainstorm. I literally couldn't take a breath without inhaling water, and the lightning was striking all around us. Flares were a hot commodity (we were begging, borrowing and stealing from the various sheriffs, local po-po and state troopers that were coming through our intersection) and I had a steady river of water running down my back.

One of my guys yells something across the street at me and I didn't catch it the first I screech "Whaaaaaaat????" back at him.....and he screams back...."Well at least it can't rain any harder than this, right??"

Be careful what you wish for.

I don't think in all my years on the planet I've seen rain go from monsoon to Noah's Ark-worthy like this did. No sooner were the words out of his mouth then the wind picked up about another 10 mph and the monsoon was remembered fondly as a light shower.

Flash forward 20 minutes and the deluge ceased. When the rain stopped, so did the breeze. Then the steambath began in earnest....and mosquitos the size of B-12 bombers began circling. Meanwhile, the National Grid guys are arguing amongst themselves who should be cutting the trees, the time-and-a-half guys or the double-time guys (note to self, include bitchy rant in my next National Grid payment envelope).

Four and a half hours after the first call we were finally released (after National Grid worked out their little intra-agency spat and located the chainsaw that fell off the back of their truck that was finally found in the parking lot of Smitty's Pizza) power was restored, we got back to the station and peeled off layers of saturated bunker gear and stumbled out the door to head home....sweaty, tired, footsore, and dehydrated....

But I wouldn't change a thing.

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Comment by Jim on July 3, 2008 at 9:49pm
Reminds me of a story years ago, not so much rain, but the lighting sure got my attention. We had a large two story old farm house that was rolling. Everyone confirmed out and we went defensive pretty quick that night. The fire had been started by a lighting strike and the storm had not let up. I was setting on a coiled 2 1/2 and throwing water threw a second story window, on straight stream. When a huge ( did I say HUGE!!! ) bang occurred. That's when the lighting hit a tree beside the house and started another fire. No one can ever tell me lighting doesn't strike the same place twice! That's also when I heard myself say out load "why am I here".
Be safe out there. Jim
Comment by Will2745 on June 12, 2008 at 12:24pm
whenever i feel down i can read one of your blogs and cheer up in are toooo funny,,,and have a great gift for finding humor in the strangest situations..keep up the good work
Comment by Jim Seargent on June 11, 2008 at 1:53pm
Ah, the storms of upstate NY. I remember them well. I can especially remember a ride through your area that went particularly bad. I was heading into Albany on Rt.20, and just inside the town of Guilderland there is a "T" intersection that cuts off to the left, (coming in from Duanesburg). I don't know if anything there is the same any more, but there was an ice cream joint on the corner. The rain was soooo hard that goggles were useless and the pain of the rain in my eyes was better than not seeing at all. Of course back then I was waaaaayyyyyy too cool for a front fender, so that just compounded the problem with a 12 foot rooster tail off the Avon up front. I ducked into the ice cream joint parking lot and under the overhang to wait out the storm. Minutes turned to hours and then to slumber. When I woke up, (under the lights of the overhang) I was in the middle of dinner. The mosquito's dinner of course, and it was me! 170 pounds of me and another 100 pounds of bugs jumped onto my sled and rode like hell just to get them off of me. There is a little piece of water on the opposite side of the street a few miles back towards Duanesburg. Just after a traffic light. I think that is a sanctuary, mosquito breeding ground for the Capital District.
Comment by LadyChaplain on June 11, 2008 at 12:52pm
Just you wait 'til you get an October Surprise Storm... that will take the cake.
Comment by Kimberly A Bownas on June 11, 2008 at 8:23am
I feel for you girl. We got hit hard here too. The girls were in bed and then the thunder started, and then the power went out. For 45 minutes or maybe it was an hour. It got so hot in the house.. Ted and Chris didn't get home till 2:30 am. I remember sitting at tree and wires down with the rain just coming down in droves and like you said then when it all stops the heat wave begins again. Great post as always there girl..
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on June 11, 2008 at 8:06am
The rain didn't bother me too was the massive bolts of lightning that were touching down within spitting distance every couple of minutes. I thought I was overreacting until I looked over and saw one of our more hard-bitten "tough guys" jump a foot or two and eyeball the sky nervously when one of the strikes came in pretty close.
When the rain stopped you couldn't take your coat off because the mosquitos were swarming....
ahhhh yes, fun times.
(actually, except for the lightning and the screaming boredom after the first two hours, it WAS kind of fun...)
Comment by Dave, NB 9 on June 11, 2008 at 6:18am
I echo Seans comment.
Comment by Firegal77 on June 11, 2008 at 6:17am
Yep!! We had the same storm..however, it hit all around us much harder than we got..was a doozy though eh? LOL After my "double tornado" incident last summer, I added a cheap plastic rain poncho to my gear(keep it in my locker for such occasions) makes a huge different (even if the guys snicker) At least my coat doesn't get soaked!
Comment by Engineco913 on June 11, 2008 at 5:21am
HAHAHA!!! Been there done that. We had 2 national grid guys that were more concerned at taking pictures of a squirrel that kept catching fire on the wires than replacing the fuse that was burt out. Double time vs time and a half? How about you both shaddup and get it done so everyone else can go home. Well written Mel, as always I enjoy the reading pleasure.

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