Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers.” You will always find people who are helping.” ~ Fred Rogers


The four tornados and “Macroburst” that hit this part of Connecticut were truly terrible storms we won’t soon forget. I was born and raised here in New Milford, and in all of my 50 years, I have never witnessed the extreme weather and wreckage that occurred just a few short weeks ago. And I’m not alone. My 85-year-old neighbor relayed a similar sentiment.

My grandmother often said, “it takes a hundred years to grow a 100-year-old tree,” to which I would roll my eyes and snicker, because I thought it was just a silly expression that seemed so obvious. I never understood the poignancy of what she was saying, or what she really meant until now.

May 15, 2018 seemed like a normal day, but Meteorologists were forecasting a “storm” of sorts, something that would move across Connecticut quickly. They predicted “severe” weather, and yes, they put a tornado “watch” into effect. A tornado watch is fairly commonplace around here, but it is not very often that we experience an actual tornado that touches down. I have a weather app on my phone that I was following and it appeared that most of the storms coming through would hit northern parts of Connecticut and lower Massachusetts, curving up and away from our location. More than likely, it would just be a “bad” storm – lots of rain and wind, but nothing to be too concerned about.

At 4:30 pm, with my work day winding down, it was suddenly pitch-black outside. From the window of my office here at YardApes, I saw what appeared to be a nighttime sky. It was unusually dark, even for the anticipated weather, and I remember thinking to myself that it just didn’t look right. Ominous is the only word that comes to mind. By 4:45, a pelting rain began pouring down like machine gun fire from above. The wind howled, rattling our windows, and I watched with wide eyes as the trees swayed back and forth outside. At 4:48 I received a flashing red alarm on my cell phone urgently commanding me to TAKE COVER NOW!

That was a first.

So, with sirens going off in the distance, and the storm rolling through, I sat in the basement for a good 10 minutes, counting my blessings and texting my husband, who I knew was on the road headed toward Brookfield. I implored him to “please just turn around,” to which he replied, “two huge trees just came down right in front of me and I’m lucky to be alive, so yeah, I think I will.”

And then it was over.

What hit our neck of the woods was ultimately deemed a “Macroburst” (we all learned a new word, didn’t we?) which is an extreme weather pattern that packs a wallop, and causes more damage, in some cases, than a tornado. With winds up to 110 mph, this Macroburst (3 miles wide, 9 miles long!) pummeled Brookfield, and sideswiped New Milford. Surrounding towns such as New Fairfield, Danbury, Newtown, and the Southbury/Oxford areas (in addition to other parts of Connecticut) were also hit very hard, which is an understatement, to say the least.

Macroburst (Downburst) illustration, Wikipedia

Some of our YardApes out in the field were left stranded in neighborhoods and on client’s properties for hours, unable to drive out past the downed trees, telephone poles, and electrical wires strewn across yards and roadways. Some, on their way home from a long day of work, had to take shelter beneath highway overpasses, because they had no other choice but to stop and wait for the powerful storm to move through. Since the work we perform is done outdoors, we were quite fortunate that none of our YardApes team members were injured during this extraordinary weather event.

New Milford home (YardApes Photo)

The aftermath of damage and debris that these quick and violent storms left in their wake can only be described as “war zones.” Some said the wind alone sounded like a freight train roaring through, as solid, strong, 100-year-old trees (in some cases) cracked and snapped like kindling falling in every direction, crushing everything in sight.

New Milford home (YardApes Photo)

Home on Candlewood Lake, New Milford (YardApes Photo)

New Milford home, (WFSB photo)

Brookfield home, (Fox 61 photo)

Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden (WFSB photo)

Brookfield, (WFSB Photo)

Danbury, (NewsTimes photo)

The decimated trees are what I’ll remember most about that dreadful day, and it breaks my heart. Aside from the homes and businesses, (things we can re-build in a matter of months), everywhere I looked I saw destroyed trees. All those beautiful, thriving, robust, living trees were uprooted, sheared, splintered, smashed, and cracked in half in less than 10 minutes. All those glorious trees that take years upon years to grow, were simply gone in a blink.

Here at YardApes, we are compelled to continue to be of service to our community and our clients, and we are doing our best to help with the clean-up efforts. We are, after all, part of the network of “helpers” clearing damage and restoring properties to alleviate the stress, the mess, the turmoil, and the absolute punch in the gut that this storm unleashed upon our region.

When we surveyed the complete devastation of Brookfield, and so many of the surrounding towns that we service, we were horrified but reminded too that humanity, at its core, is helpful and giving. Despite the strain on our communities and the difficulties that many of our clients currently face, we’ve seen the absolute best coming out in people, friends, neighbors, and even strangers willing to lend their hands and resources to help.

All is not lost when people come together. As we lean on one another to restore western Connecticut, and watch the rebirth of all the blessed living things that will grow again out of the remaining rubble and roots, we will surely come to realize that as long as we continue to help one another, we indeed have everything we need.

Look for the Helpers. At YardApes, we are always here to help. We drive the tan trucks with the dark green lettering, we’ve been in business for almost 30 years, and we live here too.

-Kim Valzania

We believe everyone everywhere benefits from a connection with nature.

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