The plan for the 4th of July this year was to head on up to the lake, suffer through 1 really hot day and relax for a couple days. It didn’t work out that way.
On Friday, July 1st, we arrived and unpacked like we normally would. There was some weather on the way, but no indications that it was anything worse than we’d already seen. It was hot and muggy, so everyone was in the garage enjoying the A/C while I got to be in the hotter-than-blazes kitchen doing prep work for dinner. Once I finished chopping, I thought I’d take a break and sit out by the fire ring to see if I could get a bit more comfortable. As I was sitting there, I noticed a large, bow shaped cloud coming across the lake, moving NE at pretty good clip. I thought the people in the garage would like to see it, so I briskly walked up to let them know. They came out immediately, which coincided with the wind coming up out of nowhere and trees starting to break. No warning, no storm build up – just calm to trees snapping.
At that point it was pretty clear that we needed to get to the someplace safer in a hurry – like now. So, all 9 of us ran flat out. I had to stop along the way to pick up Peter, who had tripped, and to get Zoey pointed in the right direction, trees falling behind us the whole way. When I got close to the door Annie (holding Thomas) was on my left, some people ahead of us and some behind. As she rounded the corner she was accosted by a tree or large branch, which threw her to the ground. She landed on her back and Thomas skidded away. I went for Thomas first and handed him off (he was unscathed), then helped Annie inside, not 20 feet away. Total time from trees breaking: <30 seconds. She had lost her glasses and suffered some pretty gnarly “tree rash” on he left shoulder, but had no external bleeding or obvious signs or broken bones or dislocations. She started to exhibit signs of shock (shaking, nausea, light headed), so we got her down and covered with a blanket. I thought she may have had a fractured collar based on where she was feeling pain, so it was clear we would be going to the hospital, but it wasn’t clear what the actual diagnosis would be.
The wind and rain stopped after a few minutes, and the storm broke just like it came. First order of business was to assess the damage – someone else took care of that, I went looking for Annie’s glasses. I found them under a pile of debris after a few minutes of searching (score!), hoping that it would help with her state of mind. The reports started coming back that there was a significant amount of damage and a significant number of trees down – the only way to move around was by using the shoreline. The driveways were impassable and we figured the road would be impassable. Our vehicles were useless. I went north along the shore to see if anyone else was injured (and how bad) and to see what kind of resources we had access to. No one hurt to the north, the roads were in worse condition and one of the guys had a working cell phone (yay!). I turned and headed south while Drew took our boat out to see if anything around the landing was open – it was clear this was going to be our best play for getting out.
In the meantime, Annie had not improved, the boat had stalled, and I hadn’t found anything useful to the south. I think it was around this point that someone called an ambulance for Annie – that timeline is a bit fuzzy for me. We also tried to call anyone else to see if they could get to the landing from the south roads. Drew, having been stranded out around the bend, found shore and walked to the landing to meet anyone passing by. He ended up meeting Pede and Jay out there and they were prepared to bring us to the hospital. Mark and I helped Annie get down to the water and we took the neighbor’s boat out to the landing. She was still shivering and she was starting to ask how she’d been hurt (uh oh). We arrived just as the ambulance was getting to the landing, so we loaded her up and pointed south. At that point, the ambulance driver wanted to know if I knew the way out (!!!). There were lots of trees across the road, but we eventually got out to highway 35 and it was smooth sailing to Spooner. Fun fact: 20% of drivers don’t pull over for an ambulance with sirens and horn blaring. Assholes.
We arrived at the Spooner hospital at about 10p, 3 hours after the storm rolled through. At this point, Annie had about 20 seconds of short term memory, which meant that I spent the next 3 hours telling her why her shoulder hurt on a 20 second loop. It wasn’t as funny as the scene in ’50 First Dates’. The folks in Spooner did some scans and found no broken bones and no spine damage (2 CTs and an x-ray), but they were not equipped to deal with head trauma, so at 2a they loaded us up for a trip down to Regions in St. Paul.
Some time on the trip down Annie started remembering things. I was still soaked to the bone from rain and running in the lake and all I had on me was my cell phone, keys to the van, and a small ziplock bag to keep them dry. No wallet, no money, no nothing. And I smelled like I’d been running in the lake and rolling in pine needles and dirt. One of the EMTs gave me a package that they save for pediatric transports. She made sure to point out that it had a clean shirt, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste – twice.
We arrived at Regions around 4a; a time when everyone in the emergency room has a police officer waiting by their door, except us. The next couple of hours were pretty boring. We had a steady stream of doctors and NPs come and visit. Some labs were done. Nothing special. Annie’s short term memory was about 10 minutes at this point and we were both getting kind of dopey from being awake for going on 24 hours. There wasn’t a whole lot that they could do at that point besides observation, so we were moved to a room with a view at about 9a.
Annie was in a bit of pain, so she was given some fun pain killers and allowed to sleep. I gave the NP Annie’s history and then called Bethy to give me a ride home. I needed a shower and a nap in a bad way. She got me a ride back at 2p and we met up with Annie’s parents. All of us spent the evening watching Annie sleep. At about 10p we all left. Over night, Annie got a few more CTs. Sunday morning we got back up there to find Annie in good spirits. She was awake, alert and had just passed some testing, so she was able to get up and move about by herself. This, of course, meant that she was able to finally take a shower and clean off the random pine pitch, mud and leaves she’d accumulated in her fall. Scooter brought the boys home that morning(they helped clean up at the lake), so Annie’s parents brought them out to visit. We stayed around a bit longer so they could do another x-ray for her shoulder and an MRI for her head. She was cleared to leave Sunday afternoon.
We spent Monday laying low and resting. And telling everyone the story. Annie is doing better now, but she’s a bit bruised up. She’ll probably never remember anything about injuries or all of the people that were there to help us along the way.
To everyone that helped and visited, I know there are a lot of ‘I’s in the above narrative, but it was far from a one man show. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
P.S. – The word on the street is that we were on the receiving end of straight line winds, clocked in excess of 100mph.
P.P.S. – Scooter has posted a photo album of some of the damage.