I ended my previous series on the D/FW snowstorm when the electricity came back on last Sunday. However, this past week was crazy enough that I'm going to do one final installment.
As I write this on Sunday, February 21, I have been without water for ten days. Some of this delay was caused by my insurance company dragging its feet, and some of it was caused by other issues like the impossible weather, the high number of claims in Dallas, the terrain of my neighborhood, and by that damn tree stump.
The plumber could not replace my water line until the two parts of the tree stump were removed. He estimated it would cost $850 for a backhoe and dump truck to haul the stump away.
Meanwhile, my insurance company (which shall be unnamed) insisted that this much damage could not possibly have come from snow--it had to be from wind. I'm sure it was just coincidence that my deductible for snow was only $500 while my deductible for wind was $2,750. My next door neighbor Linda suggested looking up the NOAA online reports of wind speed for 2/11/10. Wind speeds that day were only six MPH, demolishing the insurance company's claim that wind caused the tree to fall.
The insurance company's next response was to send out an arborist to look at the trees. I don't know if they were trying to claim that the trees were dead and that I failed to exercise appropriate caution or what. Anyway, the arborist agreed that the damage was due to excessive snow. Since his solution would be more ecologically sound, since the insurance company had delayed in the first place, and since my financial exposure was only $500, I agreed to have him grind up the tree stump and roots for $1,740 instead of the $850 I had previously arranged (Yes, I will admit I also enjoyed the idea of the insurance company paying almost $1,000 more).
Linda and Ken next door were my guardian angels this past week. They kept checking in on me, allowing me to shower at their house and bringing me fresh water each day. I don't know how many meals I've eaten in their warm and friendly home this week, but it was a lot. Linda was concerned that I wouldn't eat if she wasn't watching me.
While the arborist was at my house on Friday, February 19, he said he smelled gas. I called the gas company, and a repairman arrived around 4 PM on Friday. He tested and found an underground leak where the tree roots had slightly damaged the gas line. Friday night the gas company was out there until midnight replacing my gas line. In the process, the repairmen cut into the water main so we had a geyser that rose some thirty feet in the air in the street. The City had to come out to shut the water main down for repairs, increasing my popularity with my neighbors, I'm certain.
I had long since reached the end of my patience with the insurance company and announced I was going to a hotel for the night. Before I left at 11 PM, my gas had been reconnected, the pilot lights lit and Bob the Cat was safely inside.
While showering in the hotel, I noticed a red streak on my arm above the burn I'd sustained last week. I left the hotel at 11:30 PM and spent a very uncomfortable three hours in the ER waiting to get antibiotics. I didn't get back to bed at the hotel until 3 AM.
When I returned to the house Saturday morning at 7:30, the pilot lights were all extinguished. Apparently, the gas crew forgot to bleed out the air in the line so all my pilot lights blew out almost immediately after being lit.
Today, Sunday, the arborist and his crew showed up with a grinder and claw. The plan was that he would take the stump out and then the plumber would arrive at 8 AM tomorrow morning to install the new water line.
About 4 PM, the arborist came to Linda's front door to say that I needed to call Atmos Energy immediately because his grinder had cut through the NEW gas line. Leaving Ken to call the gas company, I went flying across the lawn into the house to look for Bob who was frantically scratching at the French doors trying to get away from the terrible gas odor. I slowed just long enough to scoop him up before rushing out of the house again.
Three gas company trucks responded in less than fifteen minutes. Note to self: If I ever hear a burglar at my windows, call the gas company to come and ask them to pick up the police on their way.
Once the gas was turned off, since both the water and gas lines were now cut, we made the decision to let the arborist grind up the ground before installing the new line. The gas repairman told me that the arborist's insurance will need to pay for the cut line and all the time spent waiting to lay the new line. He estimated the cost at more than twice what the job paid.
In the interim, since it was so cold outside Linda invited a new neighbor from down the hill to come up and join us for tea. I knew Kim was raising chickens and rabbits along with her four kids and was interested to learn that she'd already had to deal with foxes, possums and hawks wanting a meal at her expense. I asked if Bob had been down to visit. She laughed and said she suspected the roosters and dog would keep him off her property. I can only pray she's right.
It's now a little before 8 PM Sunday night. I once again have gas. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll have water, God willing and the creek don't rise (or the plumber doesn't cut the gas line, too, giving me a hat trick in seven days).
Oh, and did I mention? More snow is predicted on Tuesday.