Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dad's Rooftop Adventure

Darcy has a phobia. She is thunder-phobic. She has doggie brontophobia. It developed last spring, when we all went to bed with our respective bedroom doors closed, but without Darcy inside one of the rooms. During that evening, there was a horrible storm, and the massive amounts of thunder and lightning terrified her so completely, she cannot forget the trauma.

Lately, her anxiety has been escalating. She is now also afraid of rain. Ombrophobia.

Yes. Darcy has a doggie anxiety disorder. I know this because she has puppy panic attacks, during which she shakes violently, pants, goes to dark enclosed spaces to feel safe, and sometimes throws up.

All Darcy's fears were realized on Tuesday night. She'd been panicking for a while before the power went out. Seconds after the house was consumed by darkness, the wind picked up.

Standing in my room, I heard something slam into the house and I knew, deep inside, that a tornado was currently rending the house into tiny pieces, including the gorgeous new kitchen floor and probably most of my family.

When no more horror followed, I got back up and made my way to the basement, where death was slightly less likely. We got Darcy downstairs, her poor doggie panic attack in full swing, and Dad recovered from his rude awakening and followed.

After a few minutes, we could tell the worst was over, so we creeped back upstairs (excluding Darcy, who was hiding in the cupboard under the stairs--yes, we have a cupboard under the basement stairs just like Harry Potter lived in back in the Dursleys' house). I mostly just stood there, because I had dropped my flashlight when the giant noise came. Mom was using a flashlight to peer out the picture window intently.

Because there was a tree on our roof.

Well, on and a little bit in.

The giant oak tree outside our window had split apart; part of it was left standing, the other part had landed on our roof like that plane fuselage from Donnie Darko. Except Donnie wasn't killed this time, mostly because we don't have a second floor and Donnie doesn't and has never lived with us, because he's a fictional character. Actually, no one was killed. And the tree wasn't in our living room or anything. It stayed outside, we thought, but we couldn't be sure.

So before the lightning had ended, Dad went outside, got the METAL ladder out, propped it against the side of the house, and climbed up onto the roof with a flashlight to see how bad the damage was.

Luckily, he didn't so much need a flashlight, because the lightning was bright enough to allow him to see. Also, it was constant, so nature provided plenty of light to work by. Never mind the danger of being struck by lightning, or anything. Apparently, Dad believes he is immune to the effects of lightning.

Now, the last time Dad went up on the roof, this happened, so Mom wasn't so happy. With each branch that Dad hurled off the roof, Mom gasped, thinking that the falling branch was her husband, struck dead by lightning. Or just falling off the roof, which is pretty much his hobby.

Paul, convinced that with each passing moment, the likelihood of one of our parents' deaths increased, went outside and climbed up on the roof too, then quickly came back down to announce that we needed tarps and the staple gun, so that we could cover the hole in the roof. Dad reported that the hole was about the size of his thigh (not so big), but that it would cause damage if we didn't cover it. Also, he said, he needed his chainsaw.

Mom and I were willing to go to Walmart to get tarps. None of us were willing to get the chainsaw. Still, Dad was convinced. His mood always becomes...unpleasant when something like this happens. But he kept calling for the chainsaw, until finally he went down to get it.

At that point, I tweeted the following:

Soon, limbs will be flying off the side of the roof. But will they be tree limbs, or human limbs? #ChainsawsintheDark
And then, instead of waiting for more things to go horribly wrong, I went to sleep.

In the morning, we discovered that in addition to the hole Dad found, there were several more smallish-sized holes in the roof. Also, a cracked support beam.

Also, when the tree hit the house, it did so with enough force to cause our ceiling to bow. And the nails driven up into support beams? They were pushed down out of the beams they live in, so now we have several exposed nail heads on the ceiling, which I constantly think are giant spiders coming to kill me. This is more frightening than the prospect of the ceiling somehow caving in.

Dad called his friend Jeff from church, who was also directly involved with Dad's Silver Surfer Wipe out back in November, and Jeff came over to help clean up the damage and patch the roof. This wasn't really what the insurance company wanted, but hey--it's been over a week, and have they sent a claims person to our house to even look at the damage? Nope. So they fixed the immediate problems, to keep water from coursing down on our heads as we watch television.

Dad and Paul cut the remaining chunk of tree into smaller chunks, which they pushed off the roof.

That would have been great, except that one or both of them flunked elementary physics, leading to further complications.

See, the tree was hanging off the house like this:
(Click to embiggen)

The skinny part of the tree, which was hanging over the edge of the roof, was problematic. Dad and Paul decided the best way to remove that section of tree was to cut it, push it, let it hit the ground, then keep pushing it until the end they cut fell away from the house and landed on the ground. Then, Dad and Paul would finish cutting it up and moving it away from the house.

That was what they wanted to happen.

Do you know Newton's various Laws of Motion?

My family doesn't.

This is why I can never leave the house.

Objects, whether they be shoes or strawberries or giant hunks of trees, all have mass. Mass means they take up space, have some kind of weight, and whatnot.

When the forces of nature are at "equilibrium," then whatever the thing is, the thing wants to stay where it is. That's balance. Everything wants to not have to move. Like me. I don't want to have to move. Do you?

If equilibrium didn't exist, like if we had no gravity, I could throw my shoe and it would keep flying away in the direction I threw it forever, or at least until it hit something that made it change directions. That's inertia. Bill Nye says inertia is a property of matter. I remember. But because we do have gravity, it fights the inertia, so if I throw my shoe right now, gravity will make it stop, probably pretty quickly.

The reason my shoe won't go very far is because I am a total wimp, and you need lots of force to make things move fast and far away from you when you throw them. That's why major league baseball players take so many steroids.

To make this Sciencey, that means the mass of my shoe, multiplied by the acceleration of me throwing it, will equal it's force. That looks like this when you Math it:

Fnet = m * a


The giant chunk of tree has mass. Lots of mass. Dad and Paul provided a force when they shoved it down off the roof.

But here's the thing. This is where we get into the Big Physics. If the force isn't great enough to combat, say, gravity...then you end up with something like a pendulum. The mass of the big thing has an impact on the way it moves. So does the power of Gravity. You have to fight both to make a thing move. That's physics. This takes us to Newton's third law of motion, which is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Since Dad and Paul didn't account for the various forces of nature, they were thwarted totally by the mass of the tree and, you know, gravity.

They shoved the tree off the roof, as planned. It hit the ground, as planned.

But the big fat part of the tree was in the air, and the tiny, skinny end of the tree was on the ground. That made the tree swing, like a pendulum, from the fixed point of the ground.

What was in the way of the ground?

Oh. Right.

The house.

Basically, my father and brother had a Physics Fail, and the tree slammed through one of the windows of the house, shattering the window inward. Also, it was right in the spot where my mother knits all the time.

So, of course, Dad thought he'd killed Mom, and he totally would have if she hadn't been on the phone with various people trying to explain how we had a giant tree on the roof of the house. Dad ran down off the ladder, making Mom think Paul had fallen off the roof and died, because we have a bad track record with roof-safety.

Instead, Dad came rushing over and there was a touching moment, before Mom realized that Dad could have killed her, plus he'd broken a window, and now there was glass all over the sofa and the carpet, broken glass which was super sharp, and we all know Dad wasn't going to clean it up.

So now there is a boarded-up window at my house, plus various spider-like nail heads poking out of the ceiling, plus a bowed ceiling that may or may not cave in, plus no insurance adjuster guy, because the man assigned our case lives in Indianapolis, so right when he was ready to come visit us and see the damage, he realized where we lived and gave our case to someone else and now we have to wait something like two more weeks before we fix anything.

We're not angry about waiting, though. Mostly, we're just laughing.


  1. Only you can make NDEs (and science) so funny.

    Holy cow. I'm glad everyone is okay.

  2. As my darling daughter Laura's "Dad," I would like to remind her millions of readers that blogging is like political commentary, in that the commentator uses only those facts that support his position. As the discerning reader I'm sure you are, you will therefore not want to take all these facts at face value. Just sayin'. --"Dad"

  3. I wonder if Pastor Kelly knows that his protests only serve to confirm my previous statements? Just sayin'.