Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A call goes out for the Mighty Heroes...

...but apparently only Tornado Man comes to New Castle. But I'm getting ahead of the story!

June 2

The day started out with very nice weather, though we knew t
hat thunderstorms were in the forecast for the afternoon. The masons started on the chimney quickly. Today they were working on finishing the chimney up. That includes installing a damper on top of the chimney, and installing temporary flashing where the chimney meets the roof.

Why are we putting a damper at the top of the chimney instead of installing it in the smoke chamber like a modern living room fireplace? We want to keep the fireplace as close to the 18th century as possible, and if someone pokes their head in the fireplace and looks up we want them to just see the flue. More practically, a damper at the top of the chimney helps protect the flue from rain and other debris (there is a nearby tree) that will hasten its deterioration. It also will keep animals and birds out of the flue.

To operate a flue located at the top of the chimney a long wire needs to hand down from the damper to the lintel so we can open and close the damper as needed. Actually, its a good idea to open and close chimney-top dampers on a regular basis (at least once a month) to prevent them from rusting and getting stuck in the closed position. Our damper will have a secondary wire to help free it if it does get stuck.

The damper for the kitchen flue has been custom made by our masons. Here's a pic for you damper aficionados:

What about the flashing...Why temporary flashing? Because we will be replacing the roof in a couple of weeks. We're looking at a way of installing the permanent flashing that will make it less visible from the ground (relative to traditional step flashing). More on that in a future post.

The masons were on the roof with about 10 minutes of flashing work left when Tornado Man arrived in New Castle about 3:45. Now, truth be told, it wasn't actually a tornado, but according to the local weather service it was a thunderstorm with sustained winds of 50+ mph and at least one gust of 74 mph was recorded at the airport about 1.5 miles away. Yikes!

While the masons were trying to batten down the hatches topside, I started collecting their tools and brought them inside. Luckily the guys got off the roof safely (it blew in very quickly) though the tarp couldn't be fully secured due to the high winds. Then the power went off. Flashlights in hand, we all went up into the attic to finish securing any openings around the chimney because the flashing wasn't complete. With carpets, tarps and buckets we insured no water damage would occur inside. We found 3 different roof leaks so its a good thing that the new roof is scheduled soon!

The storm was fast and furious - and we were in the attic for most of it - so we missed all the visual pyrotechnics. We did hear it pretty good though! Within 10 minutes or so, it was over. The guys cleaned up and took off, and I went outside to survey the property.

The Amstel House property did pretty well - lots of small to medium-sized branches and a couple bigger than average limbs but no major damage...whew. I better go check the Dutch House and the Old Library...

Off to East Third Street....Whoa!

Upon turning the corner of Silsbee's Alley I met with a scene of complete disarray. A BIG tree down near the Dutch House had fallen across Third Street taking the power lines with it. Luckily it did not damage any houses (across Third Street is the open space of the Green), and it fell right between two cars throwing some sidewalk bricks up on the hood of one of them. It also threw a carriage step about three feet into 3rd Street. Thankfully our city workers were right on it.

Another tree was down across the green. I walked around town a bit and found 7 more trees down: 4 in Battery Park, one on Delaware Street near Cloud's Row, one in the garden of the Read House, and one at the corner of 2nd and Chestnuts Streets. This last one actually did hit one house damaging the roof and chimney. When I saw it it seemed to be suspended by utility wires and was hanging over the corner of another house, threatening it as well.

I took a bunch of pictures to document the storm of June 2009 and will add them all to our archives just in case some future historian wants to hold an exhibit on storms of New Castle. Here's a few photos for anyone that missed the carnage:

East 3rd Street:

East 2nd & Chestnut Streets:

Battery Park:

So now its clean up time! We're hosting a garden tea in the Amstel House garden in two days. I'll spend some time this evening in the garden picking up debris. Problem is...there's another thunderstorm expected tomorrow afternoon. Lets hope its milder than today's!

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