Slowly, winter 2014 thaws. Very slowly. We will likely need all spring and summer to recover. Our house and immediate surroundings are a case in point.
Most obvious are the potholes and ruts on the JFX and city streets. They remind me of virulent outbreaks of chicken pox each spring of my childhood. Potholes are everywhere; perhaps the outward and visible signs of post winter traumatic disorder, from which streets, infrastructure and people are suffering.
PWTD seems greater than usual. Besides potholes and broken water mains, some say they have noticed that their spouses or partners are more on edge this spring, and that fuses seem shorter when the car breaks down, appointments are forgotten or keys misplaced. Some report snapping at their friends and their children squabbling more with each other and being crankier in general about school.
The cold winter took a toll. Too much shoveling, ice scraping, work and school interruption with little time outdoors have built up emotional pressure that will surely not defuse in a few warm days. Emotional and physical effects of winter 2014 will take time to repair.
Nearby Kenwood Road was in tenuous shape before winter. Road salt took the unit block over the edge. A few weeks ago, craters the size of wading pools developed. In order for cars to navigate safely, adjacent neighbors had to leave parking spots empty, so cars could swerve over and avoid breaking an axle in the steep pothole drops.
Thanks to a responsive group of neighbors, who called 311 and sent pictures to the Internet 311 site, and efforts by City Councilwoman Sharon Greene Middleton's office, those craters were quickly repaired. White spray paint now indicates where the city feels more repair needs to happen. Bravo! That stretch could stand complete repaving.
Then there is the lake-sized pothole in the alley beside the Roland Park post office parking lot, a crater so wide it is impossible to avoid. Cars must come to a full stop before moving through it to avoid car damage. For years the pothole has been growing. Never has it been repaired.
At our house, besides deferred maintenance, we have new problems. First, a steam pipe sprang not one but two holes this winter. The ceiling below was drenched, and then cut open clear over to the side wall of the living room. After heating season, the pipe will be replaced, the ceiling re-plastered and repainted.
All of this in an area that had been repaired twice because of other plumbing issues.
The first week of spring our good roofers came to take action where problems had crept up this winter. They installed new snow rails on the south roof, so future snows would not accumulate in our wide gutter and bend it. They investigated why we might have had ice damming on the north side. A small hole was found in one slate. A snow guard had pushed up a few slates in another area. The gutter was clear, they said, so the conclusion was that the damming was a freak event.
Two days later, rains came. Water overflowed from a nearby front downspout at one of the collection boxes near the top. Naturally, it happened on a Saturday. My husband and I vividly remembered having to bail the basement for five hours during a hurricane after the elbow of that same downspout rusted out.
During the weekend rain we set out trash cans and other contraptions to divert water. Beverly Hillbillies, meet Roland Park.
Now, we think the collection box clog might be why the ice dammed. Hopefully, the roofers will return promptly to clear it before spring rains turn the basement into a lap pool.
The only thing a harsh winter seems good for is revealing household weaknesses.