Timing was everything. All I wanted to do was pay the property taxes on the townhouse I own in Hamburg. So yesterday I stopped by borough hall on my way home from work. It was around 12 noon. I parked next to the Hamburg First Aid Squad's ambulance and went inside.
So I paid my taxes and took a few seconds to chat with the tax collector as she stamped "paid" on my bill. I said every year I hope the bill will be less. Then we both laughed. Knowing how unrealistic my comment was.
As I stepped outside borough hall there was a bright flash and an explosion. I wasn't sure where it came from so I kept walking to my car. One of the fire engines was outside the firehouse. I thought maybe the engine backfired. To be honest I was a little disoriented. I put my check book and phone on the front seat of my car and started the engine. When I looked up white smoke was all around me. My first thought was the ambulance was on fire so I jumped out of my car to see what was happening.
As I walked to the other side of the ambulance I heard someone say "run." When I looked down I saw why. There was a live wire in the street a few feet away from me. So I "ran" to the other side of the parking lot. The Hamburg Police arrived a minute later and had the small group that had gathered stand on the other side of the street. My car was still running.
The Hamburg Fire Department was there but water won't help with a live burning wire. So all of us watched and listened. The buzzing, sizzling and cracking noises were loud scary. Sometimes the burning and noises would calm down only to reignite even brighter and louder. The current was so hot the asphalt on the street started to burn. A street sign that made contact with the wire was literally cooking on the ground. The thick white smoke could easily burn your eyes and throat. I saw first hand how dangerous a downed power line can be. It took about a half hour for a lineman from Jersey Central Power and Light to get there and cut the power so I could return to my car.
In the end timing was everything. If I was in the parking lot instead of walking out of borough hall I might have been hurt. I did get to meet and talk to some very nice people who took pictures with their phones. It was impressive to see how fast the police and fire departments got there to help. And I want to say a very big "Thank You" to the man who said "Run!"
Photo by Jason Reardon