When the Sirens Wail

Last Thursday, apparently Germany tested its disaster warning sirens, or what is left of the network set up maybe as long ago as during the Second World War. I say apparently because I heard about it instead of heard it, although I would have thought that the three volunteer fire stations within earshot of the house would have made noise. “Yep,” said Spouse, “Not a single siren went off in the entire state of Schleswig-Holstein.” Not even a single mobile phone either, because the network overloaded when it tried to send an alert out to everyone at once.

So I guess it was good that they tested the system, in part, so they can figure out what went wrong, and because sometimes I wonder what it would be like here to be out on a walk with the dog and have all the sirens go off and wonder if I shouldn’t jump into one of the drainage ditches (the ones allowing the local area to be farmland instead of bog) and follow it to one of its little tunnels and thus escape the flash of radiation from a nuclear blast (for surely they’d hit Hamburg and maybe also Kiel). But then maybe it would be better to die and get it over with because we don’t have a basement so where would we hide away from the worst 2 weeks of fallout and what would I do if Spouse was out and never came home? Would I go out and look for him? Would the dog and I (and the cat) slog through all alone? And and and… (Doesn’t everyone have what ifs like this?)

But today we heard one, at roughly 11 am, when we were hammering holes in the garden with a wooden stake, not because the lawn is a vampire, but because we were planting 90 crocuses (every September we remember to, we plant a bunch more, and some spring, our front lawn is going to be fucking amazing, a veritable carpet of white, yellow, orange, and purple crocuses). It wasn’t our fire station and it wasn’t the station of the village to the northeast of us, but of the station of the village due north from here. So, hmm, so what, we thought. It can’t be that the next door neighbors caught their back garden on fire again by dumping hot coals on the compost pile, not if our fire station isn’t involved, and we finished the crocus planting.

Thirty or so minutes later, we took the dog for a walk. When we reached the bigger road at the end of our street, there were two people standing at the edge of the field, right by the new big electricity switching box that was just installed (substation is maybe the better word…?). As we meandered by, they said moin, moin and pointed out that one of the wind turbines was on fire, although, to be more accurate, at this point, it was merely streaming a few ribbons of black smoke.

So a bit of Sunday morning excitement! That’s the second time in 3.5 years that that exact same wind turbine has burned up. They do that, I guess, from time to time, as they’re rotating, they’re generating a lot of voltage, and they’re full of very flammable oil. But the same one twice in such a short period of time (well, not the same same one, since they had to rebuild the cabin and put in a new motor and install new blades) speaks to some sort of higher problem with the wiring in the base, I would presume.

While we were walking the dog, the fire managed to consume one of the three fiberglass wings. When we biked out there after lunch (along with half of the surrounding community), we saw that the firefighters were still driving back and forth between the nearest firefighting pond and the wind turbine, and hosing down the bits on the ground that were still smouldering and, phew, I might add, blowing a horrible stream of toxic air downwind of the turbine. Unfortunately for the picture taking, we couldn’t get within about a kilometer, not without tromping across the fields freshly sewn with winter wheat or winter rye.

I wonder if they’ll just give up on this particular one now. It costs a lot of money to rebuild it and I don’t even know that they had ever turned this one back on after rebuilding it after the last time. They had a lot of trouble rebuilding it, too, because it would have lost its grandfathered in status is they’d used a bigger motor or bigger wings than before and it was hard for them to find such outmoded stuff. But without its grandfathered in status, it isn’t legal anymore in this area because we’re full of endangered raptors, like white-tailed eagles and red kites, which have a bad habit of flying into the wings, so it’s outmoded or shut entirely down.

Here’s what it looked like 3.5 years ago, two days after it burned up the last time and a few minutes after the wings, spinning out of control, shredded in the strong breeze (taken by Spouse from a vantage point that had required tromping across the fields and getting yelled at by the wind turbine inspector).

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