Friday, December 22, 2006

What kind of place do I live?

Editors note: The Northwest was subject to a pretty large windstorm last week and the Seattle metropolitan area bore the brunt of it. Because there are so many trees (part of what makes the Northwest such a nice area), there were widespread power outages. Where I live in Sammamish was out of power for almost 3 days, but as I write this, there are still places that don't have power.
During the power outage, I kept my offline blog in my Moleskine journal. I've finally transcribed it. While it misses out on the immediacy of the blogosphere, it helps keep the continuity of my blog.

December 15th, 9:55 am

They have been forecasting really bad weather here in the Northwest. Last night, it arrived. No rain, no snow, just wind. Lots of fast wind - forecasted to be in the 60 - 70 mile per hour range.

Assuming the power would go out, I made sure to charge my cell phone (last time, the cellular networks stayed up). I made sure my laptop was fully charged so I could work on some offline things.

As we went to bed, Parker decided that he was scared of the windstorm and slept with me.

At some point in the night, the power went out. It was no surprise, it was really windy and really loud. I wondered if this was what a hurricane was like. Shortly after the power went out, Alec came into our room and his shuffling feet woke me up.

Alec: "It's too dark to see." I wasn't sure where he was going with this.
Me: "It's night time, you don't need to see. Go back to bed."
Alec: "Can I sleep at the bottom of your bed?"
By this time, Heather had come to bed, so there was no room.
Me: "There isn't any room."
Alec: "Can I sleep on the floor?"
Me: "Okay."

I woke up as the sun was beginning to rise. It was a beautiful sunrise, quite a pretty red sky. Knowing the sailor's ditty, it might portend bad things. Ed. - I really did write that. Am I good or what?

Slowly the neighbor's generators started to kick in, but still no power. And on top of all that, I had no signal for my mobile phone. I realized I had a conference call at 8 am, a phone interview at 8:30 and then a national inventory call at 10. I decided I would try to drive to the local shopping center to see if I could get a signal someplace along the way.

I headed out and saw several trees down on the side of the road and trees broken off midway up. Branches and broken greenery littered the streets. I drove out of our development onto the main road, but I didn't get far. Several trees were down across the road. Sheriffs were directing traffic and work crews were already at work and the road was closed. The only way out now was a 12 mile detour along even more rural, more wooded roads - if they were still open.

I turned around and headed home.

We have no phone service (all cordless) and no electricity. No means to communicate in or out. Alec has a small battery operated radio, so we can get some news, but I can't call my office mates in Oakland to let them know my predicament.

We make the assumption that school is canceled - the radio reports, "Most schools are closed today. A few in Snohomish county are opening late." They must be tougher up there.

I break out the camp stove to make Heather coffee and breakfast for all. Cream of wheat and oatmeal turn out okay, but we only buy whole bean coffee. We have a few gifts of ground coffee, but the one I opened and made with the french press didn't turn out so good.

I hope the power comes back on soon. I was really counting on this being a productive work day, because I would like to take some time off at Christmas...

1:30 pm

Just washed dishes after a lunch of Ramen. I'm glad to have the camp stove, because it is now 60 degrees in our kitchen. Hot water is nice.

We went for a walk to survey the damage and yes, we saw lots of downed trees. I talked to a King County Sheriff and Sammamish Police Officer and they just advised to stay off the road. They didn't have much information on what roads were open or closed.

I was able to garner that, where it was closed this morning, it was passable, but only to be closed further down. There is a fire access road to our development, but the police officer told me they had no plans to open the gate.

Reportedly, it is supposed to get cold and I can see dark clouds rolling in. So, we'll stay home, drink cocoa, cook on the camp stove and stay warm as best we can.

3:30 pm

I finished reading December's Esquire, so I check my phone again. As soon as I turn it on, I get two voice mail messages and three text messages. One is from Myla - "Are you OK?" is all it says. So, with one bar of signal strength, I call my boss.

I can tell by the way he answers his cell phone, he is in a meeting. He suggests that I save my battery, so we keep it short. I tell him we are okay and get just a smidgen of news from the rest of the world. I learn the local office is closed because few made it in.

It's a little funny. I can see blue sky in one part and dark clouds in another...

It'll be time to make dinner soon. I think eggs and bacon before the fridge gets too warm. It'll be dark too.

5:20 pm

The sunset about an hour ago, as I was making dinner. Eggs and bacon, since the fridge was warming up. We had ice cream for dessert and boy was it soft.

Candles light (or as best they can), the family room, as I write by their feeble light. This is where the "early to bed, early to rise" phrase came from. It just gets too dark to do anything else.

Day 2 December 16th, 2:40 pm

We went out today, just to see how far we could go. There were power lines down in multiple spots. Some where just cables and they let us drive over and around them. We got down to the shopping area and Home Depot was out of generators and Fred Meyers appeared to be open. We stopped in Fred's and bought Alec a flashlight, some pancake mix and some ground Starbucks coffee.

We ran into some friends at the store and they had watched some satellite TV (somebody has excess kilowatts on their generator) and there were reports of 7 - 10 days with no power in remote areas. Goody for us in the suburbs - estimates of only 2 - 3 more days.

After we ate lunch, a neighbor came over and asked if the kids wanted to watch a movie - if we had some gas. We did, from the ill fated swim meet morning, so the kids went over.

While the kids were out, Heather and I played our own version of darts on a magnetic dart board she had stumbled across. She won, by 21 points.

If we've got 3 more days of this, I'll figure out how to beat her.

8:30 pm

After a delectable dinner of chicken quesadillas and an enjoyable game of Whoonu, we are calling it a night.

The sound of the neighbor's generators will lull me to sleep with the hopes that my slumber is interrupted by all the lights we left on, coming back on.

Still warm, still well fed.

Day 3, December 17th, 9 am

Still no power, although, we do have hot water in our water heater. Evidently (and the credit goes to Heather) our gas water heater needs no electricity to function (as opposed to Heather, who needs coffee to function) and I took a hot shower this morning.

I think Heather is in there now. I should go take a look.

11:45 am

Almost 60 hours with no power. I've ran out of clean socks and I have no more cargo pants (to hold my flashlight, journal, pen, multi-tool and phone). My toes have been cold for a while, I think it has more to do with no clean socks and I've added my down vest as an insulatory layer.

I've been able to get a good enough signal on my cell phone to get weather from Google SMS. They're forecasting rain tomorrow and highs in the low 40s. At least it isn't snow.

I was not able to get a good data connection. I would like to check my email to see what the news is reporting on this situation and maybe find out where there is power. I'd like to get everyone out of the house for a sense of normalcy for a while (heat, light and something to occupy us other than our glowing personalities).

2:40 pm

We took another expedition to see how far we could go. What was passable before is impassable now, but because work crews are cleaning things up.

So, we headed the back way to Redmond (where they reportedly already have power), but based upon the backup, it was closed. We took some back roads and ended up in downtown Sammamish.

There were lights (both illumination and traffic lights) and we stopped for lunch. We ate at Acapulco Fresh (which was really good). They had heat. And we got gas.

We took a different route home and ended up on the other side of the closed road. Luckily for us, they have finally opened the fire access road, so there is a way into our neighborhood.

Our expedition was also fruitful in that we had good enough cell phone coverage to receive calls and check voice mail.

My messages were funny. One was from Myla, wondering why I wasn't on Friday's phone interview, obviously before her "Are you okay" text message. One was from another co-worker divvying up some work to be done - I couldn't really disagree could I? Number 3 was my mom wondering if we were okay.

5:30pm (final entry)

So, we decided that we had had enough. We are going to the movies. Hopefully, we will drive to where there is power. Fandango tells us that Casino Royale is showing in Bellevue. We'll go there, all bundled up like homeless people to wander amongst those finishing their Christmas shopping in the Bellevue boutiques.


While we were at the movies, the power was restored at our house. By the time we returned, the power had been on for four hours, so the house was warm again. We stayed up much later than we should have because the kids wanted a warm dinner. Who can blame them.

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