A Hurricane in Seattle?

A hurricane in Seattle? You’d better believe it. 100 mph winds on the coast and 70 mph winds inland.  They said it was the worst wind storm in the recorded history of the Northwest.

The Storm

Luckily a coworker emailed our team and warned us that a friend’s relative who worked at the weather service had been warned by Feds that this storm was going to be one for the record books and to prepare for five or more days without power.  For some reason I just couldn’t fathom losing power for more than one or two days so I figured with a half tank of gas and a cupboard full of soup that it would be fine.  I went to a disaster preparedness session last year and was sure to gather necessities like flashlights, battery operated radios, and food/water/dogfood, etc in a safe place but doubted I’d have to use them.

There was sideways rain as we drove home from work.  The lights had been flickering all day and I knew they wouldn’t be on for long so as we ate dinner I worked on the computer as much as I could.  Had to finish my Christmas shopping 🙂  My IM message was “Trying to finish work before I lose power”.

Later that night Desi crossed the line from worried in the bathroom to panicky trying to claw a hole in the floor to get away from the noise.  I broke out the drugs.  Poor thing.  After four Fourth of July’s I’ve gotten pretty good at the dosage and gave her about 15 mgs of Acepromazine (a common dog tranquilizer).  It was perfect – she was awake but a little dopey and not as agitated for the rest of the storm. 

Then it got scary – large branches were falling on the roof and making quite a racket.  After one particularly loud crash we decided to go outside with a flashlight to see what was happening.  Wow.  The wind was really loud and branches were falling all around me. 

The electricity went out at 12:30am.  We were lucky it stayed on that long.  I broke out the radio and turned on Komo 1000AM.  Basically everyone had lost their power and were in various states of distress but it was comforting to hear the DJs talking about it – made me realize how we often see the media as our leaders, not our politicians.

The next day

At 9am we got up and surveyed the damage (see my pics).  We were lucky that the trees all stayed up but there were branches everywhere.  The folks on the radio said we might not have power for days and that finally sunk in.  I was able to get my work email on my Smartphone (I LOVE THAT THING) and saw that Microsoft campus was closed. 

We gathered wood and made a fire and decided to cook up the food in the refrigerator because it wasn’t going to be good for much longer.  We had a hamburger and chicken and ate pretty well the first day.  We were so lucky to have that big new propane BBQ – it even has a stove-like burner that I always thought was useless until now.  We cooked eggs, pasta, tomatoes, etc on it which was pretty cool.  I also found out that the dogs really like grilled zucchini 🙂

We started getting a little stir crazy and decided to go for a drive.  We headed toward downtown Redmond and found that I had pretty good phone reception for the first time that day so we called family and friends.  We went to Home Depot and bought a flashlight (has to be recharged by car or A/C outlet – no wonder it was still there) and went to Fred Meyer to buy some more food.  The camping section was picked clean, the shelves of perishables were empty, and the frozen food aisle was blocked off like a crime scene (see my pics).

Thoughts on this surreal experience

The hours stretched into days and it became more and more surreal.  My friend Asta from work and I hung out and we marveled at how bizarre it was to go from parts of town with power like downtown Bellevue where we chowed at the Crabpot and went to Starbucks and Barnes & Noble for a few hours but then had to go back to our powerless hovels where she was literally grinding her coffee with a mortar and pestle artifact.  It really was the Stone Age.  We also realized that daylight had become precious and we had to use every bit of it because as soon as it was gone, it was dark.  And you couldn’t make it un-dark anymore.

Then there were the shortages – food, batteries, generators, gas.  The lines to get gas were 2 hours long and people were getting in fights (check out Susan’s story).  It felt a little like Mad Max.

Do you realize how many things run off of electricity?  Sure, the lights and the heat but we kept smacking my head as we tried to go about my day and encountered more dead things.  The garbage disposal.  The dish washer.  The washing machine.  My Soniccare Toothbrush.  The toaster.  The vacuum cleaner.  The shredder.  The phone charger.  Ipod charger.  Battery charger!  And last but not least, my hot water heater! 

You know what it felt like?  It was like those movies where a nuclear bomb goes off and civilization stops and you have to survive in the shells of the past civilization.  Living in the dead structures. 

We finally gave up trying to be a survivalist and asked my friend Angela, who lived in Queen Anne and had never lost her power (that’s what you get when you live in the city where there are few trees), if we could stay with her in her apartment and she graciously invited us in.  We packed up the Pathfinder, abandoned the dead house, and were mobile for several days.  We ended up reading and watching movies in Angela’s apartment for a few days which was nice actually.

Over a million residences lost power and four days later 250k were still without.  Ours came on late Monday night and we’re lucky – many people still don’t have their power!  The traffic light by my house was dead for over a week.  Totally amazing – I hate to fathom what it would be like to have a more serious disaster like an earthquake.

You know it’s cold when:

  • You take a sip out of a glass of water that’s been sitting on the living room table for a few hours and your teeth freeze
  • You can leave your cheese on the kitchen counter because it’s just as cold inside your house as it is inside a refrigerator
  • You can see your breath inside.  By the fire.

ASAP I will get:

  • More firewood
  • A lantern
  • More pasta and non-perishable boilable stuff
  • Condiments in individual packages so they don’t need to be refrigerated
  • Extra propane

I’m considering getting a small generator.  Jury’s still out.

Hopefully next time this won’t happen the day after I buy five pints of good ice cream.  That was depressing – it was cold but not cold enough to keep them from turning into soup.  Next time I’ll eat them for breakfast!

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