Monday, January 23, 2012

A World Lit By Fire

Typical Snowstorm in Seattle
For the past four days, Grubb Street has been without power. It went out Thursday morning, and stayed out until Sunday afternoon/evening.

Let me lay out what happened. Seattle expected a major snowfall event this past week. Despite all the panic in the media, it DOES snow in Seattle, about once or twice a year, just enough to snarl everyone. Usually this is a snow that melts in a few hours. This was expected to be major, upwards of 12 inches, and while it was not expected to last long, we cued all the attendant panicking.

And Tuesday night it started, but produced only about 4-6 inches. Major roads were turned into impromptu sled hills, work was canceled, and things were pretty good. The dumbest thing we saw was the local news time driving around in the snow, as the driver gives an interview on camera about how you shouldn’t be driving around in the snow and giving an on-camera interview. Warm rain was expected, and that would be the end of it.

But we didn’t get warm rain, we got freezing rain instead, which left about a half-inch of ice on everything, with another inch of powder on top of it, and at that point the fun truly began.

Grubb Street lost power about 8:30 Thursday morning. The local trees could not handle the weight and started shedding branches. On yards. On houses. On highways. Power lines came down. The small pines out front looked like very depressed nuns, shrunken in their places. The temple bell out front, on its unstable, hand-repaired wooden frame, withstood huge cedar branches coming down on all sides, without a direct hit. The air was alive with snapping branches and the distant thunder of exploding pole transformers. And everything went dark.

And we held up pretty well. Mind you, being hardy Wisconsin expats, we already had massive flashlights and numerous candles, and a wind-up radio my parents got us several years ago (yes, it has a crank). And we also discovered that multiple energy delivery methods were a good thing. We had lost power, but kept the gas, and we had a gas stovetop and a gas fireplace in the bedroom (newly replaced). And we had a wood-burning fireplace and a side yard filled with the salvaged debris from previous years of blown-down branches and trees. So the house chilled down, but it was not bad.

The cell phone network was patchy for the first few days, but the land lines lasted into Friday before succumbing. So that was covered as well (Internet and cable were still shot as of Sunday night). The full idea was multiple systems made it much more bearable when the electricity went.

The Lovely Bride went pretty much full Little House on the Prairie, heating washwater on the fireplace top (until we remembered we had a GAS water heater and it was unaffected by the blackout). Our neighbor loaned us a gasoline-powered generator he was using for an evening in an attempt to keep the fridge cold, but in the end we just moved everything in peril out to the coolers in the garage (and the brisket and other frozen meats kept solid).  I cleaned up what I could but retreated to careful use of my iPad games (Tiny Towers, downloaded right before the storm) marshaled by computer battery to get work done, and used what sunlight I had to review hard copy. We sat in front of the fire and listened to jazz on the radio. .
And on Saturday, when the warm rain finally did arrive and most of the snow went away, I went to work, getting both a lot done AND recharging all my battery-operated devices.

And in the end, it worked out. Another two days would have been dire from the spoiled food and need for laundry, but in general its been a pretty good thing. We had the local neighbors gather out front as we cleared away some of the branches and chatted, and all ascertained we were in good spirits and health. Oh, and it will take a couple days for the waterbed to heat back up, but that’s small stuff compared to what a lot of people have gone through. All in all, we’re pretty good.

Thanks for asking.  More later,