Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Ongoing

The mere fact that the Lovely Bride and I have power and have cleaned up the yard does not mean that its all over.

Power is still out to a nice chunk of the Western Washington area. The utility companies are still addressing the "big chunks" - areas where blown-down trees have blacked out entire neighborhoods. Mostly it seems that these "big chunks" are either in older neighborhoods with older infrastructure (White Center, Rainier Valley, West Seattle) or in new territories where the houses have gone in recently (Fairwood, Petroviski, Redmond Ridge).

The newer developments are particularly vulnerable since they reflect the developer tendencies to level everything except a few trees when they're putting in the new housing. Those few trees, sometimes kept as a "beauty strip" along the roads (where the power lines are) no longer have the protection of the rest of the forest that they grew up with, and are more vulnerable to being toppled.

And given the strength of the winds, it is not just new developments that are in peril. Our huge cedar out front has lost of lot of bark - on the windward side of the blow. Near as I can figure, this bark flaked off when that part of the tree was in tension from the wind load (wood does well in compression, not so good in tension). We've seen a lot of trees come down in our area of late, and this isn't helping matters for the survivors.

The air smells burnt at the moment, which is the result of pollution from a million people suddenly deciding to use their fireplaces. Coming down the hill, Kent and Renton were under a cloud that would Victorian London proud. Add to that the new category of death and danger as people are running portable generators (and in some cases charcoal grills) indoors. We are seeing more fires as well as people are not used to dealing with flame.

Finally, when I say that the power companies are getting the "big chunks", that means that at lot of small bits are still unaddressed. Stoplights are out in many places (Getting to Crossroads mall in Bellevue is a near-imposibility), and powerlines are down. There are cases where half an apartment complex has light, heat, and comfort and the other is still in the dark. And then we get to the tertiary services of cable and Internet, which is spotty beyond belief.

So we're still in the midst of it all. It is not Katrina-level, but is probably giving people a lot of pause about what happens if a high-level county-wide emergency hits.

More later,