December 23rd, 2006

North winds bwow, south winds bwow!

As you all probably know, we've been having some stormy weather here. The Thursday before last, we had a very strong windstorm, with winds approaching hurricane speeds, that caused a lot of damage and knocked out power for many people for days. Only some of Seattle lost power; I was unlucky enough to be among the areas affected, but very fortunate overall because my power was only out for about 12 hours, starting around 1:30 AM Friday. My friends the Dowlers, over in the Central District/Madrona area, were out for about 24 hours, and the unusually heavy rains on Thursday caused some minor flooding in their basement, enough to soak and ruin the carpet in the main room. My friends the Saccos, down in south Seattle close to Renton, had no power for four days; other friends out on the Eastside (across Lake Washington, not in Seattle) were out that long or longer.

Even though I really didn't suffer, I was disconcerted by the experience. I was just getting ready for bed when the power went out, and that wasn't such a big deal, but getting up in the morning still without power made me realize how dependent I am. I couldn't shower, because the water heater's electric. I didn't want to open the fridge, to keep the food cold as long as possible, so I couldn't have cold cereal, but I also couldn't cook any hot cereal. I couldn't check the news, whether online or by radio, so I had no idea just what was going on. I knew the 520 bridge had been closed due to the wind, but without getting online I couldn't find out whether the bus that goes by work was running on a different route or just cancelled. (That didn't matter so much, as I was able to reach one of my bosses on his cell phone and learn that the office also had no power, so there was no point going to work.) I also couldn't get my car out of the garage, because I didn't know where the manual release was for the door and didn't know how I'd be able to close it again if I did lift it up. I couldn't even tell time, because I don't own a watch, and my cell phone stops displaying the time when its battery is low, which it was.

At first I had no idea of where to go or what to do. I decided that this was a likely, depressing, scenario for the collapse of civilization: we lose power, then slowly lose services, lose contact with others, and eventually find ourselves huddled together for warmth, waiting for someone to fix things. Eventually I caught a bus headed downtown, planning to go to the Dowlers, who at least had a gas stove and were able to make hot food. However, when I got downtown and discovered it still had power, I decided to stay there. I tried going to the library, but it wasn't going to be open until noon, then I remembered Top Pot Doughnuts and went there for breakfast, warmth, and a place to charge my cell phone. I started imagining a story about a quiet apocalypse, with people gathering in the coffee shops and doughnut shops for food and news, while civilization slowly collapses.

As I said though, I got off very easy. For all my dramatic, hyperbolic imaginings, I was merely inconvenienced for a half-day, and it wasn't difficult for me to find somewhere to spend the time. Many people had a much rougher time, being out of power for days, and a few people even died as a result of the storm, including one woman who died horribly when she was caught in her basement by a flash flood and drowned.

I'm not really going anywhere with this, I just wanted to write about the experience. Beside this weather-related trouble, I've just been busy lately with work, as we're getting ready to move into new offices next week. I won't be there for the move, I'm going to be off on vacation, leaving tomorrow for my parents' home in Nashua for Christmas week. Sorry for the feeble ending, but I've got to run some errands now; I'll try to do better with the next post.