Saturday, December 16, 2006

Winter Comes to a Small Town

I am sitting in my office, enjoying the return of heat, lights, and the Internet. I have been without all three for a couple days, and I am very grateful to have them back!

For the record: our small coastal town was completely without power for 30+ hours, as a result of severe storms. Winds hit 91 mph on Thursday, and the outer edges lost power as early as 1-2 that afternoon. The entire city was dark by 6 pm. Our power here (a couple blocks from City Hall) returned sometime between 1 and 2 am on Saturday, but I don't know about those further out.

I have heard it was a transmission line - one of those giant ones that marches across mountains through a clear cut - that went down, but without Internet, radio, TV or newspapers, it's kind of hard to know what really happened. Yep, the newspaper delivery trucks couldn't get here, and the cable was out so no TV, even if you had battery or generator power to watch with. Radio is spotty to begin with, and all we could get were local stations, who were in pretty much the same boat we were! Cell phones did work, and we were able to reassure family that we were safe and sound.

The hospital has an emergency generator, as does the casino, and some other places, including the hotel where I work. But we can't power the hotel and restaurant on the generator, just emergency lights and the like. Our desk clerks and reservationists were busy calling people with reservations and advising them to cancel.

This is going to have a severe financial impact on the city. The outlet mall, usually buzzing with Christmas shoppers, has been dark for 2+ days. The grocery stores and restaurants have lost all refrigerated products. At work, we tried to get a refrigerated truck to hold our inventory until the power was restored, but they couldn't get here. The highways were closed from every direction. At various times over the last 2 days they had stretches open, sometimes just one lane. But fallen trees were a huge problem on all the highways.

There was power in another town, 30 miles south, and we drove down yesterday to have a hot meal, buy a new camp stove, and generally get warm. Fortunately, Herbie had a full tank of fuel, so we weren't as bad off as some. I heard two people talking in Fred Meyer, and one was saying they had driven about 50 miles with the gas light on. Can't buy gas when the station doesn't
have power to operate the pumps.

We spent two nights snuggled under blankets on the loveseat, with kitties for additional warmth, reading by candlelight and battery lanterns. Thanks to the wonders of natural gas, I did manage a hot shower - in the dark! Couldn't make coffee, since my coffee grinder is electric, but we made tea with water boiled on the new camp stove about 10 last night. (Set it up on the picnic table in the yard, which meant going out into the cold a couple times, but it was worth it.) Figured we could heat soup or chili or whatever today, but we have power! I am really enjoying the hum of the furnace fan, sending warm air through the house, and the fact that the light switches are working again.

This wasn't as long, as cold, or as bad, as it could have been. We were somewhat prepared - full fuel tank, lots of lights and batteries to power them, adequate supplies of canned goods and a hand-cranked can opener (electric openers are no good when the power's out), extra socks, bottled water, gas water heater. I even boiled water and filled the good old stainless steel thermos, when we anticipated losing power. But that only stays really hot for about 12 hours, and a quart of hot water isn't much. We found out the things we needed, and I hope we've filled in the missing items. And next time I'll make sure to grind some coffee when I think the power's going. *G*

Winter isn't over yet. Not by a long shot!


Paty Jager said...

Sounds like you had a few wild days. We had the wind and lost one tree over here in Central Oregon, but I think we had the tail end of your storm.

My brother and his family lost power on Thursday night and are still without. They live East of Salem near Silver Falls State Park. We're supposed to go there for a grad party tomorrow, we'll see how the roads are.

Did you read some good books by candlelight?

Hope you make the next chapter meeting. It seems like forever since we've seen you.

Alice Sharpe said...

Chris--Sounds like you had an adventure. We lost power for four days a few years back during that wind storm and have it go on and off now for hours at a time. Always an inconvience, and as you pointed out, a lot worse for some than others. Welcome back to the "real" world!


who can't seem to send email on out MWVRWA loop! though I can get it.