Thursday, November 26, 2015

The First Night: Windstorm 2015, Part 2

NOTE: Despite Avista Utilities working around the clock since the evening of Tuesday, November 17, 2,336 customers remain without power this morning. A teeny percentage of the over 100,000 who were down on the morning of Wednesday, November 18. However, after going for 6 days without power in freezing temperatures, I fully understand that every single customer counts and the moment of Electricity-Returned is a powerful one. This is Part 2 of a five-part journal about our experience without power. I'm writing it as an expression of solidarity with those who remain without heat and power in these freezing/below freezing temperatures, as well as with the utility workers who are working on Thanksgiving Day! Paradoxically, an experience like this often serves the cultivation of gratitude.

November 17, 2015 approximately 5:30pm

By the time we left for Rosauers, our entire neighborhood was out of power. Being winter, the sun had set about 4 pm. Now, our part of the city was almost 100 percent blacked out. When we reached the main arterial that led to the shopping center, the street was completely blocked. An enormous spruce tree had fallen across the road. We had to u-turn and thread our way though the blackness and debris. Every street light was out. A few neon lights flickered in the shopping center. Rosauers was one of the few businesses that remained opened. We hurried inside and asked for directions to the aisle with candles. A frenetic energy permeated the store. There were plenty of shoppers on the candle/flashlight aisle, although not as many as we expected. We picked out three large candles, a couple of small ones, and an LED flashlight. The power in the store went out while we were shopping. Frozen in utter blackness, you catch your breath and think: What are we going to do do if the lights don’t come back on?

Your heart beats louder in your ears.

A long moment passed before the generators kicked in and light returned, although dimmer than before. Nervous chatter and laughter resumed. A lady who’d been certain the power in her home would be back on by midnight turned her shopping cart around and headed back to the candles. On our way to the register we picked up a couple of packages of salami and hard cheese. We had wine and dark chocolate-covered almonds at home. We’d enjoy an indoor picnic with candlelight.
Standing in the checkout line, everyone was giddy with adrenaline. We all joked as we exchanged snippets of whatever news we’d heard about the windstorm. The weather alert had been extended from 7pm to midnight. A woman had died, crushed by a falling tree. Roofs had been blow off and windows had been blown out. Trees and power lines were down all over the city.

At home, we fed the cats and added some layers of clothing before we sat down to eat. Without any heat, the house was already beginning to cool down.

The rest of the night the wind howled and shook the house. There were moments where you were sure the whole structure would be ripped from it’s foundation a la The Wizard of Oz. Unexplained noises crashed in the distance. But without any lights, it was impossible to see what was happening.

The extent of damage wouldn’t be clear until the following morning.

The Storm Hits, Part 1