Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Storm Hits: Windstorm 2015, Part 1

NOTE: Despite Avista Utilities working around the clock since the evening of Tuesday, November 17, 9,542 customers remain without power after the windstorm. I’m going to be writing a five-part series about our 6-day experience without power as an expression of solidarity with this who remain without heat and power in these freezing/below freezing temperatures. Paradoxically, an experience like this often serves the cultivation of gratitude. A fitting topic as we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States tomorrow.

November 17, 2015 approximately 3:00pm

I was sitting at my computer doing: what else? Writing. One of my cats wandered into the room and leapt to the windowsill. It was unusual for him to come in at that time of the day and perch there. So I got out of my chair to see what had captured his attention. It was the leaves being blown helter skelter by a strong wind. I often work with headphones on, so I pulled them off and wandered around the house gazing out of all the windows. The wind was wailing and the house was moaning. Outside every thing was shaking, shimmying, or swaying. I didn’t think that much about it because we’ve had strong winds blow through before. I returned to my writing. But the cat stayed on the sill.

I began to hear shouting outside.

Finally, the lights flickered. Uh-oh.

I shut down my computer and wandered out the front door.

One of my neighbors, John, had been walking up and down the block. The winds were ferocious, whipping our hair and tugging at every loose fiber of clothing on our bodies.

“Isn’t this crazy,” I said.

“My wife’s company sent everyone home early from work,” he told me.

I was surprised.

We’re not native to this part of the country, but one thing I’ve learned since we’ve lived here is that folks in the Inland Northwest are hardy. Where businesses and schools closed for a smattering of snow once every two decades in my native Texas, or the freeways came to a standstill under a light rain in California, my last home state, the businesses and people in Eastern Washington State keep going unless the weather is apocalyptic.

John and I walked down to another neighbor’s house; she’d just pulled up in the driveway. “They’re closing all the government buildings downtown. They want people off the roads.”

“Really?”

Even at this point, I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what was happening. We’d had strong winds blow through before. I went back inside. A few minutes later, we lost power. I went back outside. John ran towards me. “That tree over there just split. I heard the crack!” He pointed to a home behind us.

Again, I didn’t fully grasp what had just happened.

At that point, the nine homes on our end of the block were the only ones in our neighborhood without power. All the homes across the street, and at the opposite end of our physical block, were still lit up.

We waited about an hour. It was hard to settle down. I reported our outage to the utility company via my cellphone. With only one small flashlight, matches, and a couple cellphones on low power, we were hardly prepared for an emergency. When it became clear that the power might not be coming on soon, we decided to head to Rosauers for some candles, another flashlight, and something to eat that didn’t require cooking.

To get us through the night.

To be continued ...

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