After the Storm: Two Days Lost, Two Days Found

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hot embers heating water in fireplace

hot embers heating water in fireplaceWhere there’s a will there’s a way: survival depends on hot coffee.

Mother Nature provided a reality check this week,  dispatching an arctic storm that toppled trees, sliced power lines, coated roads with ice and dispensed record low temperatures. The formidable storm left the entire island in the cold and without power.

Was I prepared? Uh, no.

The first day was stunning, a winter wonderland viewed from my warm house–cocoa in hand, Ella on the iPod. That night high winds blew in from the coast and the house began to creak (like my joints after a day of gardening).

winter wonderland beyond the window

About 3:00 a.m., I was awakened by a jarring crackle,  followed by a frightening crash.  The November gale had taken out the old madrona outside my bedroom window. Boz and Gracie, who usually bark at anything from lint to rustling leaves, were content to sleep through my backyard deforestation.

wind storm topples madrona treeDowned madrona (missed it by that much). Photo was taken after the big thaw

November storms in the Northwest pack a wallop and are legendary, conjuring up winds that can disassemble a suspension bridge or sink one designed to float. A few minutes later, the power went out and the temperatures dropped, two realities that didn’t change for the next 48 hours.

When it was all said and done, modern life had stopped: no heat, no hot water, no phone or computer, that which I take for granted was gone.  In a stroke of unfortunate timing, I had just removed my wood stove to rebuild the hearth and fireback around it. I toyed with the idea of reconnecting it without fire retardant flooring and backing, but that seemed like a surefire way to win next year’s Darwin Award.

When I look back on those two days (now that feeling has returned to my fingers and toes), I have to say I learned a lot about myself, my neighbors and my community; warmth isn’t always supplied by electricity.

Lessons Learn:

  1. Be Prepared.
  2. Gas furnaces and water heaters have electric starters.
  3. Without heat, inside temperatures equal outside temperatures in about five hours.
  4. A kitchen timer comes in handy when reminding you to flush toilets and run water every hour to keep pipes from freezing.
  5. It takes three down comforters to keep two bulldogs warm.
  6. Two days without a shower and sleep, you begin to resemble Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
  7. You can play Scrabble in gloves and by candlelight.
  8. Coffee and toast made in a fireplace taste better. (Thank you Phoebe!)
  9. Turn off your heater and you too can recreate the ice palace scene in Dr Zhivago.
  10. Neighbors who share the heat of their wood stoves are going to heaven.

Things are back to normal now, but I did learn one more thing. At first I thought I had endured two days lost, but the truth is they were two days found.

PS — Here’s a good read from The Seattle Times about some Vashon neighbors who were prepared.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Good grief Tom – so much for vicariously enjoying the storm from here. Oh that we could have sent you and the furkids a ticket to Tucson. We surely have enough leftovers for all! We really enjoyed the Seattle Times article about your neighbors too! Hope your life is getting back to normal.

  2. We’ve had our moments up here in the mountains with downed trees, and power out for days…although thankfully we don’t get quite as cold as you! Brrrrr. I hope the fireback is rebuilt behind your woodstove before your next storm! I’m sorry about your lovely tree, but I’m glad there were enough down comforters for Boz and Gracie to snuggle up in 😉 Stay warm!

  3. Oh, Tom! I’m so sorry about your beautiful tree and that you had no backup heat (except three comforters and two bulldogs). We weathered eight days without power after a powerful ice storm here. Thankfully, we did have a wood stove, but it is amazing how we humans have to re-think our every move when the electricity is gone. It makes us consider our own power—or powerlessness. Thank goodness for your neighbors. I hope winter treats you more kindly hereafter.

  4. OH TOM! Your tree!

    Glad to hear you survived. My pipes burst and I discovered that fireplaces do nothing to heat a home. They sure do look purty though.

    At the end of the day, I have never been so happy to be a renter!

  5. I know you explained it all to me on my latest comment post but I am glad that you thoroughly survived, in a big way! I am also glad that that broken tree didn’t hurt you, your dogs & your house!

    Thanks for sharing your scary dark adventures!

  6. Thanks to my pioneer stock wife – Beth, we have always been prepared for power outages, “snow in’s” and lack of television type entertainment. Even though we got our power back on at midnight Thanksgiving eve, our oven didn’t work and I barbequed the turkey, complete with GRAVY!! Let me know if you need help with that tree, especially if it means removing the wood as well as the debris. We are your new #1 fans now!

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