Getting through the windstorm of '06

This blog hasn't been updated for a few days because Mother Nature opened up a big can of whoop-ass on western Washington last week. She kicked my butt; and I'm one of the lucky ones.

A major windstorm struck Thursday night. Among the thousands of trees that fell was one trunk of a beautiful big leaf maple that was a home for birds and squirrels and provided welcome shade for my family in the summertime.

That's the view from my office window. The tree toppled across three back yards and crushed two fences. It missed two houses by 10 feet or less. When it gets sawed up and removed, its two standing brothers are going with it. They may be rotten too, and I can't risk endangering our neighbors.

I haven't had much time to deal with that tree, though. Until 5 p.m. Monday, my wife and I have been trying to keep the kids warm and occupied. Like more than 1 million people in this area, our power blinked out in the wee hours, and we joined the struggle to figure out how to get by without electricity for days on end.

Duck tape

With a little duck tape to repair the Coleman stove pump, I was able to heat water for coffee and oatmeal and fry up some bacon. We ran through a supply of turkey burgers in the freezer by using the gas grill.

(Branch speared neighbor's windshield)

I discovered our fireplace is an ornament, at best. It put out lots of  light — and quite a bit of smoke — but failed to heat the living room more than 3 or 4 degrees. With a cold snap the followed the windstorm, our indoor temperatures dipped to 44 degrees overnight. A roaring fire in the morning gave only the illusion of warmth, as most of the heat went right up the chimney.

Our neighborhood was without power for some 90 hours. The lows have been in the upper 20s to low 30s; the highs in the 40s.

Like I said, I consider myself and my family among the lucky ones.

Carbon monoxide

Six people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning; more than 100 have been treated for it. They're calling it an epidemic. People are dying and getting sick because they're running generators or burning charcoal inside their homes and apartments. Even burning charcoal in the fireplace can be deadly.

In addition, eight others have died as a result of the windstorm.

As I write this, a lot of people are still in the dark. The winds — clocked in the 60s — knocked trees down across power lines Thursday night and put more than 1.5 million homes and businesses in the dark. Two hundred thousand customers are still without electricity. Countless others have suffered damange to homes. (Updates at Seattle Times)

Slow recovery

Some of those will be without electricity through Christmas. Repair crews have picked all the low-hanging fruit in restoring electricity. Now they're working blocks at a time. Our power, for instance, came on at 5 p.m. Monday only after a crew began working on a tree-toppled set of powerlines early Sunday afternoon.

Needless to say, this experience has helped to put life back in perspective. I don't know why I felt so rushed to get a string of Christmas lights up around the house a couple of weeks ago. I don't remember what I planned to file for this blog last Friday morning.

I didn't even think about riding the bike all weekend. What I did think about was all the supplies and equipment we should get to ride out the next catastrophe.

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