January 06, 2007

JANUARY 6, 2007

Christmas and New Year's have come and gone, but here I am, still dwelling on the past with a few more things to say about the Wedding Anniversary Storm.

The morning of the storm I was listening to my favorite local radio talk show host, and he dropped into the conversation several times, "Be sure to fill up your gas tank on your way home tonight." I really didn't know why he was giving this advice, and since my car had a half a tank of gas, I didn't act on it. The storm blew in in the late afternoon, and our power was out by 5:15 PM. You'll recall that Scott phoned me as he was leaving work, wanting to know if he should stop to buy me an anniversary card. I just wanted him to get home and build a fire -- so he didn't stop to buy gas, either, and coasted home on fumes. Coincidentally, Jennie's little Honda Civic happened to have a full tank of gas. Friday morning we awakened to the news of hundreds of thousands of people and businesses without power -- including many gas stations. Lo and behold, we were now a household of three adults needing to go places and with only two usable cars and figuring out how to coordinate all of our trips to be the most efficient with the gasoline we had in those cars' tanks. Over the course of the day, I heard on the news of lines at gas stations that were one hour and two hours long. You had not only the usual number of people who'd be filling up their cars anyway, but also people who were filling their gas cans to use for their generators -- and all of these people congregating at the very few gas stations where the pumps were working. I got the talk show host's advice, big time: You can't pump gas at a gas station if there's no electricity to run the pump.

It was a concept that should'a been familiar to me. Living in a rural area, we get our water from a well, and when the power is out, the wellhouse pump won't run. When our power goes out, we have no running water.

Despite not having full tanks of gas, we were okay in terms of emergency preparedness. We always have what I think of as Earthquake Water stored in the garage: 5-gallon containers full of water. We had about 40 gallons on hand. And when a big storm is blowing in, I will usually fill the bathtub with water, too. My family usually makes fun of me for doing this -- but at least twice in the three years we've been living in this house we've made good use of the bathtub full of water. And when our power was out for six nights during this Wedding Anniversary Storm, we used almost all of the bathtub water. 40 gallons of Earthquake Water was not enough, either -- we were fortunate in that we were able to leave and replenish supplies, and one day a neighbor came over with buckets of more water and filled the horse trough. Had the situation been different and we been unable to leave our house, we would have needed more water. Next time, I'll be filling two bathtubs.

In other departments of emergency preparedness: We had batteries, all shapes and voltages. We had firewood. Because the power was out for such a long time, we actually exhausted the batteries in our flashlights and had to buy more, which became a little challenging because we were trying to buy batteries at a time when the stores were sold out -- everyone else had been buying batteries, too.

Similarly for ice. The second day with no power, I sent Jennie to buy ice so that we could move perishables from the non-working refrigerator into an ice chest. She went to a couple of stores but came back empty-handed. One store had sealed off all of its cold and frozen items and would not sell those -- trying to keep the cold stuff cold and conserve it. Another store that would sell its cold items had completely sold out of ice. The same neighbor who filled our horse trough had been out shopping ahead of us and gave me two bags of ice, which was plenty to keep the milk, cheese, etcetera, cold out on the porch in a cooler.

We spent the first two, power-less nights at home. We had a fire in the fireplace and were able to cook and heat water for washing on the gas stovetop. The third night, Scott and I had had long-standing reservations to spend the night at the Hilton at SeaTac airport; it was the night of Scott's company's Christmas party and we didn't plan to come home afterward. So the only thing that we did differently was to pack up our two kids and take them along with us. The kids ordered burgers and fries from room service, watched TV, charged up their cell phones and I-pods, took showers . . . in short, they felt they were living in the lap o' luxury.

Ironically enough, the power went out at the airport and surrounding area (including the Hilton) that night at 10 PM and didn't come back on until 3 AM. I'd done something I'd never done before: I happened to pack flashlights in our suitcases, so our kids had those in the pitch-dark hotel room and were very content to read books and just hang out. It was still warmer in the hotel than at home, after all.

Once that door had been opened, so to speak, we spent the following three nights in hotels in Tukwila, near Scott's office. Now, you might have visions of this being like a vacation: Karen could address and send her Christmas cards and get lots of knitting done, and not have the burden of cooking meals and cleaning up afterward. In actual fact, I spent time each day driving home, attempting to keep a fire going, feeding and watering the animals, and filling Two Swans Yarns orders. Allegra's dance school had several Open House performances, too, so I spent time driving her to those and either watching or waiting. It didn't turn out to be any mini-vacation, but was a typical hectic season -- and we weren't even getting ready for Christmas, yet. We were two nights at home, four nights in hotels. Scott began to call 2006 as "the year we spent Christmas in Tukwila." The girls started to call each other 'Eloise.'

Let me wax didactic for a moment and share with you what I've learned:

Lesson #1: Fill your vehicle's tank with gas, if there's going to be an impending disaster.

Lesson #2: Store more Earthquake Water than you think you will need.

Lesson #3: Ditto for batteries.

Lesson #4: It would not hurt to keep a spare block or two of ice in the freezer (something we usually do in the summertime but aren't in the habit of, in winter).

Lesson #5: Just as there was a run on gasoline, batteries, and ice, there was also a huge demand for cash as most banks were closed and ATMs not working. If you think you'll need it, get cash before the power goes out.

Lesson #6: Always pack a flashlight in your suitcase when traveling. It would even be good to carry one in your knitting bag.

Indian Summer of 2004, Scott took this picture of me outside of our house:


Here's what that horse statue looks like today:


The top of the tree next to the statue blew off in the storm and landed on top of the statue. In all, we lost six trees and have been too busy to even begin the yard cleanup.

By Saturday (third day without power), Scott was saying that the inside of the refrigerator was the warmest spot in our house -- and, despite the fire in the fireplace, that was undoubtedly true. We lost everything in our refrigerators and freezers. Well, I did salvage the unopened bottles of champagne and white wine as I don't think those were hurt by standing at room temperature for a few days. But we've thrown everything else out. I was especially sad to lose the salmon fillets and lamb chops that were in the freezer.

I hope this doesn't sound like too much whining. This wasn't Hurricane Katrina, this wasn't what those folks in Colorado are going through. But being without electricity and water for six days was inconvenient. We voluntarily go without electricity and running water when we go to our cabin in the San Juans . . . and there we have routines we've set up for doing without (and are on "island time," too, not trying to fit into the usual 9-to-5 workday schedule). It was. . . um, interesting . . . to try to translate those routines into our regular home life. Had we been at our cabin, we would have been more comfortable.

On the brighter side, I did finish the scarf I was knitting for my friend's college-age, wool-allergic son, my last FO of 2006:

December 002.jpg

Yarn: Rowan Calmer, colors Onyx and Coffee Bean
Length: 60 inches
Stitch pattern: 3x3 rib

I didn't get any really good photos of Allegra's dances, but she was adorable! Well poised, and happy to be dancing:


(She's the brunette in the center. Most of the time she had a beaming smile on her face, although not at the moment this rather blurry photo got snapped. "Open House" performances happen in the dance studio rather than on a stage, and that's why you see the barres in the background.)

Posted by Karen at January 6, 2007 11:05 AM

Your comments about the storm and lessons learned are pertinent, and I will take them to heart. We are very dependent on services and utilities, and can't afford to be complacent. We have cans of gas that we store, and Bill rotates the gas routinely, which sometimes makes us feel a bit foolish, but a gas crisis never seems far away these days! The water situation needs thought, as we are not nearly as prepared for a shortage there. Thanks for the outline. Hey, that scarf is gorgeous! Lucky kid!

Posted by: Anne at January 6, 2007 05:24 PM

That scarf is great - even tho it's not a close-up pic your tension is so fabulous! I'm getting much closer to blog resurrection! See you Monday!

El Kay

Posted by: Linda "K" at January 7, 2007 11:52 AM

just like us and hurricanes :-)
now we have a generator. with wilma, we borrowed my bil's gas dock, so we had plenty of fuel. a gas stove instead of electric aso helps!
water from the pool to flush.

Posted by: vanessa at January 8, 2007 05:11 AM

I'm so glad you wrote about storing water in advance of the storm. Because I grew up in typhoon country (the Philippines and Singapore) I'm in the habit of doing this and did so before the Nameless Storm...and I was SO teased by Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless. Your blog entry makes me feel quite vindicated.

Posted by: Ryan at January 8, 2007 08:27 AM

Isn't it shocking how much we depend on electricity? I'm glad you all survived. Thanks for posting the photo of Allegra. Such a pretty girl!

Posted by: Jewel at January 8, 2007 08:37 AM

Yes, Vanessa, just like you and hurricane country . . . only, let's see . . . in Florida y'all have a law that requires gas stations to have generators so that the gas pumps work, so there won't be that problem of gas shortages . . . and your temps remain pretty temperate, I'm sure (whereas we had very hard frosts at night, the kind that put an inch of ice on the horse trough). :-)

Ryan and Anne: Any- and every- body living on the West Coast needs to have Earthquake Water, just like having Birkies and drinking Starbucks. It's the done thing. I'm shocked anybody wouldn't. (Jewel, do you have yours?)

Posted by: Karen at January 8, 2007 09:24 AM

Once again a reminder of storing more than one thinks will be required, whether it be water or batteries, etc! A co-worker told me about her ATM woes and that was something I hadn't thought about - needing cold hard cash.

There is so much to be prepared for in this region. In the fall I attended an Emergency Preparedness session required by the mayor for all city of Seattle employees. I learned that Washington is at the very top of the list of states for potential natural disasters-from flooding to earthquakes to active volcanoes. I was shocked to learn this. I need to do better at preparing, no doubt about it.

Thanks for sharing Allegra's dance, too. She is so darn adorable!

Posted by: Naomi at January 8, 2007 12:16 PM

Good tips Karen!

We were very lucky up here in Vancouver, and even luckier driving through Seattle that Friday to find an open gas station!

Posted by: Angela at January 9, 2007 11:54 AM