No Toto, We Didn’t Make It To Kansas

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:28 pm

Not for lack of trying, though. Some of you out-of-state types may have heard through your local news outlets about the Killer Windstorm the Puget sound area experienced late Thursday/early Friday. Over a million people in the greater Puget Sound area lost power, ourselves included. This would explain the disappearance of your friendly neighborhood Uncle Andrew dot Net from the blogosphere (we really need a better term for the extended community of Web logs. Just about anything beginning with “blog” is right out: blogscape, blogopolis, blogobahn….nothing really works. Gotta mull that one over some more.)

We lost power about one-thirty Friday morning. I had been lying in bed dozing on and off, listening to titanic gusts buffet the house and watching the arc-white flashes of transformers going down in the distance. The flashes grew closer and closer, until finally I head the distinctive, gritty “BZOWT!” of high-voltage electricity going somewhere it ought not from somewhere just outside, and knew that our own power had gone down.

Everyone has their task to perform when the power goes out. Margaret had already covered our snake cage with a sleeping bag to help preserve the heat, and I was running around turning off the myriad battery-backups that power our computers and other devices, all of which were bleating plaintively about the sudden lack of electrical nourishment. Shawn, who had basically just gotten to sleep (he keeps weird hours) came up from the basement to let us know that the burglar alarm was complaining as well. We got the alarm settled and went upstairs to the living room to watch the storm out our picture window.

It was there, upon opening the blinds, that I noticed our mountain ash tree, reclining in a manner that seemed much chummier with the house than was usual.


Shawn and I went out to investigate, and so that he could move his car across the street to the parking lot of the dentist’s office, in case the cedar and the ash had some kind of suicide pact. In near-total darkness, with pieces of the neighbor’s roof occasionally whipping past us, we noted that the hardly-in-the-prime-of-its-life ash had cracked at its base, rather than being pulled up at the roots.



By some miracle, the forty-plus-foot-tall tree had fallen completely clear of the house, failing to seriously disturb even the lavender beds. And to make matters even better, the tree is not on our property, but in fact is on the causeway leading to the large lot behind our house, recently purchased by a developer to turn into three single-family dwellings. So not only is the fallen tree not a problem, it is also not our problem.

Margaret and I sat around our rapidly-cooling house for most of Friday, trading off having our endothermic pythons stuffed down our shirts to keep them warm, reading books and serving as electric blankets for our spoiled, fur-covered cats. About halfway through the day I remembered that I could turn up the gas hot water heater to nearly 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and after that we had cups of tepid coffee and tea to—well, not warm, exactly—lightly defrost our spirits. Shawn brought home some delightful marinated lamb from work that we grilled on the barbecue outside, and turned in early.

Allow me to proffer an observation at this point: if getting to sleep in a raging windstorm is difficult, getting to sleep in the power outage following a raging windstorm, with a pillowcase full of nocturnally-active ball pythons under the covers with you, is also difficult.

The next morning Margaret’s clinic had had its power restored, so she took the snakes to work with her, while I stayed home attempting to prepare for another night without electricity. This consisted largely of making sure that our serious perishables were surviving in a cooler out on the porch and that nothing else was leaking/melting/slowly waking from its ancient sleep in the nether corners of the freezer. I also went and did a more thorough lookabout of the house and property. Really, we did amazingly well. Nothing of a disconcerting size or weight fell on our house, our fence stayed up, the pole for the bird feeder didn’t bend….hell, we didn’t even lose any shingles that I could see.

Power was restored about 5:00pm Saturday, and we luxuriated in our new-found warmth and freedom by re-booting the Web server and microwaving some leftovers. Oh, and making a big-ass pot of real coffee.

As roughing it goes, we were pretty damn lucky. When the hardest part of your harrowing story of survival involves keeping snakes in your shirt and having to mix chlorine into your slowly-cooling hot tub with a kayak paddle, heart-stirring drama it is not.

Which is exactly how I like my crises.

I hope my fellow Puget Sounders are holding up well. If you’re reading this, post a reply and let us know how you’re doing.

12 Responses to “No Toto, We Didn’t Make It To Kansas”

  1. Shawn Says:

    You forgot the drama of the roof that you and the wind attacked me with. Poor Shawn.

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    No, I put that part in:

    In near-total darkness, with pieces of the neighbor’s roof occasionally whipping past us, we noted that the hardly-in-the-prime-of-its-life ash had cracked at its base, rather than being pulled up at the roots.

    I just edited it for time and persecution complex. 😛

  3. Dalek Says:

    Whew – glad the tree missed your house! On another bright side, that’s one less tree to snare the parachute-jumper fireworks next year…not to mention many less mountain ash seedlings to weed out of the lavender bed. 😉 Really impressive break, though.

    fisherbear and I came through the storm quite well, thankfully. We never really lost power; just had a surge strong enough to reset those clocks that didn’t have battery backups. No damage to the house or property, either; the worst casualty was the lid blown off of one of the composters, and I managed to find it (it had gone quite the distance). We’re acting as hosts to a friend who still doesn’t have power, and we hosted many people Sunday (but that had nothing to do with the power, of course.)

    Glad you and Margaret and the cats and the snakes are safe, warm, and well. Take care!

  4. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Glad to hear you guys pulled through in good shape. Seems like Seattle proper was a real mixed bag: Margaret’s brother and his wife live in Ballard and also never had their power go out. We poor suburbanites took the brunt of it *sniff*.

    Did you hear the bit on KUOW this morning mentioning that the Puget Sound might set the record for the largest epidemic of carbon monoxide poisoning in American history, due to folks using generators and charcoal grills indoors during the outage? Sheesh, so much for my civic pride….

  5. Val Says:

    Checking in from Enumclaw…. We’re all powered up after being dark for only about 20 hours, we got our lights back right around 8PM on Friday. The crews are pretty used to working in our area so they know where all the trouble spots are and can get the power on quickly. Alan was very busy though!

    We have a gas range, so I just kept making hot water bottles with our nalgene bottles to make a nest for my elderly bald cat to sleep out the cold. No fireplace or gas insert for heat though. We did fire up the generator about 3PM on Friday, only to find that our fancy schmancy super efficient hot water/heat exchanger system was malfunctioning, so I had to keep resetting it to keep the heat going. Which was actually a good thing, because after removing the access panel to get to the diagnostics we discovered that the tank had a leak–which wasn’t present a month ago at the last inspection so we lucked out that we found it before it was a catastrophic failure. If you call a $2800 repair lucky I guess!

    I’m glad to hear everything is well at your place and that the tree missed your house. That is sure something to wake up to.

  6. Margaret Says:

    “In near total darkness…..” No, dude, it was dark. It was butt dark, the only light were the flashlights that you and Shawn were carrying wandering around in WINDS FROM THE BLACK LAGOON with pieces of the neighbor’s roof flying at you. Damn piece of corrugated fiberglass nearly took your head off.

    And Val, what’s amazing is that it wasn’t the tree falling that woke us up. It was the transformer blowing and the plaintive beeping of the power supplies and the alarm system. I was stunned that something that large managed to fall that close to our house and we didn’t even hear it.

    I thoroughly agree with Andrew. Sleeping with a pair of pythons in the bed is not particularly amusing.

  7. Val Says:

    Because of my rather intense and irrational fear of snakes, there were portions of Andrew’s blog entry and subsequent comments that I had to read with my eyes closed…

  8. Gavin Says:

    I was stunned that something that large managed to fall that close to our house and we didn’t even hear it.

    I guess that answers the age old question “If a tree falls in the suburbs and there’s no on around to hear it does it make any noise?”

    But seriously, am I the only one who keeps a Power Inverter and a 100 foot extension cord on hand? Get an inverter big enough and not only will your ice cream stay frozen but fresh coffee and a space heater are possible as well.

  9. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Da-bamn, that’s not a bad idea (3,000 watts? I have one for my laptop, but 300 effing watts??). We’re also contemplating a pellet stove insert for the downstairs fireplace; we never use it as it is

  10. Dalek Says:

    Of course, there’s the couple in Shoreline that managed to burn down their house Sunday night with their Power Inverter hooked up to their car, trying to run their lights and television…so maybe you might want to think twice about getting one of those. Or at least being very careful with it if you have one. :-p

  11. margaret Says:

    And then there’s the family in Burien that managed to off 4 of 5 members by running their gasoline powered generator INDOORS!

    What is WRONG with people?

  12. Gavin Says:

    Proving again the filter inlets are in the shallow end of the gene pool. Darwin awards anyone?

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