The last time I logged was about our preparations for a quiet Christmas Eve. All appeared calm and well. On the 8th we invited all here in the “hood” for Christmas Eve caroling, eating, drinking, reminiscing, giggling, and all that goes with the pre-Santa arrival. Those who come, of course, are those who hadn’t planned to go be with “real” people and we’re going to be stuck up here on the hill with the likes of us. On the upside, we were planning and getting ready quietly for Christmas to come.
It appeared the big Guy in the sky had other plans. By Sunday Dec 10, all forecasters here were warning of a major wind event coming out of the southwest (for December, a tropical wind is very unusual and would be reverse of a normal winter wind coming from the inlands through the Columbia Gorge). ALL available wind measuring instruments were put in place on the property:
In fact, the last serious windstorm that came through here was just after we’d move in 10 years ago and WAS from the East, a very COLD freezing wind.
The arrival of the winds out of the southwest usually brings a very WET tropical storm, sometimes the aftermath of a typhoon in Asia. The “WET” part was forecast as well. Locally, we were warned to beginning expecting an inch of rain daily from Tuesday on landing on already saturated ground. Several FEET of snow would be blowing down onto the Cascades including Mt. Hood.
By Monday, the National Weather Service had issued Weather Watches for the entire Northwest coast, valleys and up into the Cascades. By Tuesday, all the TV stations were doing their normal blather of “lists” one “must do” to be prepared for power outages, and all manner of calamities just short of “Hey! The rapture’s here!”
By the way, that’s the one I’m waiting for……when the rapture is forecast, we won’t NEED any preparation, right? Yes, That’s the coming calamity I’ve been waiting for. When the Earth begins to burn won’t we all be floated up to a fluffy little pillow cloud with a violin or something wearing soft white robes? Won’t that be a problem since we’ll probably be there with a bunch of insane extreme fundamentalists who invented the term “rapture” ???
But I digress and forget ONE other thing that happened in the midst of all the forecasting of very serious hazardous weather. An intermediately skilled hobbyist Mountain Climbing team took off for the 11,000 ft summit of Mt. Hood, our lovely local volcano. They chose the most difficult vertical face to climb. Two of them from Texas, no comment.
During any given storm, winds at that elevation can easily approach 100 miles per hour. Now REALLY! No matter how experienced one may be at climbing, OR inexperienced for that matter. IF you’re going to climb an 11,000 foot peak in December, shouldn’t you know what weather to expect? How much common sense does it take to check forecasts before you begin a hazardous climb up steep volcanic peaks?
BY WEDNESDAY……………..all TV & Radio stations, the National Weather Service were certain and upgraded hazardous weather watches to warnings. Rodger prepared to work from home if necessary, and I walked the yard securing things that were loose, just in case the forecasters were right. When the last of the night forecasters was actually giving time-lines when things would happen and where, we took it serious.
Thursday began calmly enough, Mark hauled extra wood into the garage. We took a dog-walk with the Smiths and waited for the big event. I started a nice fire in the woodstove by 4:00 pm. Well……..sure enough, by 5:00 pm the wind began to blow and by 7:00 pm, gusts were fairly severe… It was raining heavily. By 7:15, some REAL gusts blew through and rain was coming in sheets sideways. We looked at each other as lights dimmed. Back on. Dimmed. Back on. We began lighting the propane lamp immediately as the power died and we were in utter darkness with howling wind around the house. That fire was a BIG piece of security at that moment. We somehow sensed THIS power would be out for some time just because of the fury of this storm.
At 8:30, I looked out to see tops of 80 foot tall Fir Trees bending about enough to make me gasp. I couldn’t imagine any solid piece of wood one or two feet in diameter actually bending at all. Rodger ventured out, then I did too to “feel” the power of this thing moving through our forest. Literally, this WAS a little scary. THEN we saw shades (through the cloud layers) of lightning….and went back inside. We began to see cars turning around about 200 feet down the street so dressed up, went back out with flashlights to find neighbors Peter and Jeanne looking at two of their trees down across Skyline Blvd ….. blocking traffic. We got our chainsaw and at least cut through at the half-way point, cut off side branches so we could drag the thing off the road. We thought we’d opened the road back up. Ah, NO. Cars that went around that broken tree were coming back just 30 seconds later. We walked on to the corner and could plainly see a huge dark object across the road……a car’s lights showed a massive old growth tree down just another 300 feet away. Here’s what we saw across Skyline (the pictures of the downed trees were taken the next morning by neighbor Dave Saylor, THANKS DAVE):
THIS Old Hemlock is truly Old Growth. The Diameter was 30 plus inches at the point it was laying across Skyline, and the trunk of it began about 30 feet below the street.
WHEW! NOW all the traffic went squeaking by Peter & Jeanne’s broken up tree, went a block further and turned around anyway. Except, that is, for the two different Macho groups: a coupla tough kids…. gave the tree a shot with a big chain saw and soon gave up, then a Dad had answered his sons call (who was blocked on the other side trying to come our way to get home) by bringing his BIG SAW. HE worked on that for 30 minutes before giving up.
By 9:00 the fierce storm was at its peak. By 12:00, the worst was over and by 3:00 am it was quiet. By 7:00 AM we were all out seeing what had happened. I DO BELIEVE OUR neighborhood took the BRUNT of some of the worst wind gusts in the city. We found MORE HUGE Fir and Hemlock trees down just past the BIG TREE that had blocked any view beyond its bulk. This must have been a massive gust that took these 4-6 huge trees out at once. On a dog walk a day later, Baird, Karen and I found a “spot” on the Newton Fire Trail about in the same wind-line as the big trees up on Skyline where 7 big trees snapped and caved in on themselves closing the road from that point on so we don’t know what’s beyond that. This was a spectacular site, and I’ll have to get a camera down there.
Dave and Deborah lost a HUGE Cedar tree that had long stood immediately in front of their house. It chose to drop just a few degrees off center from flattening their house, so instead, the top of the TALL tree fell to block Newton Road below that Arnie and Kaye must use to get out of their place. Whew! Arnie came up with a chain saw and wasn’t going to ask any help! What a tough guy, eh? Well, we all went there and I arrived last. Here’s how you look the night after howling winds, sawing branches, and wondering why YOU missed the rapture:
You can see how lucky Dave & Deborah were…that NEW home in the background is the NEW home they’re currently building. And here’s how the sight looked from close to Skyline:
Well we got that cut up……… and went on down to look at the BIG HEMLOCK situation (with traffic continuing to arrive and turn back around………….WE SAW THIS LIVE POWER LINE on another neighbors driveway:
WHEW! Guess what? THIS LINE Lay there until Saturday Afternoon without a peek by the power company….That was a little annoying to continue to call the Pacific Gas & Electric for this canned message, “We do not know the cause of the outage or when a crew can come up for an assessment.”
By Saturday morning, every one of the over-size macho pickups (you KNOW which ones I mean) that went by seemed to have a chain saw either salvaging firewood from these trees, or just moving their testosterone around so you could see that the BIG tree was making progress:
IN this picture you can see another big tree down just beyond this one. BY the time we came back home from getting ice for food salvage, the road was clear enough to get by.
On Friday night, we spent a few hours with Baird and Karen and enjoyed one of the truly “FUN” things friends can do on a dark night with no power: Play Games by Candlelight. They taught us how to play Rummy Q, and old thinking game played with numbered tiles. That was a pure delight, and I’m going to search e-bay for a set to buy. I DO believe the highlight was that for no apparent reason to anyone, MAC began to bark and look out the window. With a flashlight, we prepared for Raccoon spotting….but MUCH to the Smith’s DELIGHT, we all watched a flying squirrel at work eating in their feeder. The Smiths have never seen one at their place, mostly, I believe, because they don’t light their feeding spots at night as we do. As content as the little guy was there to sit and eat in the flashlight, I’m sure he’s been coming there at LONG time. That was a FUN night, Thanks, Baird & Karen.
Friday night late, I had called the PG&E number to be told ALL power had been restored in our area. I registered a new outage and called neighbors asking them to make sure PG&E KNEW we were still out of luck. By Saturday noon, an “assessment” crew came up and marked the hot live line (two days later) as unsafe! BUT, lucky were we: a FULL Crew and BIG trucks came up and worked into darkness to restore our power! WHEW! a full WHOOPPEE came out of that!
Than the clean up begins after these events. Cleaning OUT the fridge, scouring the shelves, salvaging what we can. Moving stuff back from the garage coolers into the house (THANKS KRYSTA & STEVE for the BIG IGLOO Cooler), cleaning up, washing 5 loads of clothes, etc etc. On MONDAY, I spent about 4 hours raking branches, piling them up, and moving them off to compost piles. In restoring power to our instant hot water, we now have a leak on the tank and that will have to be repaired.
This was some STORM. Seattle took the worst. At the heighth of this storm, nearly a million people were out of power in Seattle and 350,000 in Portland. It will be remembered for a long time.
In getting food from St Johns to prepare for Christmas Eve, I hit a small broken brick on the roadway flattening my right front tire. Well, You CANNOT stop on the St Johns Bridge during rush hour! You cannot stop safely on the west end where the road ends because that end is the bottom slope of a hill. The road goes right or left. I had to turn right and force park where there’s NO shoulder and let perturbed drivers work their way around me. That was a night mare for a bit. The tire was ruined, and by the way, on an all wheel drive vehicle, you can’t just replace ONE tire. IF all tires aren’t within a certain wear size, you’ll wear your transmission down, so this one tire cost $350. today. Whew!
BUT, I do BELIEVE the temperatures will break out above 30 tomorrow, and we can begin to prepare for Christmas Eve.
I DO believe we’ll be ready for a night of rest by the time Santa brings us that something for the stocking………….will it be a big orange like my folks use to stuff in there making us MAD as Hell! WHAT? AN ORANGE again? Well, Angel Ken is sitting atop the tree and should help encourage us all be to be better people………….or something like that, eh?