Blowing in the Wind

Well that was fun, じゃない. Our little corner of the Great NW Windstorm of 2015 started about 4PM on Tuesday, when the gusts hit 45 and our power went out. Power outages in this area are infrequent, now that the city’s supply of dud transformers has run out, and when they happen they are usually limited to one half of the town and a few hours, max.

This one stretched on and on, into the dark, while the winds hit 60 and heavy objects skittered about the back deck. Fortunately, we had pretty full charges on our phones and tablets, so we spent a quiet evening at home, basking in the cold light of the screens. But that gets old after a while, and little by little the power drained away, and we wanted to keep some for emergencies.

At 9PM we gave up and went to bed. OK, we read some more. But by 10PM we turned out the flashlights and went to sleep in the darkest night we’ve ever had here. Darker even than the night they took the entire town of Cheney off line to refit a major substation, because on that night, we still had the glow of Spokane. Not so last night. It was, as they say, as dark as the inside of a cow.

We slept well and woke refreshed and it was still dark. Part of the reason it was still dark was it was just after midnight. Dawn was still six hours away. I went out on the back deck. The stars were amazing. The wind had died down, but the temperature was still in the 40’s. Cheney was dark. Spokane was dark. The stars were bright enough to navigate the deck obstacles. I stayed out a while with the binoculars, learning things about the night sky and the heat retention efficiency of pajamas in a 30kt wind on a chilly night.

Dawn came, and no power. The outside temperature was down to 30F, and the house had cooled to 54F. I figured we might have one more night before the interior temperature got cold enough that we had to worry about pipes freezing. We decided that this was likely a bigger outage than we thought (latest word is that WA had twice the number of outages of any previous storm), and sat down to do some serious planning. We had just gotten to the point of discussing how to use the portable gas BBQ grill inside the house without killing ourselves (put it in the fireplace) when the lights came on.

Even the NWS had problems. Here’s something I’ve never seen before, a data drop in temperature readings:

Eight hours, no data

Eight hours, no data

It was only 14 hours for us (others are still out), but it was enough to move us from inconvenience to disaster planning. I started thinking about things like worse windstorms, and Carrington Events, and how fragile civilization really is. We need to do some disaster prep.

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