It was a quiet Sunday afternoon...and by quiet I mean deadly quiet. The absolute stillness is in sharp contrast to the previous 24 hours. Yesterday and especially last night was the worst wind storm I can remember in my 20 plus years of living here in the mountains. It is not uncommon to have high winds here, and we often just roll with it. I have seen plenty of 60, 80 and 90 mph winds.
Last night, however, was one to remember. I spied some weather reports today of winds at 115 mph in some nearby counties. That, and my direct observation of the 50 foot trees in my yard swinging 6 to 8 feet at their tops in last night's moonlight, has me believing that we easily had 100 to 120 mph here.
It all started as usual with some swaying trees and an occasional shudder of the house, but unlike the past it just kept coming and increasing with each passing hour. The lights went out about 9 PM last night and now at 3 PM, the house is still without power. The outlook on when power will be restored is still a mystery.
When daylight returned today, I was able to see what carnage had been wrought by this storm. In my yard the dirty snow was covered with short bits of pine boughs and I lost one fairly large tree. It is difficult to fathom the energy needed to snap a tree trunk that is 10" in diameter, but yet there are dozens of these about the neighborhood.
Some of my other neighbors were not as lucky. The photo above is at my neighbor's home. She has 4 or 5 big trees down and one even came crashing onto her deck. On a trip into town to see how the rest of the community fared, I saw tipped-over play houses, 20" diameter trees across the road and even a house with a good chunk of its roof ripped away. Another down-wind neighbor lost 4 good-sized trees, and in that cascade of timber, his utility feed was ripped from its pole.
I did not get much sleep last night due to the roar of the wind, the rattling of windows and the continuous shaking of the house. People often reflect on earthquakes and the uneasiness that they bring, this storm was a bit like a minor trembler...but it lasted for 12 hours straight.
When I remodeled my home about 10 years ago, one of the best things I did was add a free standing soapstone wood stove to the master suite. Our electricity here has always had a few hiccups and when there is no power, the wood stove insert in the living room and the forced air furnace become basically useless.
Life without power is not that big of a deal when you are prepared or plan for it. You just need to take a few steps back in the technology department. For instance, we have gone weeks on camping trips without the need for a single electron. The more one relies on technology the more one is impacted by its loss.
Our off-grid cabin is a classic example of this. In the off-grid cabin, we have a small solar system and have some basic lighting needs meet by 12 volt LEDs. If a total failure of that system were to occur, the kerosene lamps could fill the void. A small wood stove there provides heat.
Here at home one of our family activities is what we call "pioneer night". This event has its origins in our history of power outages. Pioneer night is where we turn off the electric lights and fire up the oil lamps ― we "unplug" for the evening. It is a time filled with telling stories, singing songs and playing board games, filling an evening with personal time that most folks never see due to a constant stream of television.
We are fortunate that we are on a municipal water system so these power outages do not take us back too far in the sanitation and cooking realm. Our water heater is propane, so despite a lack of lights a hot bath is not impossible and cleaning up the dishes from cooking on the camp stove or over one of the wood stoves is also pretty painless.
My recent trip into town (which had power restored) resulted in my procurement of some items for dinner and a large frozen turkey to keep the rest of the items in the fridge at safe food temperatures. (It's like a 10-pound block of ice that will not melt into a runny pool). After all, without power, the fridge acts just like a giant cooler and with this part of the home being a bit on the chilly side, I have seen it maintain its "coolness" for days. Mid-November at 8500 feet also results in the great outdoors acting as a giant walk-in refrigerator. In fact, the brew I just retrieved from the deck is hitting the spot nicely...life is good.