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Friday, January 4, 2008

One of the bumps I heard in the night must have been the top half of the birch tree in my garden, snapping off and shattering against the paving stones. This storm brought a lot of strange noises with it, but the fallen birch was the most striking piece of physical evidence I saw when I got up this morning.

The constant rhythmic banging was what kept me awake most of the night, even more than the roar of the wind or the rain, sometimes in pellets and sometimes in sheets, pounding against the side of the house and threatening my bedroom window, or so it seemed at the time.

As it turned out, the rhythmic banging was something I could have done something about. The latch on the screen door has been broken for a couple of years, but never before last night has it swung so wildly back and forth, beating against the front of the house. There is a tricky way to fix it so it stays shut, and once I realized what I was hearing, thatís what I did.

The electricity went off and then back on three times during the night and early morning. I could never tell what time it went off, but every time it came back on the microwave would let out a high-pitched squeal, demanding that its clock be reset. I could never manage to ignore it, even in the middle of the night.

As a responsible employee who was pretty sure he wasnít going to get any work done today, I phoned the Boss at 9:30 am to let him know the situation. Apparently the situation was nearly as dire where he was, although he hadnít lost power yet. Heíd been trying to do some engineering drawings, but the wind was shaking the building so much that he couldnít keep the lines straight.

Heíd call-forwarded his office phone line to his cell phone, so that he could still field calls even if he lost power. He asked me if I had a cell phone. I said no, and he thanked me for checking in.

It was a little before 11:00 am when the electricity went out for good. I knew the utility company would have its hands full, so I waited three hours before using my non-electronic land line to check in with them. Because of the severity of the storm and the widespread damage, they couldnít give me an estimate of when power would be restored. I never bothered to turn on the ringer on that phone, because then I would have had to answer it. Iíve spent too much time using Caller ID to avoid certain types of calls to have wasted all that effort and let them into my life now, just because I couldnít tell who was ringing my phone. Maybe thatís selfish, but it made sense to me at the time. Still does, but a little less so.

So I spent the whole day bundled up in the recliner, because I have no heat without electricity. I did some reading, but it was pretty dark and my eyes got tired easily. I slept for long stretches, almost making up for the fitful night. I turned on the portable radio a couple of times, but the FM stations didnít come in clearly, and all the AM stations seemed to be talking about was, ďWhatís Hillary going to do now?Ē I didnít believe anyone who would phone in to that kind of radio show would know the answer to that question anyway, so I turned it off and took another nap.

4 January 2008

The top of the birch, in its new location.

Late this afternoon I found a local radio station that was actually talking about something I wanted to know. First they talked about the weather, which I could see by looking out the window. Then they talked about traffic, which didnít affect me since I couldnít even get my car out of the garage without wading through standing water (not worth it).

Finally they mentioned power outages, but I canít say that news was very encouraging: over a million Bay Area customers in the dark, and 473 separate outages in the tri-county area alone. That didnít give me much hope. I assumed I was pretty low on whatever priority list they were using to determine restoration. I guessed I was after Marin County, at least, and the utility company wouldnít promise them anything before tomorrow.

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