The Storm

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It was “the worst storm in memory” according to natives here in coastal  southwest Washington. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” declared our 80 year-old neighbor, Bernice. She’s lived here for over 60 years.

The “killer storm” howled in off the Pacific on Sunday and shook us like water off a wet dog for 24 hours. Hit with a “one-two punch” that began with hurricane winds late Sunday and most of Monday, our region was also hit by torrential rains and extensive flooding. Winds were clocked at over 80 mph until the measuring device was blown out. We’ve heard reports of winds in excess of 100 mph. That sounds accurate the way our house shook and trembled as shrieking winds slammed our house for more than a day.

Stephen King?

 Indeed, the storm that hit us December 2 and 3 was something out of Stephen King. The Harbor was an isolated island for nearly three days, cut off from the outside world by extensive storm damage and road closures. (The I-5 remains closed due to flooding.) Without electricity and no TV or computer access, we have no idea how extensive the damage is until later. For two days we rely on our battery-operated Panasonic radio for local news – that’s all we can get.

Over 35,000 customers lose power. Many lose water service. Without electricity to power pumps, gasoline is unavailable. Grocery stores accept cash and checks only – no debit or credit cards that require electricity for processing. Neighborhoods are littered with downed trees, power lines and storm debris including mud and land slides. Crews report between 500 and 700 downed trees just up the road. Our neighbor’s garage collapsed. The roof blew down the street. We lose an eave, rain gutter, roof shingles, and an 80″ x 60” living room window. The window implodes into the living room on Monday, when ferocious wind gusts are reported at up to 120 mph.

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This window used to have glass.

Night Stars

At night we read by kerosene lantern – Snuggle Bunny a military history of Viet Nam; I finish a biography on Gustav Mahler. We plow through a few more chapters of A Christmas Carol with the boys. We heat water on our Coleman stove for hot chocolate. We play board games and sing Christmas carols by lantern light. Last night we bundled everyone up and dashed outside to look at the outrageous night sky. Without city glare, the Milky Way is awesome!

Rod Serling?

By daybreak on December 4 our community looks like something out of the Twilight Zone. Our power was knocked out shortly after midnight on Monday, December 3. It was restored some 49 hours later, just before 1:00 a.m. this morning (Wednesday). We’ve never been so glad to see lights burning and hear a furnace kick in! Many parts of this region remain without power, water, and heat. Schools, libraries, many roads, stores, and county offices remain closed.

His Grace:

We’ve never seen anything like the past two and a half to three days. But God’s grace is greater! His loving care and protection were evident throughout the storm:

— We never lost water. No hot water, but we were able to heat food and water on our faithful Coleman cook stove for meals, washing dishes, and bathing. Our trusty Coleman cooler also came in handy as we transferred everything from the fridge and freezer into the cooler – and didn’t lose a thing to spoilage. (Don’t know who “Coleman” is/was, but that guy deserves a medal!)

— We didn’t lose phone service. We have one dedicated phone line, independent of electricity. All other lines were down – no fridge, furnace, dishwasher, computer, TV, etc., but the phone was up and running for the duration, enabling us to check on friends and neighbors and communicate verbally with “the outside world.”

— Weather. Just last week daytime highs hovered in the lows 40s. We had snow on Saturday. Daytime temps have been in the 50s since the hurricane hit. Not “warm,” but not freezing either. The forecast is for temps to plunge by 10 to 20 degrees starting tomorrow, but it’s supposed to be dry for the next few days. How thankful we are for a functional furnace!

–Neighbors pitch in, checking up on each other and keeping an eye on one another’s families, homes, property, vehicles, and damage. Those better prepared shared firewood, propane, food, lanterns and candles with those less prepared.

— No flooding here. Even though we live right across the street from a major river, we remain high and dry.

–No one hurt. We have some property damage, but it’s repairable.

Grace is Greater!

Around noon on Monday, my two youngest and I were on the living room couch reading aloud from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  We moved into the kitchen. Thirty seconds after vacating the couch our 80″ x 60” plate glass window shattered into the house. The force of the wind drove glass shards an inch into the facing wall. The hardback book left on the couch was sliced to ribbons. That window – now boarded up – is less than six inches behind the couch.

Still shaken from that close call, we gathered around the kitchen table and started to sing. We turned a page in our book of Christmas carols and launched into Deck the Halls. The third stanza pulled us up short:

Sing we joyous songs together,

Falala, falala, lalala.

Heedless of the wind and weather.

Falalalala, lalalalal.

We look at each other and burst out laughing.

“Earthquake” supplies

As Californians, we’ve always had an “earthquake kit” on hand with three-day emergency supplies: bottled water, extra matches and batteries, canned food, paper goods, etc. We’ve never used it until we moved north. Boy, did that “earthquake” kit come in handy! Next on the docket today: laundry. Yea verily, the amount of dirty laundry a family of six can generate in three washing machine-less days is the stuff of legend.

Laus Deo!

The winds have died down. It seems almost strange to not have to contend with a screaming freight train just outside the windows. The rain has stopped. Small patches of blue push through the storm-whipped sky. We have a roof (albeit leaky) over our heads. Food in the fridge. A turkey in the oven. Hot water! Electricity! Heat! We’re together and safe. Much clean-up and recovery work remains to be done, but there is much for which to thank God. We’ll sleep tonight for the first time since Sunday.

Paraphrasing Corrie ten Boom: 

“There is no storm so great that He is not greater still.”

Laus Deo. 

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