December 16, 2006

Windstorms and Electricity

We get a lot of windstorms in the Pacific Northwest. Almost none of them are newsworthy. Wind gusts can hit seventy or eighty miles per hour, even a hundred miles an hour on the coast.

Thursday evening's windstorm was one for the record books. Our wind gusts were not that unusual, mid 50s to mid 60s in Seattle. The sustained winds of more than 40mph, from Vancouver through Washington and Oregon into even Northern California, lasted six straight hours, and did a lot of damage. A Seattle woman drowned in her basement while it flooded. Falling trees killed several individuals. I heard many trees go down overnight Thursday.

And now, a half-million homes, more than 1.2 million people, are without electricity, two days later. I am one of these folks. With so many trees down and transformers blown, it could be until next weekend before everybody is back online. Puget Sound Energy thinks some of the larger cities could have power between now and Monday.

Our "on demand" world is shown for what it is during these times. By last evening, just twenty hours after the storm hit, gas stations in areas that have power were already out of gas. Fortunately, downtown Seattle has power, so more than a million people can impose demands upon this part of King County.

Once you cross Lake Washington, heading east from Seattle, it gets pitch black. And it stays this way for one hundred miles to the east.

We threw hundreds of dollars of rotten food out this morning. Temperatures continue to be in the low 40s during the day, around 30 at night. That's really cold for more than a million folks who don't have any way to heat their home.

Electricity is darn important, and is something we really take for granted. Our technology-based world crumbles without electricity. Cell phones and laptops quickly become useless. Broadband Internet has no value without power. Televisions don't work. We listen to AM radio, and have gained a new appreciation for C and D batteries.

Advice: Stock up on seven days of supplies, just in case nature decides to impose her will on your family.


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