The Wrath of Wind

So, mere MINUTES after posting my previous post, I hear *CLICK*….*BEEEEEEEEEP* accompanied by absolute darkness as the power all across the northwest goes out. And I knew it was widespread immediately because all of a sudden people I was talking to in nearby cities went offline. My cablemodem, firewall, wireless AP, MCE, and Webserver are all on battery backup, so while all the power in at least 2800 square miles was out, I was still online. :P (Since of course Comcast has batteries / generators as well.) After 10 minutes or so, I could tell that based on the fact that no one I knew in the state had power anymore, and the power was still out, that it was going to be a while. So, I start powering down equipment. (Sigh, my new 600GB array was in the middle of a surface scan….and while it was also on battery backup, it was not going to last, so I canceled the scan and started gracefully shutting down machines. I restarted the scan today, but checking that many sectors one at a time will take a LONG time.)

Finally everything is all turned off and after turning off every UPS (there are 6 in my place) the shrill screeching stops as well. It's quiet; REAL quiet. Other than the sound of the wind that is, which depending on the velocity was actually quite loud at times. I could hear the creaks and moans from the frame of the building straining against the wind. I could hear the window frames shaking and could hear distant explosions (what I thought were transformers) at times. Right when I was about to go to bed, I noticed flashing lights shining through the window. I went to go see what that was, and I saw that there was a large tree down in the complex (picture is after it was chopped) and people were taking pictures of it (the flashing light I saw).

I went back inside and went to sleep. There was no power, but I had an important meeting to make it to the next day regardless of whether there was power or not. The next day, I woke up and got ready for work (again no power, so no hot shower), on my way out to my car though, I saw this: (pictured below) . One of my neighbor's cars had been crushed by a tree! I felt bad for them too. They were outside at the time looking at it and seemed to be in shock. At the time (the picture was days later) the tree had much more foliage and the blue tarp was not covering it of course, but essentially, the roof and hood are partially caved in. This was only a few parking spots over from mine as well. Thankfully there were no large trees to the south of me though (there is one to the north). There is also a huge tree out back (which is to the south), but it's MUCH larger than these were, and I have a feeling would have taken much more direct wind to be pushed over (but if it goes some day, it's going right into my deck/living room).

After heading in to work (where there was also no power), I found that our important meeting was on. We found a white board near a window and had enough outside light to continue the meeting until around noon or so. This was only half the scheduled time, but was pretty good considering there was no power at all. At the end of our meeting, we wanted to grab lunch somewhere, but could not find anywhere that was open. Just then someone walked by with fresh subway and said that downtown Bellevue had power. Sweet. We were pretty happy to hear that, and all got in our respective cars to head that direction with expectations of meeting at the Parlor (in Lincoln Square). I had to stop and get gas first though. I was stupid and let my tank run near empty. A series of events I was constantly running late for meant that I never thought I had time to fuel up until just then (after the power was out for 2800 square miles). When I left my place that morning, the fuel gauge already said 0 miles to empty. I know I can go for a while on it saying that. The needle was just about at E, and I know I have gone before with it just a little bit past E. However, when we got to about a few miles away from Bellevue, the traffic STOPPED. That's when I got concerned. I started to realize that this whole situation may be more difficult than I thought. (At this time, I did not know exactly how bad things were, since we were told downtown Bellevue was up, so I thought things were returning to normal.) It took a LONG time to get to where I wanted to go. ALL the traffic lights were out (and there are a lot between work and there) and that made them all 4 way stops. Additionally, it seemed that almost everyone within many miles got the word that there was power in Bellevue, because almost everyone was going in that direction. Once we got there (and my engine was still running) I saw a few gas stations that were operating and had power. I was pretty relieved at that point, and even mentioned to someone on the phone that it seemed there was power and gas in Bellevue. However, soon after that, I realized that it's not a good sign when the police have blocked off the entrances and forced lines to form in certain directions (which I was not able to easily get to). Even if I did get in line, it was about six blocks long and moving very slowly as well, so I may not have made it while they still had gas, or before I ran out of gas. So I started just following the street lights that had power hoping to find another gas station with less crowds. At this point, the gas needle was 2mm PAST all markings on the gauge. I had no idea it could even go that low at all. So I keep driving, until I realize very quickly that only a few blocks in either direction of the interstate had power. Also only confined to a few blocks N and S as well. Also by that point, the needle hit 3 mm below the line and stopped moving. I decided that I would not be able to make it anywhere and wait in line long enough to get gas at that point, so I found a safeway that was open (by accident) and just parked in the lot. I should note that when I turned off the car, the gas needle never moved as it was already in its resting position.

My first thought was that I would just walk around and follow where there was power looking for a gas station. Sadly this did not take very long as I found that the area that actually had power was very small (though there were 4 starbucks in these few blocks, all of which had lines which took up almost all the room inside). I then decided I would try and get away from downtown a bit but along the interstate (112th) and see if I could find a gas station which was not as crowded. I spent probably 40 minutes at least just on this one street, and saw nothing of use, so I turned around. On the way back to the car I started calling people, 1. To see if they were alright, and 2. To see if anyone was near Bellevue and had enough gas to give me a ride to a working gas station. I had no luck in this initial war dialing effort. However, I DID manage to find a boat supply store (next to CompUSA of all places) which magically had power (and even accepted credit cards) and I bought their LAST gas container from them. It was only 1.25 Gal, but at least it was something where before I had nothing. I decided then that I would just take a break and get some food from safeway (which also took credit despite not having power) which was open only because critical systems were on a generator and the huge windows faced west, getting the sun to light the store. Strangely there were not many people there at all, and I had an easy time just walking up to the checkout with no one in front of me. It was at that point that a friend of mine that I left a message for called me back. They had been outside all day with a chainsaw chopping up trees that had fallen around and near their house. I was glad specifically that they had called me back because I knew that there was a small chance that some gas that I purchased a LONG time ago was still sitting in their garage. It would have been REALLY crappy gas, but at that point, my goal was just to get my car to a safer place to leave it (namely work) so that eventually I could bring more fuel to it. Thankfully he had plenty of gas in his car, and agreed to come get me (and bring the gas that WAS in there garage). It took him longer than we planned though because the gas station in their community had power, and as such had a huge line. (They planned on filling up just in case before coming.) In the end, they had to go with the vehicle which was a two seater, but had the most fuel in it. I then spent that time in the car listening to the radio and reading news updates off my phone. I also then had the "brilliant" realization that I have a pc in the Jeep and could use Streets and Trips to show me where all the gas stations were. (I don't know WHY I only realized this several hours into this ordeal and after I was already out of gas.) It turns out that there were only 3 stations anywhere nearby and they were the ones I saw earlier with huge lines. I later found out on the news that they ran out of gas several times as well. So my plan of walking to (or even earlier of driving to) a gas station was not realistic. It also started to get VERY cold as well. The wind was still going and the sun was dropping quickly. I wanted to walk around and stay warm that way, but the wind was just too much and I had to stay in the car. (Note that there was no heat in the car given the lack of gas.) At some point it also started getting colder in the Jeep as well, and I was glad when my friend showed up because I was ready to go. We decided that we would go see how the crowd was at a nearby restaurant that I saw open earlier, but after seeing that the line was so long that they were no longer accepting names, we decided just to eat microwave food later and head out. So I put the quarter gallon of really old gas in the Jeep and started it up, we agreed on a route (which was good because there was not much traffic that way and it was rather direct as well), and headed off to work, where my car would stay until power was restored to SOME gas station near work.

We then dropped by my place quickly and picked up some non-perishable food to bring along as well just in case this lasted a while. (By that point PSE was not giving any estimates and was just saying that it could be several days or up to a week to restore power.) Then it was back to their place which seemed to be the only residential area east of Lake Washington which had power. So thankfully there was at least a warm dinner and warm place to sleep that night.

The next day (Saturday), I got in contact with a friend that planned originally (before the storm) on moving that day. They were still planning on moving and still wanted to help. Of course I could not get there nor offer vehicle assistance, so I had assumed I was not able to help. However they were going to be nearby and offered to pick me up. At first I was reluctant (since this was somewhat a complication to things which were already far from normal as it was), but I agreed to help anyways. In the end this worked out well because after helping load the moving truck a few times (and unload once) they gave me a ride to a gas station we found near work which had power (there were not many at this point, but there was at least three that we saw within a few miles). After finally getting to use the container that I purchased the day before (in the end it was very useful), we drove back to my car with a container full of gas. Then of course, I just drove back to the same station after putting that container full in the Jeep and filled up my tank.

I drove straight home from there to find that power was restored at home by then (it came back around 2:30pm on Saturday) and it was warm as well. A hot shower and hot meal later, and I think I was finally over the ordeal, and things (for me at least) were somewhat back to normal.

There are still around 300000 customers of the original 700000 PSE customers without power at this time. (There were well over 1 million in the greater PS area without power, and close to 2 million in the NW.) In fact there are significant chunks around me without power as well, and locations to the east (Sammamish, Issaquah, Snoqualmie, North Bend) and to the North (Kirkland, Juanita, Kenmore, Bothell) don't have power yet either.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably do it all over again, but I do wish I could have just stayed home on Friday and saved myself some trouble. However, we did manage to have a productive meeting that day which was a good thing, and it was good that I was there. I definitely wish I did not drive into Bellevue and should have just left my car there at MS right then. But oh well.

Hopefully everyone else in the area will have power restored soon, and we can all put this in the past.


» Similar Posts

  1. Magical Mystery Music City
  2. From Italy with Love
  3. My Southwestern Vacation

» Trackbacks & Pingbacks

    No trackbacks yet.

» Comments

    There are no comments.

Comments are closed