Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Wind...Before And After

I've come to realize over the past month and a half that I have issues with windstorms. I don't like them at all. I didn't much care for them before, but after Thursday night/Friday morning, I'm done being indifferent.

We had been getting reports of a really big "wind event" for a few days at the first of the week, but it wasn't until the hurricane specialist, Dr. Forbes on the Weather Channel came on and described the upcoming storm as a "bomb" that I started thinking seriously about what I needed to do to be prepared. I needed to get serious.

If I got it right, the "bomb" is an uncommon weather pattern for this area of the Pacific, that brought very deep low pressure out of Alaska, and collided with a big ol' chunk of moist high pressure from the south. The point of impact was just off the coast of Washington State, and was cranking hard from the southwest into British Columbia. Dr. Forbes said that it was going to be a "dangerous storm, bringing high damaging winds". This information was repeated by the local news, and the National Weather Service. What made the reports so disturbing was that they all called for west winds of 80 to 90 miles per hour in the Strait of Juan De Fuca. That's the body of water in a couple of my blog photos. West winds generally suck here. When storm winds come from the south, we are usually protected by the Olympic Mountains.

Heeding the warnings, I stocked up on the power outage essentials of extra food, candles, lamp oil, and had the generator ready. I tied off the 10' x 20' quonset to some fruit trees in the yard and made sure that it was secure. Or so I thought. The steel framed structure had been mounted on wooden bases with 6" spikes, and tied off to steel tee posts. I had then put 120 lbs of weight in the form of pier blocks on each wooden base. The walls were lined with 4' rebar stakes driven into the ground between each frame post, and a rope line was ran all the way around the interior walls to minimize the flex of the walls when the wind caught it. I figured that a little overkill was better than not trying.

The quonset housed my Harley Davidson, Kung Pow, and my 1968 Yamaha 350 Scrambler, as well as a rototiller, lawn mower and a few other items.

To get to the point, as Thursday evening rolled around, my nerves were getting rattled as first reports from the coast came in with winds of 58 to 60 mph at around dinner time. The projected impact for the Strait was between 11:00 pm and 2:00 am. We got the kids to bed early and basically tried to get some sleep while listening to the hardest rain that I've heard in a long, long time. At 1:10 am, I heard it start.

I'm 48 years old, and have lived in this town my whole life. I have never heard a noise like what I heard this night. I knew that this was going to be bad.

The power went out right away as expected. I knew it when a transformer at the end of the alley blew and threw a bright green light into the room, followed by a loud buzz, then complete darkness. Lightning and thunder mixed in with the wind and rain like a nightmare stew peppered with the occasional BIG gust that had me squeezing a little further down into our bed. By now, we had two out of three kids in bed with us as Billy slept throughout the night.

At about 3:30 am, a gust came up that won the crappy wind contest. I heard damage with this one. I knew for sure that something in my yard was broken. Was it the quonset, or my roof, or maybe my little shop that the scooters were parked in? Only daylight would bring an answer. Sometime after this I fell asleep. My nerves were shot.

I woke up just before 6:30, and was looking toward the alarm as the power came back on. Dena was already awake, and I told her that I was going to get up and get the house warmed up and go check things out. Billy was still sawing logs as were Kevin and Joelle. This made me feel good. I was relieved.

For whatever reason, I really wasn't that upset when I looked out and saw that the quonset was completely destroyed. All three bikes were down, with Kung Pow on top of the Harley and one of the steel poles jammed between the HD's motor and frame. All three bikes were damaged, as was everything in the hut, but the ropes had kept it from blowing into my house. So the house was fine, as was my little scooter shop, and above everything family.

We did a little phone tree check on our parents and siblings to make sure that everyone was okay and were pleased to find everyone in good shape. We were blessed as a family, with only minimal property damage and a few without power temporarily. I think that my feeling of relief was bigger than any feeling of grief over my personal propery damage. This realization was good for me. My priorities are in check. I went out and cleaned my mess, then went to work.

The bottom line on this "monster storm" was unconfirmed reports of 68 mph sustained winds, with gusts of 85 mph. Trees were down everywhere, and power was out for over a million people in the Puget Sound area. Roof shingle business, as well as tarps and basic building materials was brisk in our store as everyone was in damage control mode. And everyone is still talking about it. And will be for some time.

I'll put the generator away tomorrow, and get the tree lights fixed in my yard, and maybe take my scooter out for a ride. Maybe by going to look at the damage, I can get my mind off of it.

Have fun,


Anonymous gary said...

Man, this so-called Holiday Season is getting pretty rough!

I'm glad to see that the damage was relatively minimal, and that everyone is alright.

Does your homeowner's insurance cover the damage to the bikes?

Ride well,

7:23 AM  
Blogger Steve Williams said...

Glad you're OK Bill. Sleeping with the wind noise growing is always tough. We have big trees around our house and I think about one of those crashing through the bedroom ceiling.

The weather is getting weirder and weirder. It's 60 degrees out right now on December 17th instead of a more normal 20 degrees and snow.

My homeowners insurance doesn't cover damage to registered vehicles. That comes from my auto insurance as long as I carry comprehensive coverage.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

Yeah, it's hard to hop on the Holiday Bandwagon right now. I feel like I'm moving backwards.

I will get a damage estimate sometime this week and see how it goes. I'm sure that the insurance people are overwhelmed, so I'll wait in line with my hand out.

I still can't believe that I'm not upset over this. I'm becoming one mellow dude.

Thanks. I saw my brother today, and we talked about the wind noise. He too said that it was like nothing that he had ever heard. Scary stuff.

Now, today is freezing outside, but sunny and clear. Just a nice day to go out and rake up debris. After a ride.

Have fun,

12:14 PM  
Blogger Combatscoot said...

Sorry to hear your quonset got picked-up and sent to Oz. At least Mule is still well, and so is the house.
I believe the weather is going to keep-on getting weirder as our globe warms. I think, eventually, some drastic measures will have to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

Weird is right. If we can't reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, and these patterns continue, I'll need to look into an adult diaper to wear. The funky weather train ride hasn't been that fun.

Have fun,

6:12 PM  
Anonymous irondad said...

I keep thinking of the "speared" Harley. Bummer. We got a lot of damage, too. I'm actually up in Kirkland as I write this. When you get time look at the new blog post. We think we're tough but Nature takes trump every time!

8:30 PM  
Blogger Lucky said...

Glad you're ok. I normally enjoy storms (ah, the security of modern life), but that one doesn't sound like much fun at all.

Good thing you weren't out riding in it! ;)

7:48 AM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

I know that you can relate to my scribblings, being in the same general neighborhood, but seeing the mess in Kirkland puts you right in the wake.

I read your post, and helmets off to you for riding up here. It got cold quick didn't it?

You don't need the heated vest, You've got hardcore,warrior blood in your veins. That should keep you warm.

Thanks. After looking around the last couple of days, I feel like I'm pretty well off compared to folks that had 80 foot fir trees split their houses in half. This is some devastating stuff.

I've worked in some nasty conditions in the past, and ridden in some heavy weather, but this one was just wrong.

Have fun,

7:24 PM  

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