Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: The Big Storm

The Big Storm

Our internet is finally back tonight after three days down, so now I can let you know what excitement we've had here!

We've experienced the worst windstorm in the 30 plus years we've lived in the Vancouver area. Of three storms last week - on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - Friday's was the worst of a whole month-long-of-storms. It was a massive hit in the early hours of Friday, December 15th. Our power went out about 3:30 a.m. Winds were at hurricane levels in some areas. I was quite fearful that our two very tall trees would be blown down on us. Thankfully they weren't, while many others did suffer losses of homes, vehicles and boats because of falling trees.

We kept warm thanks to an old-fashioned fireplace insert with a cooktop, enabling us to boil water for tea and eggs, and heat milk for hot cocoa. We've lots of firewood from building scraps and logs from our own felled or pruned trees from over the years. Friday evening, we did go out for a hot meal. The normally quiet restaurant not far from us but outside the outage zone, was packed with people constantly coming in. The staff was kept hopping and finally had to turn away people because they were running out of food. Afterwards, back at home, we sat by the fire with candles, playing a game of cards and listening to Christmas music on the iPod/speakers - nice and cozy.

Overnight it snowed a bit and the house was quite chilly until we got the fire going again. Our power came back on Saturday around 11 a.m. here but many others were still without. We went for a walk to check out the neighbourhood and the park. We could not believe the numbers of huge trees uprooted, fallen down, or split halfway, with billions of branches littering the forest floor and paths. We frequently had to climb over these. (I wished we'd taken the camera!) Some of these massive trees had fallen over the main road early Friday morning, causing this local but widespread power outage. The wharf and floats were severely damaged, and we could see a half sunken barge. If this was immense damage, Vancouver's Stanley Park would be far far worse, exposed as it is to the open sea. We'd heard that the Lions Gate Bridge was closed Friday due to fallen trees along the causeway through the park.

Hydro reported that we usually get three bad storms a year (with power outages), we've had nine and it's not even winter yet! 250,000 homes, the most in history, were affected. The storm hit Washington and Oregon as well with four deaths reported.

Some curious thoughts while "surviving":

- With all our technological wizardry - how come we cannot invent a manual startup for our heating systems, rather than being dependent on electricity to fire up? If many gas fireplaces have this option, why not furnaces and boilers?

- We were glad we'd hung onto our old rotary dial phones! Did you know that the "portable" phones need power? (We don't have cell phones.)

-We were thankful we didn't change out our old-fashioned fireplace insert with it's small cooktop, BUT the fan is electrical for maximum heat output. We managed to keep warm anyway. Sometimes modern and sleek isn't such a good idea.

-Our hot water tank is heated via natural gas and did not shut off like an electrical one would have been. Thankfully.

-How come our power lines are not buried underground like in many European countries and even places like South Africa?

- Many thoughts about man vs nature and city vs country survival skills. We're pretty dependent on electricity and heat, and we sure missed the internet, spoiled city folk that we are.

Marja-Leena | 17/12/2006 | 9 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Canada and BC, Current Events, Home


Powerlines: because it's very expensive up front and takes a lot longer for a utility to pay for than conventional. Put another way: a pound of cure is thought to be better than an ounce of prevention.
We lived for 8 years with underground cables, and had hydro many a time when our surrounding neighbourhood did not.

I only just noticed that our cables are underground on our street. On the next street over, the main road, they're not, and I guess we're fed from them. So our power still goes out.

Peter, thanks for your comment. Yes, I know it's expensive, especially after the fact. But how come poorer countries like South Africa can do it, is it becasue of cheap labour? In this part of Canada where we have so many big trees and windstorms, it seems to make sense to go underground at least in the cities. Places like Lions Bay were without power for a week several times over. Naturally, outages will still occur if parts of the system are still above ground, such as in your neighbourhood, Erika. Hydro has had to call in extra crews from outside the province to deal with all the work, much of it just to cut the fallen trees away from the broken lines. That is very costly too.

Glad you made it through, and reasonably warmly. I have a fireplace that could keep my place reasonably warm, but I'd have to use the gas grill outside for cooking. Not that we've had anything other than spring temperatures around here so far!

Leslee, thanks. We've got a gas BBQ outdoors too and the thought occurred to us that we could use it if the outage had lasted longer. It all hit home that we need to be prepared for major emergencies, like an earthquake. Husband even bought a small generator but didn't get a chance to use it! Next time.

Marja-leena: we in the Seattle area, and all over Western Washington, were greatly impacted by last Thursday/Friday's storm as well. Our power went off Friday around 1 a.m., returning Friday around 5 pm. We had Duraflame logs for our fireplace,and heated tea water on the gas BBQ grill outside. My mother & nephew were visiting from Alaska, so we stayed in front of the fire playing board games all day. Many in our area are still without power. We sheltered my partner's 80-year old aunt and her granddaughter Sat. night, as their power was still out.

It's was an eye=opener to see how ill-prepared people were, and how helpless we feel without electricity and all the modern conveniences that go with it!
Glad you are safe!

Jackie, I'm glad you were safe too! I just heard that we are getting another storm tomorrow, but not as powerful. Let's hope Christmas will be storm free.

Glad you made it through O.K. Sorry to hear about all the damage!

The interesting thing about power outages this time of year, I find, is coping with the darkness. It's not a bad thing to be reminded of it once in a while.

Dave, yes, we became very aware of the darkness. The funny thing was that the evening before the expected storm, I asked my husband where the flashlight was so I could have it at my bedside for my usual night crawls. I woke up around 3:30 am and could see my way around ok, like usual I thought. Husband said the power was out. I was amazed how much light was reflected from the city lights up to the clouds, even though our area was totally dark! I rather loved living by candlelight for a while, but it's a little hard to read by.

By the way, here's an article about the damage in our wonderful Stanley Park, and that there's ANOTHER storm on the way! I'm glad I got my Christmas bread (stollen) baked today, but I still need to make some cookies tomorrow. I hope we will have power.