Monday, December 18, 2006

Gone With The Wind

What happens when winds blowing upto 80 mph lash against a region full of tall trees? The question was answered this weekend when the worst windstorm in more than a decade knocked out power to more than 1.5 million homes and businesses. It all started Thursday evening when the winds started picking up and in a couple of hours of madness, the Pacific Northwest was blown away, literally. We struggled home late night on Thursday through pitch darkness and debris of trees all over the place. Oh, I forgot to mention the temperature. Hovering around the low 30s or around 0 degrees in Celcius, it can be classified as a temperature you don’t want to have when the heating in the house does not work. Thursday night was a throwback to all the Ramsay movies where the bhoots and the shaitans and Kaali maa all need noisy winds to surround them as they do their supernatural deeds. The sounds were loud and it was tough to concentrate on sleeping when you heard what you thought was a tree breaking. By next morning, we woke up groggy eyed to a calmer day with no power still and mobile phones non-operational due to lack of signal. Calls from the landline to friends brought in news of horror stories. A huge tree lying in the middle of a cul-de-sac, a house saved by a chimney that bore the brunt of a coniferous tree that would have otherwise split the house in two. With no internet connection at home and the house beginning to get colder, we headed to work in the hope that things would be better here. The drive to work gave a good idea of the carnage with trees lying across the road, hanging precariously on the power lines. Work was a disappointment as there was only basic power available. Internet was down, so were the cafeterias. After scratching around for a few hours, we headed home. It isn’t a lot of fun driving through areas with a lot of traffic lights and each one prompting a stop and go from every single car. What made it worse was the roads blocked all over the place and the circuitous routes we had to take to get home. To complete an 11 mile distance, we had to drive 30 miles over two hours, while thinking of food all the time. To our advantage, our house has gas cooking ranges and a gas fireplace. That opened the possibility of food being cooked and all our friends converged at our place to kick off a weekend of great company and a discovery of ways to keep one entertained when there is no light after four in the afternoon. When night descended, the sight of eight adults huddled in a line next to the gas fireplace, in an attempt to sleep with a hint of warmth was mildly amusing. The next day saw us heading out to areas that we knew had power and spend time in malls and restaurants to stay warm. The highlight of the day was heading back to office and playing cards in a conference room and spending time watching pictures of new trips and old weddings. Going back home at three in the night brought the full impact of the black-out to us and the house greeted us with extreme chill as whatever heat the house had retained earlier was lost. It took until 1 pm on Sunday, after three nights and two days of frustration that power finally returned. The banal sounds of television sounded sweet, not having to wear a sweater inside the house felt great and being able to use the microwave seemed like a blessing.

The experience was instructive. You almost take for granted that a first world country should be able to handle disasters more efficiently. But this was a major letdown. Three days without power? We know friends with little kids who had to check into hotels in Seattle. I can only imagine the plight of the victims of Katrina. It also goes to emphasize that hours spent in India without electricity were a piece of cake compared to this. Life is back to normal today, and I am thankful for that. The one thing that I was desperate to know in all the three days of not having internet access: what’s the score in the Test match? The desperation was well rewarded.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gosh! Wow, thats something. But the traffic jam you mentioned and the inching traffic is a regular in bangalore I hear :)

sd said...

oooh! that was pretty screwy I guess. Hope alls well now.

On better thoughts - did you watch the Sreesanth vs Nel episode? If you have not seen it, this is a link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH5ZuBB5emE

It is a must watch:)

Parth said...

@Shreemoyee: No clue about Bangalore, but SPCE to Andheri station seems like a good enough example as well :-)

@SD: Oh yes I did :-)) Our latest dancing superstar. I like his aggression then, didn't like what he did to Amla.

Anonymous said...

I never had to do the train journey by virtue of staying relatively close by.

Anonymous said...

@parth: The ending of your story has a simplicity and realness that took my breath away and it's the most beautiful end to this whole anecdote...just like your other one about the man on the bus...

Niranjan said...

Checked the news only after I read your post! That must have been really cold. Reminds me of this power outage in the midwest, some years ago and during winter I think, where the car heaters were the only source of warmth.

30in2005 said...

You are so right. We complain about such small things as electricity outages after a lifetime of 'load shedding' and extreme temperature. All in all your experience sounds like an experiment in inventiveness. This post reminded me why I like your blog - eloquent in the face of storms!

Anonymous said...

minus the corpses of trees, this brought back the total horror of 3 days without power in 2003, toronto.
Anocturne