December 2, 2011 at 3:05 AMA wild wind blew into Southern California Wednesday night, and I spent the evening cowering in the kids' bedroom, wondering if the roof was in the process of blowing off or if the latest loud band was one of the giant trees from the neighbors' yard, collapsing onto my bedroom across the hall.
The power had been out since 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Looking out the second-story window, I could see clear sky, stars, huge trees madly flailing in the wind, and in the distance, what looked like blue flashes of lightning from time to time. The bursts of lights apparently came from the fatal snap of power lines, still hopelessly out of commission.
In the morning we went down to our garage -- which opens with an electric door, so we would not be getting out! We sat inside of the car, listening to AM radio and charging the cell phone. The land line was out.
My kids have never known a snow day in sunny California, so imagine their excitement when the news announced a state of emergency in Pasadena, and no school. A "wind day"!
Californians, I thought, rolling my eyes a bit. It was a tough night, but canceling school over some wind? Heck, when I lived in Denver…
We decided to survey the damage, slipping boots and coats over our pajamas. We live in a condominium complex with eight units.
Upon opening our front door, we saw the two of our neighbors' porch fences had ripped apart and tipped over, blocking the walkway in one direction. We walked in the other direction, toward the street, and found ourselves staring at a large, decapitated palm tree, the trunk still standing straight as a rod, but the large bushy top sprawled on top of one car and next to another unfortunate car that was parked along the street. One car was so buried I couldn't tell much about it; the other now had a smushed nose and broken window.
Looking back toward our building, we realized two of our neighbors' half-dozen trees that stand next to our property line -- the trees I'd been hiding from the night before -- had smashed into our neighbors' units. We had lucked out -- the ones right by us were still standing.
The wind had temporarily subsided, so we decided to check on our neighbors up the street. The street looked like a hurricane had hit -- nearly every tree was either stripped of leaves (some completely green and not ready to fall), snapped in half at the trunk or blown over completely. Trees and branches blocked every road we saw. Random parts of apartments and houses sat in all the wrong places. A decorative piece of siding from an apartment a full block away sat in the middle of the sidewalk.
Arriving at our friends' place, we found them cleaning up from a solid balcony banister that fell from the second story and a large piece of their roof that they found on their driveway.
Happily, the grocery store up the road had power, food and supplies. I walked there with the kids and got some ice, matches and food. The weather service had predicted another "wind event" tonight, but later in the day they downgraded it to a "wind advisory," a much more normal situation!
The kids have kidnapped their friend and played board games ("bored" games?) during the afternoon-- going for world domination with "Risk." Kind of nice -- no T.V., no video games, no Internet.
Guess what else you can do, with no power? You guessed it. As the sun set today, I played my violin. Very quickly, the light grew dim, and I the candlelight didn't illuminate my music enough to read it. I kept playing, old things I knew, new things I'm learning. My kids eventually came downstairs and start requesting pop songs, so I played pop songs from the radio, old songs from Disney musicals and more. I could see the candles flickering in other windows. Without power, I didn't have a lot of competition, when it came to making noise. The winds should be calmer tonight, and maybe we'll have power tomorrow. I kind of liked the world that gets dark and calms down at 5 p.m. though!
When the power goes out here, I have found a small, lightweight LED flashlight most useful for reading. A stand light would work too.
"Guess what else you can do, with no power? You guessed it. … I kept playing, old things I knew …."
Much like life here last April, when we Alabamians took the brunt of the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in US history. In the 103-hour blackout on this side of town, all the careful memorization and interval-listening beforehand -- plus the penchant for scales and etudes and improvisation -- really paid off.
Head lamp ($20)
Battery powered lantern ($30)
Portable butane stove ($25)
Any outdoor store should have these items. The head lamp and lantern are a lot more convenient, and brighter and safer than candles. The great thing about a head lamp is the fact it is hands free, so you can go about your business with both hands free. So tasks like washing your hands, brushing your teeth, etc are a lot easier.
Glad your nights were spent so happily! Must confess that mine included more red wine than violin playing. More easily done by candlelight!
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