Windstorm 2015 Washington, by ShepherdFarmerGeek

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So, in Washington this week on 11/17/15 and almost a year to the day of last year’s massive windstorm, we had another massive windstorm. Last year, at our place, we had a single sustained 70 mph gust that broke 10 trees in half. This year we had multiple 70+ mph gusts that only broke down six trees. (God must want me to have a lot of firewood.) The wind blasted and mangled many of our roof shingles along with those of perhaps thousands of other homes, outbuildings, and businesses in a wide swath.

The howling winds lasted about 12 hours and toward evening were punctuated by roaring winds and the sound of grinding, snapping trees crashing to the ground with huge thumps. I didn’t entirely trust being in the house with the wind coming from the south against our south-facing living room windows (flexing them inward over and over and over), and the chance a falling tree could blast glass shards all over the room.

Being frequently outside to monitor the storm’s intensity and ongoing damage, I couldn’t help but make a mental comparison with those old movies of nuclear weapon tests where the trees all suddenly bend together in one direction, flexing to impossible angles. Of course I wore my tactical helmet and goggles, and it was wonderful to be able to see without all that debris, dust, pine bark, and needles getting into my eyes! Just one of those little branch-tips that were flying around at 40–60 mph would have clunked my head a good one, without some head protection. Because it was cold, I was already wearing a heavy coat and gloves.

The Dogs of Doom and I were awed by the whole thing. Last year they were cowering against me, shaking. This year they were a lot more confident and just mostly irritated by the constant howling and junk in the air. Of course they were probably wondering why they didn’t have nifty helmets and eye protection. In my defense, they have faster reflexes by far. Hmm. It may be something for the never-ending “Wish List”.

Of course, I prayed. I prayed with all the faith I could muster. (You know, it’s just different when you’re praying for protection when nothing bad is happening and the sun is shining versus praying in the face of a powerful, destructive storm that’s pushing you around the yard.) I asked God for his protection for our buildings, our neighborhood, and our prepper friends. I knew the storm had come in the Providence of God and would cause a lot of damage, but I asked that He would spare our buildings, and other than minor damage (shingles) He did!

Also, once again, we had a miraculous tree-fall. A monster 90-foot pine tree twisted in half about 15 feet up and fell in just the perfect direction, between two trees that guided it safely away from my garage on one side and the chicken coop on the other. Yeah, sure, the chicken pen fence is actually below ground level at one spot, but it’s a wire fence and I can, mostly, fix that once I cut the 70 feet of tree off of it!

In the end, the freeway was littered with sheets of metal from sheds and commercial buildings, as well as the more typical storm debris. (There were nearly 400 trees reported down in the area.) About 180,000 people (the number I heard) were without power, and the temperatures were forecast to drop to the teens over the next several days. Two people were killed by falling trees– one who was driving at the time, and a falling tree actually hit a school bus (but no one was hurt), and businesses and whole towns (like Medical Lake and Four Lakes) were without power. We couldn’t gas up because the gas stations were without power. (Hooray for not letting our gas gauges get below three-quarters of a tank!) With all of this, we were warm, sheltered, with plenty of water and food, and we bumped our security level up a bit to compensate for desperate people who might be looking to score a generator. The prepping paid off!

Even so, there were valuable lessons and insights as well as aggravating failures worth sharing for the learning opportunity:

1. End the denial. If the weather person says the winds could be as high as 60–80 mph, of course the power is going to go off! Yes, Avista and Inland Power (in our area) are amazing and have done a great job of protecting their power lines (they’re getting a lot of practice these last few years). Nevertheless, this isn’t a “Black Swan” that blindsides you. This is an “Unfolding Disaster” (http://survivalblog.com/forecasting-disaster-part-1-by-shepherdfarmergeek/ and http://survivalblog.com/forecasting-disaster-part-2-by-shepherdfarmergeek/ ) and you can see it coming. Yes, the weather persons are often wrong, but they could be wrong in that nothing will happen, or in that it’s going to be a lot worse than they anticipated. So get cracking!

2. Start a load of laundry as soon as you know the storm’s coming. You want it to be dried before you lose power or you could have 50 pounds of soaking-wet clothing/bedding/towels to deal with (when it’s at or below freezing outdoors, after the storm). You do have an indoor clothes rack and clothesline if needed? (And a couple of big screw-eyes and some wooden clothespins?) If the power goes off and stays off you’ll need them sooner or later! (And what were you planning to do if there was an EMP?)

3. Run the dishwasher! Contrary to your teenager’s assertion, it only takes five minutes to load and run it. You don’t want to have to look at a sink full of dirty dishes for the next several days. What’s the worse that could happen? Your dirty dishes could be nicely soaked and pre-washed before you have to hand wash them, if the power goes off mid-wash. (Reminder: We only have a small countertop dish drainer, but the dishwasher makes a dandy drainer rack if you’re washing dishes by hand.)

4. Stop making dirty dishes. Switch to the disposable plates/bowls/plasticware you have for camping. Sure, if it were an EMP, you’re going to eventually run out of disposables and will be forced to wash dishes, but you don’t know how long your disaster is going to last. It might only be a day or two or seven. You’ll appreciate having one less chore as well as conserving your water.

Set up your foot-operated water pump (rubber siphon pump) on the floor with duct tape into a 5-gallon jug of water and the other end up and attached to your faucet with a big binder clip at the kitchen sink). You’ll conserve a lot of water compared to trying to pour it out on your hands or dishes to wash.

5. Have lots of kerosene and a one-gallon jug. Be sure you have lots of kerosene for your lanterns (and heaters), but having a one-gallon jug you can refill in the shop from the heavy five-gallon cans makes it easier to refill your lanterns inside or on the deck.

6. Get out your solar lantern and hand-cranked flashlights. Solar lanterns, like the Luci Emergency and Luci Lux are very cool. They never need batteries and work great for lighting the area around you for reading, trips to the restroom, working on a project, or eating at the dining room table. The Luci lights will run for seven hours on a full charge, but don’t push it; tomorrow morning, when you’re planning to charge your Luci lights in the window, it could be dark and overcast and you won’t get a full charge. Use them sparingly. It’s not a bad idea to have a couple of hand-cranked flashlights as a backup.

7. Get your bright area-lighting set up. We liked the Luci lights a lot. They could be aimed upward to illuminate the room, hung from a simple wire arm from the now-useless floor lamp while aimed downward to illuminate your Bible, or carried pointing downward to light up your path and the general area around you without glaring in your eyes (unlike flashlights that focus the light on a small area). Kerosene lanterns are good for long-term minimum-illumination tasks, like lighting up a room from their location on the counter so you can navigate through it without tripping over the dogs, but these lanterns are lousy for lighting your path as you walk because they glare in your eyes, not to mention the potential for a big, stinky, flammable mess if you tripped and dropped one of them).

For better disaster morale we really needed a brighter area-lighting option, if only for an hour a night. My new plan is to combine a couple of the LED bulbs we use in the trailer with sockets we can buy online and one of our 12 volt deep discharge batteries we keep charged on standby, or the ***LINK http://inhabitat.com/weza-foot-powered-portable-energy-source/ *** Freeplay foot-operated generator. Those bulbs put out a lot of light for only a few amps per hour. By putting two bulbs on 20 feet of wire, we can nicely light the dining area or the living room with the same setup without having to lug the battery or Freeplay anywhere.

8. Put stuff away where it belongs. In the dark or in low light, it’s a lot harder (and more irritating) to find stuff that you just set down in the hurry of the moment.

9. Have car chargers for all of your cellphones, Kindles, and other devices. In our area we never lost cellphone service, though our cellphones needed a couple of recharges. Make sure you have the right jacks. (The Shepherdess’ cellphone uses a different USB jack than mine.) If you’re going to leave your phone in your vehicle to charge, be sure the car socket stays on when the ignition is off. Our car shuts off the “cigarette lighter” socket, but my truck has a power socket that isn’t switched. Take a regular 110v powered cellphone charger to work and keep it at your desk or locker. If your employer is still in business, you can charge your phone there.

10. Don’t stash your camping gear so deeply that you can’t readily find it in a storm, at night, in the cold. That single-burner propane (or kerosene) stove will work perfectly on the kitchen worktable (and bring back marvelous memories of camping out in the forest by the lake), only if you can find it, or do what we did and have one already in the kitchen and another with the official Camping Kitchen totes. Just remember to crack open the kitchen window or the front (or back) door a bit, and give the wood stove a little more air when you’re cooking without a vent fan, or the smoke from your breakfast sausages will set off your smoke detectors! (I’m speaking with the voice of experience.)

11. Test your actual gear, not just the concept, before a disaster. The 12-volt battery clips and 12-volt “cigarette lighter” socket adapter unit that I had for my CPAP was somewhere else, so I used the one that came with another system. However, that manufacturer had reversed the polarity of the battery clips, and it smoked my power inverter, literally. Bummer.

12. Protect gear from EMP in plastic with metal Faraday screen to lighten the load. I couldn’t help but notice when I got out our electronics gear looking for adapters and Luci lanterns that having everything in ammo cans to protect them from EMP was going to cost me 40 pounds for the weight of all the cans. It will be far better to put my gear in some plastic drawer unit and shield it with a metal-screen Faraday cage (and it’ll be easier to find my stuff as well!). If we have to take the show on the road some day, I’d rather have 40 more pounds of food than 40 pounds of ammo cans.

13. Set out the metal water bucket. All of this reminded me to set out the big stainless steel bucket we have for melting snow or ice, chipped from the 8,000-pound ice cubes that form in our Intex pools each winter. (The last 2–3 years, they stored roughly 1,000 gallons of water and only cost about $60 each). Fill the bucket, put it on the wood stove, and voilá! we have water for flushing the loo, for the dogs and chickens, or for purifying and then cooking/drinking or washing dishes with it. This is pretty much impossible to do with a Home Depot plastic bucket.

14. Realize that no matter how well you are prepared, something is going to go wrong and the experience is going to be a bit unpleasant and uncomfortable. In a disaster, expect it. Go with it, and plan for it. Have some comfort food (chocolate!), hot tasty coffee or tea, quick energy-packed hot meals (don’t fill up on junk food!), and take more time to sleep so that you’re mentally ready for the next day’s challenges. Keep your “To-Do” lists shorter than usual. (Disasters are stressful!) Also, if you’re married, give your spouse extra attention and encouragement. The Shepherdess doesn’t thrive on stress as much as I do. Remember: Happy wife = happy life! 😉

At the height of the storm, when it was r-e-a-l-l-y getting impressive, a song came to mind. I remember as a child hearing George Beverly Shea sing it, and it’s been with me all of my life. So I sang it, at the top of my lungs, to myself and the Dogs of Doom, over the howling of the storm, and of course, to the God Who holds my life in His hands.

Trusting Jesus while in the very teeth of the storm was a powerful experience, and I cannot escape the impression that I will need to trust Him just as much when we are in the throes of the terrible storm that’s coming to our nation. Here is that song:

“In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face, While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place. ‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry, Keep me safe ‘till the storm passes by.

CHORUS ‘Till the storm passes over, ‘till the thunder sounds no more, ‘Till the clouds roll forever from the sky; Hold me fast, let me stand, in the hollow of Thy hand, Keep me safe ‘till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered “There is no need to try, For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by,” But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise Where the storms never darken the skies.

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more, Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore; In that land where the tempest never comes, Lord may I Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.”

(Till The Storm Passes By, by Moise Lister, 1958)

Trust God. Be Prepared. We can do both.

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