That One Night It Got Really Windy

It’s official — I live in a disaster area. And for once, that’s not a reference to my housekeeping skills.

I’d tell you the name of the disaster, but it doesn’t have one. It probably never will. Other wind-related events, like tornadoes and hurricanes, get names. So do earthquakes and wildfires. We even named a scheduled three-day freeway shutdown — but not this windstorm. Is that fair? I don’t think so. It’s time to show it a little respect; from now on, I’ll be referring to it as That One Night It Got Really Windy.

I was completely unprepared for That One Night It Got Really Windy. When I left work that one night, I noticed that it was, in fact, really windy — windy enough that, on the way to my car, I had to put more than the usual amount of effort into standing upright and maintaining contact with the ground — but the significance didn’t really hit me until I reached my neighborhood and started seeing severed tree limbs everywhere.

My nearest street corner. It was a fun drive home.

I got home at about 9:30 pm, and the power was out on my block. But that was okay, because I have a super-fancy flashlight / lantern combination, and I knew exactly where it was. I went right to it, flipped the switch — and nothing happened. I decided to go to the store to get batteries for my flashlight and matches for my stove.

The three-block walk to the supermarket was amazing. Leaves were flying everywhere. Trees were moving in ways I’d never seen them move before. At one house, the festive holiday decorations had been beset by tragedy — one wireframe reindeer had a broken neck; the others lay, lifeless, on the ground, as though, in a senseless act of workplace violence, one of Santa’s elves had gone on a murderous rampage.

Three blocks from my house. This tree used to be bushier, and more vertical.
Same tree, from the front. I'm pretty sure the huge piles of greenery on each side were cut from the tree after it fell.

At the store, I bought batteries and, on impulse, two additional flashlights. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of my descent into flashlight addiction. In the two weeks since That One Night It Got Really Windy, I’ve bought five flashlights. There was a practical reason for buying at least one of them — I used it on the walk home.

Flashlights I've bought since That Night It Got Really Windy

When I went to replace the battery on my lantern, I discovered that it actually has three switches, and the one I’d flipped in the dark earlier was the wrong one — the battery had been fine all along. I’d forgotten to get matches, so for dinner, I feasted on cheese and crackers, fruit, and chocolate.

I used my cell phone to check on the status of the power outage — something I’d be doing pretty frequently for the next day and a half. The power company has an “Outage Center” web page that shows the status of outages, but every time I looked at it, I’d momentarily think it said “Outrage Center”. I’m not sure whether that’s a reflection of my emotions or whether I have some sort of undiagnosed learning disability that causes me to see Rs where there are none. I’m leaning towards the latter explanation, because I also often misread the title of the Cute Overload web site as “Cute Overlord”.

Throughout the storm, my cats kept alternating between being a little freaked out by the howling winds and being fascinated by the flashlight beam as I moved from room to room. Eventually, I settled into bed with my Kindle (the case has a built-in light), with one cat on my lap and the other by my side. It was pretty cozy.

A cat, a comforter, and a Kindle -- what more do I need?

In the morning, the winds had died down, and the power was still out. I looked out my kitchen window and saw my neighbor’s back yard — which was odd, because there’s normally a fence separating our properties. A chunk of fence was missing on the other side as well, along with lots of roof shingles and some branches from a tree in the front of the house.

This fence is less effective than it once was at keeping my neighbor's dog in his yard.

On the bright side, my insurance company will soon be writing me a check for more money than I’ve paid in premiums over the years. I think that means I win at insurance.

Ten Warning Signs That You May Be Experiencing a Wind Storm

There's some damage to this fence. It's subtle, but if you look closely, you can just barely make it out.

1. When walking outside, you spend much more than the usual amount of effort staying on course, remaining upright, and not flying away.

2. Your car rocks from side to side, especially when parked or stopped at a light, and the motion feels all wrong for an earthquake.

3. In a festive move, your city has kicked up their fall decorations a notch by arranging a tasteful display of giant tree limbs in the middle of most of your local roads.

4. All the trees in your neighborhood are moving in ways you’ve never seen before, as if they’re taking part in some sort of frenzied tree dance.

5. You vaguely remember having electricity. And not living in a Starbucks.

6. The tree in your front yard has fewer branches than you remember.

7. The fence in your back yard is somewhat less continuous than you remember.

8. Your roof has fewer shingles than you remember.

9. The people who live in the house three houses down from yours appear to have made the unusual landscaping choice of scattering shingles across their lawn. You applaud their good taste in choosing lawn shingles identical to your roof shingles.

10. The next morning, you fail to wake up in Oz.

Update: the electricity came back on early Friday morning.