Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Hurricane Roared

This is what I posted Friday on HSB, but if you'd like to read it again, proceed ...

Last weekend, I spent all my time preparing for what we were told would be hurricane-force winds off the coast. High wind warning, 100 mph winds predicted, etc. So we prepared. Or so we thought. I don't think anyone really prepares for something that has never happened to them before. I can now say I've lived through a hurricane. A what? Wait a minute, this is the Northwest coast - hurricanes don't happen here. Well, now they do. And it did. The winds picked up Sunday morning and the first thing to go was our metal chimney. I had some more online ordering to do and cringed at every high gust that slammed the windows, lights flickering. When I said goodbye to my husband after dinner, he walked out into fierce winds and some rain. I was doing laundry and dishes like mad, fully knowing the power would go out soon. I got all the kids bathed and in bed, and managed to blog a little bit. We set out candles and flashlights on the kitchen table. The storm worsened. At 10:15 pm, I had just left a comment for a friend (hi mamaself!) when everything went dark. I felt my way to bed, scolding myself for not showering earlier!! I was just too busy, you know? Once in bed, the noise became deafening. I have compared it to being next to a jet engine but I'm the drama queen after all. It was loud, the loudest I've ever heard and sustained. It just didn't stop or let up. Stuff kept hitting the walls and roof. I slept in fits. Finally called my husband at some point, just to hear his voice. Prayed. After awhile, I had passed from fear into calm but annoyed. The rose bush by our window kept being slammed over and over against the glass - most unsettling. The wind kept wailing and honking through the windows but it was a constant roar with the sounds of debris flying. At 3:00 a.m. a gust I measured at 69 mph, hit the house. Then the giant boots began stomping on the roof. It started at the south end and worked it's way up, back and forth over the house. Thump, THUMP, thump, on and on, for an hour. I prayed it would blow off, whatever it was, and hoped it wouldn't come through the roof. Called Todd again to ask what it might be. Finally, it stopped (we later found that 42 feet of rain gutter had ripped off and was slamming against the roof as it went. I did, in fact, here something hit the ground, softly - weird!) Slept at last until 7:30 a.m., then I heard a little voice say, "Mom, the phone is ringing."

It's my mother-in-law, saying, "Our house is destroyed!" Oh, God! She proceeded to tell me about trees coming through her roof over three rooms in the back of her house. She and her husband were staying in the front bedrooms and couldn't leave, as their driveway was blocked with downed trees. Just then, my husband returned from work so I ran outside to find him so he could talk to his mom. What a sight - me in my black silk pajamas running out the door, the wind raging from all sides. I found him securing a tarp over our woodpile. I was a wreck, dazed by her news and little sleep, crying, "Your mom's on the phone, her house is destroyed!" I still can't believe it. We couldn't go help her because the storm was still going strong, so we spent the day doing very little, watching stuff fly through the air and holding the windows back, as they were bowing in like crazy. The storm continued all day. A local radio station had phone lines open for people to call in, so I called to tell about my in-laws' situation and how we couldn't get to them. The neighbors that live on my in-laws' street heard me (they know me, I used to live on that street, too) and went down to my in-laws' house with chainsaws, clearing their driveway. They did what they could to help out - what a blessing! My mother-in-law called me to tell me and I was so relieved, we both cried! The wind began to lessen somewhat by late Monday night. But not much. When we woke up Tuesday morning, it was finally calm. Then everyone began to assess the damage. Oh, man. It's bad. 911 went down right away. No cell service. Over 42,000 homes without power. We could only call within our prefix. We later learned 1 in 5 houses in Astoria alone had roof damage. Nearly everyone had fences down or trees down. Trees were down everywhere - even trees that had been there for over 100 years! Winds as high as 125 mph had been reported in two spots, one just across the river from us. Everything was closed. All highways out of the county were closed. The community was on its own and did a fantastic job of helping each other out. We heard so many stories on the radio of people helping people. Organizations set up soup kitchens and places for people to shower, things like that. My husband had bought ice the day before and went out again for ice and bottled water. Fortunately, our water was never affected - thank you Lord. Todd rigged up an ice chest with a metal spigot and filled it with hot water heated on our good old wood stove. He cooked breakfast on the campstove on the porch stoop. Praise God for my dh!
We spent Tuesday helping my poor in-laws. I wish I could post photos of their house. It had over 20 trees toppled on it. A tree fell on their livingroom, knocking a huge part of the roof in, and the same tree pierced two big branches through the ceiling of the adjoining bedroom. Imagine huge pencils through a piece of styrofoam. And the masterbath is the most freaky to me - a branch as tall as the room went straight through the roof all the way to the floor, right in front of the bathtub. I still shiver at that one. I had prayed for my in-laws' safety during the worst of the storm, not knowing how they were, and God kept them safe. My mil had been sitting in her living room, got up to move and 5 minutes later, the tree crashed through over where she had been sitting. God is good. Their house has been condemned so we spent the day helping them find storage and moving things out with the help of friends. The neighbors returned to help, and one neighbor actually found a house for my in-laws to rent while they rebuild their home. There was no gas in town, and one neighbor gave my husband enough gas for our Camry, so we could drive to Portland the next day (we had an appt.) I am so thankful for the people on that street!

We went to Portland on Wed, and since we still didn't have any power, it was nice to get away. I was finally able to call my mom on the way there, since cell phone usage was unaffected about 15 miles inland. The only open highway had damage from a huge mud slide and a broken dike but it only delayed us by an hour and we made it to our appt. in time. Had a nice dinner, a hot shower and slept well. The next day, I called home and got through - we had phone service! Little by little, services were being restored. There were over 100 trucks with workers from the surrounding areas and states, coming to help the counties affected by the storm. Our mayor told us to thank every power worker we saw - well, I had already been doing that! Here's a big hug to all you Idaho power workers! And I tracked down the neighbors who showed up with chainsaws and gave them each a hug! As we were coming home on Thursday, we could see power had been restored here and there. We were hopeful. We got to the top of our hill and could see power on at the top house but it ended there. Sigh. O.k., I prepared for another night of darkness. My dh slept for a few hours while I struggled with the propane stove and the manual can opener. I spilled candle wax. Everything went wrong. But I finally got dinner ready, he ate and went to work. As I was pouring boiling water on the floor, trying to clean up the candle wax, the power suddenly came on. I can't tell you how grateful I felt at that moment! I cried. Then we held our breath, because there had been problems with keeping the power on. But it stayed on. Thank you, Lord! The kids and I celebrated with fruitcake, saved especially for the occasion (it gave us something to look forward to! And this is the GOOD fruitcake, my mom has it sent to us every year!)

Last night and today (Fri.) I've been up to my ears in clean up (ice melts in the fridge - what a mess!), doing laundry, trying to get things back to normal but I had to go out this afternoon and help my in-laws again. Then our insurance claim adjuster came to the house, assessed the damages, and wrote me a check on the spot! Boy, that was quick! Honestly, I hadn't even had time to look around our own house much. I had seen that our storage shed had exploded, pieces all over our neighbors' yards. The bikes and stuff laying there, exposed and sad. The cursed rain gutter laying in a heap at the front of the house. Shingles here and there. But honestly, our damage was minimal compared to some. There are so many homes and cars with huge trees smashed on top of them. It hurts to see that. We haven't been all over town, the mayor discouraged people to sightsee due to downed power lines. But I'm sure in a few days, I'll see more damage. We've seen several barns destroyed and two trailers on their sides.

After dinner tonight, my kids finally got out some Christmas decorations. I haven't been home all week and Christmas decorating really hadn't been on my mind, so I'm glad they took the initiative. I just want a quiet day. I'm so tired. I have also discovered a new fear - wind. It has been mostly still these past few days but if I see the trees moving, I get scared. I've never been so fearful of wind - I'm sure it won't last. I hope. Apparently, two typhoons banded together from Hawaii and created what I've heard described as a "perfect storm". Now we know that hurricanes CAN happen on the west coast. I really hope I never have to go through that again.

We have a heavy wooden outdoor bench on our south-facing deck. It usually sits against the wall of the house. On Mon, we woke up to find the bench had been pushed against the railing, as if the wind just scooped it up and moved it there. Later, we saw it bent forward, like it was bowing to the railing. And later still, the wind had set upright again. The wind is powerful - you've got to respect it.

On the radio, the DJ was talking with a pastor's wife about where to donate supplies, but then he asked her where God was when things like this happen. Her response was almost what I would have said. In my opinion, God is everywhere you see people banding together, helping each other, sharing supplies, giving a hug, checking in on neighbors (which we did, also). There were few injuries and few fatalities in this hurricane, as far as I know (at least in Oregon, I know Washington had several deaths) God was here. Still is. Weather happens. We can be made strong through adversity and bring God the glory as we see His hand on the situation. And I am thanking Him everyday for being with us throughout this long, stressful week.


Cate said...

I was actually going to send you an email tonight just to check you were ok as you'd been on my mind....but
my goodness, what an ordeal you've been through!

Thank God you & all of your family & especially inlaws are okay. Will be praying that things settle quickly in your area & that you can all enjoy a happy, fear-free Christmas.

Cate x

Cate said...

Ok, I'm trying here to match your 3 comments left on my last post! lol

Lel visited LA Disney when he traveled through LA back in 1991, J went via LA to a soccer tour Germany in 2002 (I was mother-help on that trip) & B has been to LA the past 4 years for competitions, & went to Disney in the first year (2004) with me again as mother-help.

Other than that, thanks so much for voting for me! I'm dragging away at the bottom of the pile, which is sort of what I expected being a) still relatively new & b) not so overtly "spiritual" in my blogging as so many of these ladies seem to be. Hope that makes sense?????

Ah well, it's the thought that counts!

Hope the clean up is going well,
Cate :-)

jugglingpaynes said...

WOW!!! What an experience! But think of the story you'll have to tell your grandchildren. I'm am so glad you are all OK. I've said before, wind is the one type of weather that can make me quiver like a baby.

I just spent a half hour catching up on both of your blogs. I'm desperate to know what you decided for your tree. We always have artificial, because I couldn't bear to use a live tree unless it could be planted after, and I don't think enough in advance to plan for that. ;o)

It's always great hearing from you Kate, I hope you get some more time to sit down and enjoy your favorite blogs. After all the holiday hustle you need to remember to rest and reflect.
Peace and Laughter!

Leingang Family said...

We have been and will continue to be praying for you guys and for your in-laws. Thanks for the e-mail, too.

Hope you will experience God's peace and joy this Christmas season.

Mama Self said...

Oh, Kate! Praise God for His mercy on your family! Even in storms, God is good and is in control. He will bring all this for your good and His glory - though we cannot see with human eyes. But isn't it funny that He spoke in a whisper to Elijah instead of in the strong wind? His mercies are new every morning; His lovingkindess endures forever.

The storm reminds me of what I was telling some folks last night. I was in MA in the blzzard of '78, in MS in the flood of '79, in CA in the earthquake of '89, and in multiple hurricanes and tornados. My husband calls me a walking, natural disaster... lol

I'm thankful you all are OK. May God grant you that peace that passes all understanding.

PS Here's a hug that I wish I could give you in person. O!