Yesterday we sat inside waiting for the storm to arrive. When I uploaded my post, the wind was just beginning to howl. “Is that all there is?” I hummed, channeling Peggy Lee. “Is that all there is . . “ In the evening around 5:30, the power was still on. The winds were about 35 miles per hour. My husband read my post and commented: “It is no worse than a Santa Ana. We’ve been in worse.” We watched the news to learn that the Interstates were closed: “Could you imagine if the Five was closed every time the wind was this hard?” we asked each other.
Outside the trees swayed, dancing in the winds. Yes, the wind howled up the I-5 corridor, slammed our former backyard and whipped dirt and leaves into mini-tornadoes, but our California trees were not as tall. The hills of the I-5 corridor are sparsely covered by scrub oaks and the small heritage oaks. These are trees shaped by the wind, broad but not tall. The eucalyptus trees, planted for their fast growth, often came down in the wind. Our neighbor lost one in our yard fifteen years ago. In the east, these high winds are not common. And the trees in the forest—maples, oaks, pines– shadow our house. So as we joked about the mildness of the storm so far, the wind played havoc in the tall branches. Suddenly we heard a loud cracking sound.
A conifer had fallen across the backyard, taking several other trees with it. We ran out on the deck to view the damage. In the dark, it is difficult to assess the size of the tree. The wind got stronger. A short time later, I am on the phone with my sister-in-law, trying to load the dishwasher, trying to straighten the kitchen in case we lose power, when the house went black. The phone was dead. I screamed. The lights flickered back on. We sat in the living room by the fire, waiting. The power sputtered, returned, sputtered, returned.
When we go to bed, I get out some battery powered candles and set them as night lights—just in case. The wind picks up in velocity, shrieking, moaning, wailing. At one thirty in the morning, I wake to silence. The worse is over, I tell myself as I fall back to sleep. At three thirty, we have torrential rain but we still have power. Nothing has fallen on the house.
In the morning we learn that 67% of our town is without power. We are the fortunate ones. The schools do not have power, but the high school has a generator and is serving as an emergency shelter. One major road is closed because of downed trees and wires, but only a small birch has fallen across our street. It is easily kicked to the side. “This is so much better than last year,” a neighbor told me. “We were nine days without power. We now have a generator for the water pump.” Another neighbor texted: “Heard 70% of the town is out! We lucked out!”
Our street was fortunate. Across the eastern seaboard, cities and towns suffered damage. People suffered through floods and fires. Many people cannot yet return to their homes. Or they are in their homes without power. I had one uprooted tree. I cannot complain about one tree falling across my yard. The fallen tree will change the light in the yard; open a new perspective on the forest.
Today the sun shines and then disappears. I look out my office window and notice more broken tree limbs, but we are here. The damage is small. My house has power. I am thankful.