Friday, December 15, 2006

Rain, Wind, Storm ... No Power

I'm in Seattle this week. The rain comes and goes as usual for this time of the year.

Yesterday afternoon a major storm hit the Northwest. At 5pm we decided to shut down the servers and network in the office, since we had ongoing brownouts and briefly lost power. Outside, the wind was howling around the building, the rain blowing accross the street horizontally. Windows were rattling. Lake Washington had a good surf going, you could see it even from the office. Most of the employees went home.

We took off to drive to a co-worker's house in Bellevue. The office parking lot was flooded, the garage was flooded, and the street gutters were full of water. The normally 15 minute drive to Bellevue took us over an hour on the side-streets. Multiple stop lights were out and cars waiting their turn all over the place. Very orderly though, I must say. Once we got there we had good food and lots of fun. I tried playing Tennis on the Wii as well as a few other games.

Here's a picture of a flodded garage. It's hard to see, but water depth was about 1 foot.

11:30pm

I got back to the apartment with light rain and a decent amount of wind. I planned to be in the office early to bring up the infrastructure back up once the storm has blown over. It was supposed to peak at 2am.

5:00am

Well, yeah... I got a call from the local helpdesk manager not to bother. I notice the power is out in my apartment. "The power is out in 90% of western Washington." Oh... Well then, I'm going back to sleep now.

6:00am

"The office building is dead. 3 feet of water in the lower level of the garage" Guess it's unlikely I'm going to work today. I'll see when and where I can find some coffee and breakfast. In an hour I'll call Patricia to find out what's going on at Sea-Tac, and if my flight this afternoon is still on.

8:00am

Power still out. I take a shower in the dark bathroom. The water is lukewarm. I consider myself lucky. After some consideration and looking out of the window, I decide to pack my stuff and get it down to the car. No point hanging out in the apartment with no power or heat. I want some coffee.
The trip down the pitchblack stairwell with no windows was ... interesting. Good thing the display of my cell phone is this bright.

9:00am

Still no power. I stopped by the office to found the building locked with a couple employees outside chatting. The lower level of the garage is still flooded. They are pumping the water out, only making slow progress. I don't envy the owners of the few cars left in there.

The guy stocking our mini-kitchens left some danish and cranberry cake outside the lobby doors. Good. Still craving a coffee. It starts raining again. "All the power is out in the city of Kirkland", a police officer who was checking on one of the local banks tells me. Bellevue may have power, I'm told, so I decide to make my way down I-405 towards the airport.

The floating bridge accross Lake Washington is still closed. They closed it last night before the brunt of the storm came in, since it's unsafe to cross with heavy winds. Which means all the traffic headed to Seattle has to go down to I-90 and across Mercer Island. I'm in the middle of that traffic. Crap.

10:30am

I tried taking side-streets looking for some coffee place and to bypass the mess on I-405. Success for the latter, but still no coffee. Eventually I get south of I-90, make it via Factoria and Coalcreek Parkway back to I-405 and out to the airport.

11:30am

I got to the airport early enough to catch an earlier flight back to San Jose. Phew. Looking forward to see Patricia and the kids.

Lessons learned:


  • Don't expect to be able to get back into the office building the next morning. Take the stuff you might need.
  • Carry a flashlight. I'll get one of those little keychain lights. Way better than nothing.
  • Listen to the news and traffic reports. Find one of those AM news channels. I got a pretty good picture on what's going on. They advised to avoid I-405 between Bellevue and I-90. I should have taken I-405 north to I-5 and on to the airport through Seattle.
  • Always carry some cash. Most ATMs and credit card pay stations don't work without utility power.



Sunday, December 17th:

Power was restored to the office this morning. As I'm writing this there are still over 200,000 people without power in western Washington. Down from over a million Friday morning. I'm just reminded again how much we depend on and are used to the conveniences of modern live. Electricity, clean water, garbage pickup. This was a weather event, people could prepare at least a little bit. However, I'm living in earthquake country. Those things happen without warning. We better get our earthquake kit back together (we had to throw everything out after a rat hit the jackpot and got into the storage box...).

1 comment:

Aunt said...

very good coverage. it was pretty odd during the wind storm.

i made a youtube video on it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nusiJ4Fil50