Monday, November 12, 2012

Snowstorming


Vee asked: How did I feel about our weekend visitor, Winter Storm Brutus.
Frankly, I enjoyed every snow flake.

We were well prepared for such as an event as a city and as a family.
The fact that it happened on a weekend was a blessing too.
Far less commuting was needed so the storm related roadway incidents were few.
That's not to say none; we watched a BMW slide backward down the sloped road in front of our house.
We read of people who put snow chains on the rear tires of their front wheel drive cars and vice versa.
First time snow storms are a real learning curve for new folks to our area.

There were power outages around the area.
We were without cable and internet service for a bit.

Bernie cleared our driveway many times.
Our dear neighbor Oliver came over in the early morning with his snow blower and cleared the over night snowfall for us without even waking us up.
If any neighbor had a storm related need I am sure it would have been met somehow by one or between the skills and supplies of all of us.

I am truely thankful that Utah takes emergency, storm and disaster preparedness seriously.
I have lived in cities where an inch of snow was a disaster.
Schools in one city were shut down mid day upon receiving a half inch of snow and the children sent home, regardless of whether there were parents there to receive them or not.
Stores were stripped bared 24 hours before an over night freeze.
People simply did not know what to do!

Here at our house we got 16 inches on our deck. Our neighborhood got 27 inches in 48 hours.
The most snowfall at the SLC airport record was broken.

This picture was taken the day before the storm arrived.
We were warned and warned it was coming.
Can you see what is lurking in the picture above?

It may seem like an ordinary autumn scene but if one happened to be a bird...it would be a situation to be avoided!

Which brings me to write a bit about disaster preparedness.
First let me disclaim a couple of things:
I am not saying we as a couple are totally are prepared for all possible crisis.
And I recognize there is a difference between sudden disaster and an approaching identifiable and forewarned crisis situation.

It took a few "crisis" situation to happen before I started paying attention to the call to prepare.
Like the yellow sign that is posted in the above scene, the heads up warnings started to really matter to us after experiencing an evacation for an approaching tsuami, two hurricanes, a tropical storm, a attack on American soil, an earthquake and wild fire.
(Not all at once thank heaven!)

The evacuation for the tsuami happened when I was ten.
We had about two hours to pile whatever we felt we needed into our car.
In those innocent 1960's days we took what we thought would get us through a day or so.
And wondered as we sat atop a mountain if anyone was looting our unprotected neighborhood.
The tsuami never arrived at our place, but up the west coast other cities were wiped out.

The first week of January 2001 I started a job on the 47 floor of a downtown Houston high rise.
My boss took me to a window and pointed out some railway tracks in the distance.
She told me that during heavy rain storms I should watch the tracks. If they went under water then we would be trapped in the city.
I looked at her in amazement.
Surely she was joking.
She explained that that had been an experience of hers, and that once every 100 years Houston goes under water.
She thought that that event was the 100 year event but she wasn't quite sure.
Five months later Tropical Storm Allison looped in a lazy circle over Houston and dropped 37 inches of rain in 48 hours, creating over $5 billion dollars in damages, lost lives and a city literally underwater.

We watched on television (being just north enough of the city to retain power) the disaster unfolding.
The worse was watching the panel of disaster specialists from the Red Cross and from area churches and civic groups.
People were invited to call in with their needs; a woman called with five kids under the age of four whose home was in chest deep water.
She needed help.
Another woman called saying she was likewise in a flooded area and in a wheelchair.
To both of these calls the Red Cross advised going to their relief center with identification and paperwork to get help.
That response was a huge to us and not in a good way.
***
The spokeperson from the area churches shouldered the Red Cross spokesperson aside.
She asked for the caller's address and said someone would come get them in a boat immediately.
Across Houston churches and individuals fanned out to go to the places needed to meet needs of neighbors near and far.

3 1/2 months later it was 9/11.
Downtown Houston was advised to evacuate.
We were both downtown.
I called Bernie.
Then my phone and everyone around me phones went dead as the cellular towers went on overload.
Bernie was able to pick me up at the curb of my workplace and we drove out of the city.
It went into total gridlock behind us.

Katrina...was next.
My friends in Florida had gone through a series of devistating hurricanes and we had just gone through our own Allison storm.
We knew their need to prepare and evacuate was serious.
We watched in horror as the storm arrived and the disaster followed.
We knew help does NOT instantly arrive.
In fact...months later...homes in Houston were still ruined from Allison, and Florida likewise had taken months to marginally recover from their storms.

Later for us was Hurricane Rita.
We were told to shelter in place as we were unlikely to be in any danger from the storm.
Closer to the coastline people were told to evacuate in waves.
They did.
And they took both their cars, their motor homes, their boat and everything else they could find that could roll up the highway.
My friend Kate told me it took her 6 hours to drive 11 miles.
The gridlock...and all those vehicles being driven at once quickly sucked all the area gas stations dry.

We had one tree fall on our house during Rita.
Our neighbor had a tree fall straight through their roof.
Thankfully they had evacuated.
All the neighbors pitched in to tarp the roof to protect the home's interior.
Because we were neighbors...and we took care of each other.
We had food, fuel, chainsaws, batteries, water...the usual items.
 
I could go on and on about my brushes with disasters.
Each event taught us a lot.
Especially that when you hear about 100 year storms or 25 year wild fires or 300 year earthquakes...we learned that they tend to arrive pretty much on schedule!
We soon had plans for evacuation by car, by bike and on foot, in heat and in cold.
We had plans for sheltering in place, in heat and in cold.
We had plans for how to manage a disaster if we were not in the same city...Bernie is often on the east coast or traveling anywhere from Canada, Mexico or the UK.
Our plans are a work in progress.
Thankfully our current city is one of the most disaster prepared cities in America.
We drill for disasters in our neighborhood yearly.
(One part of the drill: We put a towel by our front door to signal we are OK. In a disaster emergency personel doesn't have to knock on our door if we are all right if they see a towel. How simple is that?)
I plan to post what I know about preparedness soon.
Again, not because I am the final word on the subject but because it is helpful to share and learn from others and I know someone out there probably  has a great tip that I hadn't thought of before.
For example, just a few days ago I learned that a wick stuck into a can of Crisco will burn for a solid month.
That sure beats hoping there would be enough candles and matches to light a fire nightly, or flashlight batters for the duration.
The wick goes inside the plastic lid until needed with some matches...easy to store, and find!
****
In the meantime may I suggest some really gripping and thought generating reading?
"One Second After" by William Forstchen is a great read.
It is a novel about what it could it be like when in just one second the country totally lose all electrical power.
The book is slightly out of date but the story line is great and will definitely spark some discussion about how you and yours would manage.
It isn't really a far fetched senario either.
One second after you finish reading this post...would you be able to manage if all you have from now on is what you have right now in your house?
Think about it.
No running water.
No electronics.
No functioning cars.
No production or distribution of medication.
Tough times for sure.
I happen to believe people are tough and with some preparedness they will be able to survive.

4 comments:

ellen b. said...

Great information Jill. It really is amazing how quickly things can shut down around us in a natural disaster....

RoeH said...

I heard SLC got it bad. But isn't it pretty after a big storm. Love the nature photos.

Lovella ♥ said...

It is amazing how many brushes with serious weather events you have experienced. We really haven't had anything close to that. The weather is fairly even keeled here...but I keep wanting to prepare a large bin in event of an earthquake.

Lorrie Orr said...

You've been through some really severe events. Being prepared is of utmost importance. We lived in South America for 20 years and learned to deal with many situations. Since returning to Canada, to live in an earthquake zone, I'm amazed at how many people do not have a plan and supplies on hand for earthquake preparedness.
A great post, looking forward to more.