Monday, November 23, 2009

Chasing the Storm

On the night of December 2nd, 2007 the coast of Washington and Oregon was slammed by hurricane force winds that left a wake of destruction reminiscent of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s or the atmospheric explosion of a meteorite. The infrastructures of the communities that dot the coastal region were devastated. Roads were rendered impassible, power lines were down everywhere as were telephone lines. Flooding was rampant in communities built near the sea. My mother lives in Ilwaco, Washington at the mouth of the Columbia River and for three days we were out of contact with her. Although phone lines were down we knew that she was sitting in a cold dark apartment. As soon as the roads onto the Long Beach Peninsula were opened we drove down to see what we could do to help her. By the time we arrived her ordeal of no power had just ended so we got her some fresh groceries and promised that should any other such storm that promised so much devastation be headed toward her we would come and fetch her away.

Last week the coast was pummeled by storm after storm. Mother came through the first four with her lights only being out for 2 and a half hours. I became complacent. Friday night I checked the NOAA website and it looked like the storm predicted for Saturday night wasn’t going to be as bad as that which they’d had on Monday. Sunday morning we woke to the news that the coast of Washington had been slammed by a storm that had been much more severe. From a Facebook friend who lives in Ilwaco we learned that not only was the power out (her parents have a generator), but that it was a major BPA line that might take as long as 3-5 days to repair. Although the phone lines were not down this time, we were out of contact with my mother because her corded phone was malfunctioning and her cordless phone had no power. The question became what should we do?

After making phone calls to PUD, the Pacific County Sheriff’s Department, and my cousin who lives down there I came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to drive down and rescue my mother from her cold dark apartment. How I was going to get her down the stairs from the second floor I would deal with when I got there. A check of the DOT website indicated that the roads were open so my husband and I hopped in the car and were off. Clearly this storm had not been anywhere as devastating as the 2007 storm. The more inland communities appeared to have power although during the day it is difficult to tell which houses had lights on. When we got to Montesano we stopped for a bathroom and snack break and that is where we were when my aunt called to say that the power had just come back on. She’d spoken to my mother who was fine. At that point we could have turned around and gone back to Gig Harbor, but we decided to complete the trip and take her the telephone. Although we will be going to Ilwaco for Thanksgiving the fact that the coast has had storm after storm the past week my knowing that my mother now has a phone that should work even if the power goes out again.

Life on the Washington/Oregon coast makes being prepared a necessity. It is difficult to care for an aging mother from 150 miles away and the time will come when we will have to move our mode of operations to Ilwaco. We are wrestling with out desire to live their fulltime vs our desire to help our children who live with us. Can’t put a cute grandson to the curb, but don’t like leaving a great-grandmother sitting in the cold for days at a time.

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