It started Friday morning.
Stabs of lightning slit the pre-dawn gloaming. Rain falls in sheets. A late afternoon voice mail from the Grays Harbor Emergency Management in coastal southwest Washington confirms the worst: A powerful storm is on its way. A severe weather watch in effect. Heavy rains. Possible coastal flooding. (That can include us.) Hurricane force winds expected. Batten down the hatches. Start scouting supplies of gopher wood.
Stormaggedon is on its way.
So we act. Neat rows of canned goods and non-perishable items are stacked in the basement in snap-to precision. Bottled water, sundry items and other staples? Check. Check. And check. Husband Chris ventures out for more water. More canned goods. Extra puppy chow. Batteries. Sand bags. Laundry and dishes are all caught up. Plans in place. The basement is at ground level. Living quarters on the second floor.
We are ready.
So I finger an old favorite, crack its spine and dive in.Under the Tuscan Sun seems incongruous today. But a favorite is a favorite, regardless of weather. Two hundred and eighty pages redolent with France Mayes’ delicious descriptions of her restoration of an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. Incandescent, the text drips with the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Under the Tuscan Sun is the kind of tome you tuck into a summer picnic basket. Or wrap yourself around during what’s forecast to be one of the ten worst storms ever in Northwest experience.
It’s mid-morning. We decide to augment our emergency supplies. Husband Chris heads out to do so. I keep an eye on the rising river a block away, watching at the window for his return. Forty-five minutes tick by with the speed of a growing redwood.
After unloading the additional supplies, I rejoin Frances. Moments later I am adrift in a sea of Italian terra cotta, palazzi, gelato, padrones and Chianti. Puppy Kimber sleeps soundly at my feet. She rolls over and stretches, chest gently rising and falling in contented slumber.
By 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Grays Harbor Emergency Management issues an update:
VERY STRONG STORM SYSTEM APPROACHING QUICKLY
HIGH WIND WARNING
HUNTING ALERT – CLAM DIG ALERT
Updated at 11:30AM Saturday, October 15, 2016
The National Weather Service in Seattle has indicated a powerful storm is approaching and will affect the region Saturday afternoon into Sunday. The system brings significant wind, rain and potential coastal flood issues. Power outages of significant duration could affect numerous areas throughout the county during this storm.
Residents are urged to prepare for this Storm immediately. Grays Harbor County Emergency Management and county public safety agencies are recommending residents to stay home and not go out unless they absolutely have to. Residents are urged to make sure they have adequate supplies for possible power outages; this includes drinking water and food on hand.
Mindful of the clock, I take the puppy out around 2:00 in the afternoon. Whipped by the wind, the junipers bow to the ground. Part Golden Retriever, part Lab and part Border collie, Kimber is a black and white blur. She dislikes getting wet and regards rain as a personal affront. Her collie ears flap in the wind like the Wright Flyer. She’s in a hurry, shaking off itinerant raindrops in a rush to get back inside.
Soon after, the winds kick up another notch. Debris rains down from alders and big leaf maples, skipping merrily out to God-only-knows-where. The Wi-Fi connection flutters in and out like a drunken butterfly. Kimber shifts in her sleep but doesn’t wake unless I cantilever myself out of the recliner.
I envy Frances Mayes and her villa’s fireplace, large enough to sit in. “I think most Italians have a longer sense of time than we do,” she writes. “What’s the hurry? Once up, a building will stand a long, long time, perhaps a thousand years. Two weeks, two months, big deal.”
A severe storm? Two hours, two days, two weeks, big deal. I can’t quite wrap my head around that.
The winds picks up around 3:00 p.m. Saturday. Nipping at the eaves, its insect whine increases to a howl an hour later. Out of state friends and family phone and text. Are you okay? What’s it like along the coast? We are fine. High and dry. So far. So good.
Hunkered down in the living room, we watch the USC Trojans clobber the Arizona Sun Devils. In Arizona. It’s sunny, clear and blue on the gridiron. Temperatures in the eighties. I look outside at the waterlogged lawn, the gutters spitting out rain, and laugh.
The NOAA weather radio informs us, in tenor monotone, that the Columbia River Bar has closed. No boats in or out. He drones on about nautical miles. High surf advisories. Severe weather warnings and “sneaker” waves. And oh yes, don’t go out on the beach in this weather unless you’re a complete idiot (he doesn’t use those exact words, but that’s what he means).
The wind howls like a banshee. Frogg-Toggged, I take Kimber out again, snatching a few minutes from the elements. Frances and Ed Mayes try to decide on what to renovate/upgrade first – the leaky roof or central heating.
The Trojans trounce the Sun Devils. Then it’s Stanford vs. Notre Dame. At South Bend, Indiana. The five o’clock hour presents a dilemma: more football or Dodger vs. Cubs chasing the National League pennant at Wrigley Field. Maeda takes the mound for the Blue Crew. The umpires prayer huddle before the first pitch. I love this game.
We eat baked chicken with a White Zinfandel. There’s a break in the rain. The wind subsides. It’s expected to run like a three year-old at the Kentucky Derby later. After four and half innings, it’s not looking good for Team Los Angeles.
The weather scanner reports a “100 percent chance of precipitation” for Saturday and Sunday. Possible thunderstorms. High winds expected through 11:00 p.m. Saturday. Storm warnings. Fog. He drones on. Rain lashes the house like a mad buggy driver.
By 6:30 p.m., passing cars have switched their windshield wipers off. Somber prognostications of Stormaggedon seem far-fetched. The Dodgers catch up with the Cubs. I head to the kitchen. Kimber follows. Chris and I drain steaming mugs of hot cocoa, mini-marshmallows floating like white islands. And wait. At this point the grim prognostications seem like Much Ado About Nothing.
My sister calls from California. Yes, we’re okay. Eighty-plus degrees there? Nice.
Two and a half hours after Game One of the NL pennant race began, it’s the top of the seventh. Chicago is up by two. The winds are kicking up again, tossing buckets of rain from gray-cement skies.
Suddenly it’s the top of the eighth. Dodgers have tied it up, 3 to 3. Hope springs eternal! Bottom of the eighth. The Cubs’ Miguel Montero drills a grand slam homer over the right field wall, putting the game out of reach for the Dodgers. Seconds later, before he’s rounded the bases, we lose the satellite feed.
Not long after, I receive this email message from the Grays Harbor Emergency Management:
The Grays Harbor County Emergency Coordination Center will be closing at 8:00 pm tonight. The National Weather Service in Seattle has indicated that the storm has passed.
Luckily this very strong storm passed farther out to sea than expected and had very little impact upon the county.
We will always prepare for the worst, yet hope for the best. Luckily, we had little impact from the storm this time. Next time we may not be as fortunate.
Thank you for your cooperation and diligence throughout these two storm events. Your preparation efforts and confidence in our alert messaging would have limited any impact the storm might have caused if it passed closer to our county.
The winds pick up. Rain tumbles down in sheets. We wonder about the National Weather Service.
Baseball-less, we pop in Gettysburg on disc. Again. Winds blow in around 10:00 p.m.. But they are toothless and hollow.
Suddenly it’s Sunday. The lights are still on. The basement is high and dry. Emergency supplies untouched. The winds have settled down. Rain subsides to a soggy threat.
The Dodgers lose. Kimber chomps her breakfast. The Etruscan wall necklacing Frances’ villa is rebuilt. The weed-choked cistern cleaned. The roof fixed. Central heating in place. Aging interior polished to its former patina and newly planted herb gardens blooming, Frances’ restored villa gleams in the Tuscan sun. Blue and gray, overhead skies here clash like troops at Gettysburg. But the worst, it seems, is over.