A cold hurricane

What a weekend.

It started Thursday evening. Ironically enough I was at a community resilience planning meeting, where we were working on what Tawa planned to do to help itself in the event of “the big one”. A large storm was predicted to hit Wellington that evening, and by the time we all started arriving at the local fire station it was already starting to blow.

By 7:15 we lost power. We continued on for another 10 minutes by emergency lighting. Then the fire fighters got called out, and the station started hopping as the volunteers came in. We decided to postpone.

I couldn’t get home owing to the giant tree blocking Takapu Road. Thankfully I’d taken all my kit with me that evening, and the moment I got out of the road and back into cell phone range I got a text that PERT had been activated.

Spent the next five hours driving around Porirua, doing reconnaissance of the storm damage, including trying to assess routes and rising streams around an IHC facility that was considering evacuation. I almost didn’t see the raging torrent in the dark, wind and rain. Ben called out in time to prevent me from plunging into the torrent. It was hard to distinguish the ankle-deep water I was sloshing through from the stream.

Couldn’t get home when the EOC closed at 12:30, still a tree in the road. So I crashed at Kerry’s place. We were up early, she had to be back at the EOC by 7. I got up the valley in time to watch our neighbor John demolish the giant tree in the road with his 12-ton digger. Impressive. There were down power lines all over the road, though at that point they’d been down for 12 hours, and everyone was presuming they were no longer live (not always a safe assumption, but thankfully they were dead).

I got home, had some food, then headed out to help with clearing the road. John had dealt with the giant tree down his way, but there were plenty more trees blocking the road and driveways. Thankfully we are well equipped, and roving mobs of chainsaw-wielding people roved the valley looking for people in need of help. A fine way to meet neighbors you hadn’t met before. Tiring work, though.

Then Saturday we had our annual “Darkest Day” party to celebrate the solstice. And it really was dark, seeing as we had no power (mostly), and all illumination was provided by hurricane lamps and LED candles (and some real candles after the little kids had gone home).

I say “mostly” no power because Friday evening Tam discovered the cat bed was still warm, to the surprised exclamation “God must love cats!” How can the power be out, mostly? Well, not all the cables to our house broke, we still have one phase and a neutral. So we have one circuit of power outlets that are live. So the fridge is plugged in, and extension cables criss-cross the house (which is how I have internet and this computer to post onto the blog).

Light is still provided by means of lanterns, heat comes from the wood burner (though we really notice how the lack of ceiling fan means the heat mostly lingers at the tops of the room).

We should have power by the end of the week. Hopefully.

It was a big storm. It came very close to the Waihine storm of ’68, so-named for the inter-island ferry Waihine that sank in the harbor mouth during that storm for the loss of 52 lives.

Thankfully no such disasters this time, though a moored ferry in the harbor (the Kaitake) slipped its moorings and needed its anchor and tugs to ride out the storm.

The sustained 10-minute average wind speed over this storm (~100 kph) was less than the Waihine storm (133 kph), but wave heights at the harbor mouth were higher (15 m as compared to 12-14 m in ’68), and the peak wind speeds were higher (200 kph).

So we basically got hit by a category 1 hurricane that lasted 2 days, but was cold. What fun!

In the end all the animals came through okay. Our back garden now gets more natual light as one tree fell apart, but otherwise the farm was undamaged. And now I have acess to plenty more firewood as I help neighbors with their cleanup. Yay!

One thought on “A cold hurricane

  1. carol hamilton says:

    Glad to hear all is well with you and you will be well stocked for the winter months with all that firewood.

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