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  • Writer's pictureLouise Carnachan

Freeze Frame

While all eyes were on the Texas storms and ensuing disaster, the Portland, Oregon area also had historic weather. From the evening of February 12th to the afternoon of the 15th many found themselves living in an ice-skating rink. Tree branches had up to an inch and a half of ice which is known as a “silver thaw;” beautiful but deadly. For two and a half days the crash of trees and branches breaking led to prayers they'd miss the house.

Everyone has a tale to tell. Mine is of five days without power and being completely unprepared (where were all my supplies from living on Orcas Island?!). I have terrific neighbors and generous friends who gave me an overnight in a warm bed, hot food, and shower. The next day power returned after close to 120 hours without. Three days later, the internet was back. Even now, more than two weeks later, clean up continues to make roadways passable and to remove debris and “widow makers.” The piles left on the side of the road for the city to pick up are astonishingly large. I can see the road where I couldn't before, tree shrouded houses have lost their privacy, and some areas look like they've been clear cut.

After this first storm of magnitude in this home, I now have a long list of items for future emergencies—and the awareness that I'm hopelessly addicted to electricity. Although this was a personal best to be without power, any extended outage reminds me previous experiences. As I sat under a pile of fleece blankets on the couch, my mind went to a time in south Seattle. My neighbors to the north were Gil and Genevieve, a couple in their 80’s. One winter night, we had a heck of a snow storm.

I was working late into the evening about twenty-five miles north. When I got off the freeway, the side streets were a holy mess (as was always the case given no snow removal equipment and a plenitude of steep hills). A power line was on the road so I drove the wrong way on a one lane, one-way street. Since I was the only idiot out in the weather, I met no one. I got home to find the power off and the temperature frigid.

The widespread outage was evidenced by a lack of lights along the entire east side of Lake Washington and Renton at the bottom of the lake. I huddled in bed with the two cats for the night. The next morning, I knocked on my neighbor’s door to see how they were doing and found them hunched together under a bedspread on the couch. They were out of firewood and were freezing so I brought over the remains of what I had and returned to bed.

On the second morning, I could see lights in Renton. Although the roads were dicey, I had a relatively sure-footed four-wheel drive mini-SUV with studded snow tires. I asked Gil if he wanted to join me on a trip down the hill to Fred Meyer. We all needed food and I was desperate for fire logs. Not surprisingly, the shelves were empty of any type of wood save for something called Java Logs made from pressed coffee grounds. I'm sure you're amazed they were still on the shelves...

The moment I got home, it was obvious the power was back because it was noticeably warmer. The furnace and refrigerator issued reassuring hums. All was well after a mere thirty-six hours.

When I consider these two stories, I'm aware of how much more comfortable I was in giving help than in asking for or receiving it. I know I'm not alone in this. It's odd isn't it, when we're aware of how much we enjoy providing assistance to others yet are willing to deny that pleasure to others because we think we need to do it all ourselves? Let's make a vow to ask for help in the future without guilt, okay? It's got to be a healthier way to live. Oh, and by the way, skip the Java Logs; they were useless.

Do you have a storm or giving/receiving help story to share? Please write in the box below.

Sending along appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and a reminder that the delights of spring are around the corner.

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