Monday of this past week, the countdown to Christmas ushered in a surprise storm. It started in the wee hours of the morning with rain and wind—you know, the kind of heavy winds that cause driving rain, knock down trees, and take out power? I was woken by a godawful howling from my cat, who’d somehow found himself outside at about four in the morning and was clinging to the screen door, soaking wet. The wind was howling, too, and as I let him in, dripping, I realized one of the kids must have let him out earlier that night. Of course, I didn’t stay up afterward, simply went back to bed. But the temperature dropped, and I woke up at dawn to find that the rainstorm had turned into a snowstorm.
Now, this wasn’t just a few snowflakes. This was a full-fledged heavy winter snowstorm, so much so that the roads weren’t driveable, because it was that wet, icy west coast snow. My daughter had to work, but she soon found out that would mean pulling on her boots and hiking through the snow to the ferry by foot. It was only an hour’s walk, but she reported that apparently, as she was walking, most of the cars that had attempted the drive were already on their sides in the ditch.
By the time she got to the ferry, purchased her ticket, and thought to check her cell phone, she found that her boss had tried calling her. They had a tree down across their road and weren’t getting out, and not only was there too much snow, but the power was out there too, so they weren’t opening. She took it in stride and chalked it up to her daily exercise, but I don’t think I would have looked at it with the same optimism! She made the hike back, which took closer to an hour and a half with the heavy, icy snow, and when she arrived home, snow covered, she was just in time for all the power to go out.
Where we live, no power means you’d better have other heat sources, other ways to cook, and water stocked up. As we faced the reality of having no power, I really hoped we wouldn’t see a repeat of Christmas 2018, when a huge windstorm had hit us, taking trees down everywhere and knocking out power across the island. For us, it took seven days for it to be restored, and for many other places around us, it was closer to New Year’s. Now, let me tell you, that Christmas was one I’ll never forget—from having to haul buckets of water from our holding tank to heat on the woodstove, to our neighbor, who was entirely solar powered, taking pity on us and dragging an extension cord up to our house so I could work on my laptop and plug in our fridge and freezer so we wouldn’t lose all our food. Now that’s a good neighbor!
The moment I remember most during that windstorm was watching trees come down, fearing that our neighbors’ trees, which were sideways, swaying in the storm, would snap and come down on our roof. When it finally stopped at the end of the day, my daughter was stranded at school, the roads not passable, and the entire island was without power. If you’ve heard people say that the roads after a storm resemble a war zone, you’ll have some idea.
I had to lift the neighbors’ fence, which was completely down and blocking my road. Branches were everywhere, and I had to drive over one, though, luckily, I had a 4 x 4. The roads that led to town had trees down across them, and power poles and lines were down, too. Everyone who had a chainsaw was out there, clearing the road, which was covered in branches and debris. I drove at a crawl in a single line of traffic while neighbors cleared with their chainsaws so we could pass through just to get our kids in town. We followed one of the Shaw trucks, which was clearing lines from the road. But not everyone could get their kids, because some roads just couldn’t be cleared, so many had to bunk with friends. Christmas on the island was spent in the community.
This year, our power was restored late that first night, with a huge sigh of relief. It was a reminder that a storm is great as long as the power stays on! Christmas 2018, though it was spent with no power, was spent with our neighbors, and we made it a great day. Unfortunately, this year, with all the shutdowns, that wouldn’t have been an option. Thankfully, the power was restored.
As I’ve said to my kids, we will get back to spending Christmas with family and friends again. But you know what? At least we had power, and we were warm.
Don’t miss my newest release The O’Connell Family Christmas