Last year on Dec. 20 the Cowichan Valley was walloped by the worst windstorm in memory in the region.
The storm brought down trees like bowling pins and power lines right along with them. It took days for work crews from BC Hydro to municipal to clear things up and get back to a semblance of normal.
I vividly remember the day of the windstorm. It was a Thursday, deadline day here at the paper for our Friday edition. It was late morning when the power quit. Here in Duncan the extent of the storm wasn’t immediately visible beyond that, as buildings outnumber trees, but sirens from the firehalls echoed eerily through the streets in a virtually constant warning, and traffic backed up at blacked out lights.
At first, it seemed like more of an annoyance than anything. It’s very inconvenient when the power goes out and you need to work on a computer. But as the hours stretched on and there was no sign that power was coming back on anytime soon, and more and more areas were left in the dark and more and more roads were shut down by fallen trees the severity of the storm started to become apparent. We did get that next edition out on Friday, but someone from another community, more fortunate in the power department, had to finish the last few pages for us.
I was the last one in the office, and as I headed home that afternoon the reality of the windstorm really hit home. I got home only because one lane into my community was still open, every other road was totally blocked. As I drove, branches fell around my vehicle and I prayed no trees would fall on me or in front of me, causing me to crash. When I pried my white knuckles from the steering wheel in my driveway, at long last, it was obvious my power was out, along with most of Cowichan.
I’m pretty well prepared for this eventuality. I can light the place with candles and battery lanterns, and I have plenty of food that can be eaten cold. The one thing I don’t have is a heat source without electricity. My home does not have a fireplace or woodstove, and so I put on as many layers as I could and hunkered down with a blanket, my cat, and my dying cell phone (I forgot the charger on my desk at work in the pitch black room).
Now, going without heat is entirely possible for a day or so, even though the wind blew in a cold front along with it and the temperature dipped below 0 C. But boy was it cold.
As I remembered the windstorm this week, it has prompted me to look around for an emergency indoor heater for the next time this happens. How prepared are you? (Knock on wood.)