In which an umbrella will not be helpful for the next couple days

Predicting rain for the Swampland this time of year is a no-brainer.

I'm waiting for somebody to sell umbrellas that say in big orange letters:
"I'M NOT FROM HERE!"  (Seattle Times photo)

Still, generally speaking, native Pacific Northwesterners are not umbrella users.

In fact, Curmudgeon Emeritus Emmett Watson (1918-2001, longtime writer for the now nearly-defunct Seattle PI) who referred to outsiders as "sun-baked barbarians," noted that a mossback's status could be told by the proximity of his/her umbrella:  
  • Visitors have umbrellas in-hand, even when rain is not imminent.
  • New immigrants have umbrellas within easy reach.
  • Those who have been here a while know where the umbrella is, even if it's buried in a car or closet.  It can be fetched readily when desired.
  • True mossbacks either don't own umbrellas at all (most common) or own one or two that were gifted by well-intentioned outsiders.  But they don't know where those gifted bumbershoots are.  Maybe the basement?  Maybe the attic?

It's not that we are extremely tough, water-resistant persons.  It's not that rain is so common that we've become immune to cold clammy dripping.

It's mostly that Swampland rain doesn't just fall down.  It very often blows sideways.  Umbrellas are just not much good for that.  

There's a reason that Gore-tex remains a big seller here:  keeping our hair dry is just the beginning.  We need full-body protection from precipitation!

April showers bring raincoats.  Long, waterproof raincoats.
Good for October rain, too!

Rain is normal here.  We know how to deal with it.  We are good at rain.

We get a couple of big wind and rain events every year in the early winter.  It's kind of a pain in the tailfeathers, but usually no big deal.

So, why are the weather-guessers like National Weather Service Seattle hitting the panic button right now?

Apparently, it's all about the timing.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the 1962 Columbus Day storm -- a killer event spawned by Typhoon* Freda blasted the Pacific coast with winds recorded at 83 miles per hour in Seattle, and passed 150 mph along the Washington/Oregon coast.  Winds were actually stronger than that...but they broke the measuring instruments, so accurate measurements weren't recorded.  

Wrecked in the 1962 storm:  branches fell on the house and also fell on power lines, which caught fire.
(Seattle Times historical archive photo)

This weekend, say the forecasters, we've got a very similar storm brewing over the ocean and headed our way.

*We don't have hurricanes in the Pacific Northwest...or rather, we do, but we don't call them "hurricanes."
If this type of event happens in our region, it's called a "typhoon."  (NOAA graphic)

First, a heavy rainstorm that will saturate the soil.  

Next, a big windstorm, the remnants of Typhoon Songda.  Depending where the wind front makes landfall, it could be a pain in the tailfeathers, or it could be lots worse.  

As in 1962, our trees still have a lot of leaves, and that makes them much more vulnerable to high winds.  Branches with leaves are more likely to break under the stress of winds, and then they go flying.  Flying branches = property damage and power lines down.

Flying branches can also kill people.

With the soil soft and wet, strong winds in leaf-laden branches are more likely to topple trees.

1962 fallen tree.  (Seattle Municipal Archives photo)

Falling trees kill people every year.  Last year we lost three people in a single November windstorm.  That was a normal storm in a normal year, late enough that our trees didn't have leaves.

With this storm, there is the potential to lose a lot more trees.  There will certainly be power outages, and there will probably be some flooding.

So, what do we do?

Well, most of it is already done:

We've latched all the outbuilding doors, and stacked up all the stuff that might fly around.  We've sealed the barn roof and the trailer roof.

Sealing the barn roof is a good task for August days.
We've stocked up on food and water.  We have plenty of firewood.

Cutting up trees for firewood in late September.

When the farm loses power, we also lose water (electric well pump), so there are big jugs of water in each bathroom for washing and toilet flushing.

The flashlights have fresh batteries, and there's a big stack of books beside each living room chair.

So now, we wait.

Maybe it won't be so bad.

No matter what, we won't be carrying umbrellas.

Goretex rules.

Stay safe, everyone!

UPDATE: 3pm Saturday
The rainstorm on Thursday was truly No Big Deal.  The nearby Stillaguamish River stayed at Stage 1 Flooding, i.e. "normal."  Stage 2 Flooding means that there is minor flooding at the usual low spots, and that there may be some road closures (again, at the usual low spots).

The power has flickered briefly over the last two days, with the only side effect being that I'm getting really good at re-setting digital clocks and timers.

We are currently 2 or 3 hours away from the wind event that is the tail of Typhoon Songda.  The most reliable of our weather guessers thinks that Bellingham and the counties north of Haiku Farm are going to get hit harder than us, and that Seattle won't be hit as hard.  It's anybody's guess about whether we will lose power, and if we do, how long it will be out.  If you don't hear from me, it might be that we have lost power and/or interwebs and/or phone connectivity.  Those are all pretty tenuous out here, so we are accustomed to doing without one or all of them for a while.

Jim has just filled up the wood boxes, and there's still 4 hours of daylight, but the wind is beginning to pick up, so I will hit "publish" on this update before we lose electricity!

See you on the far side.

Update: 10am Sunday

"Overhyped," they're calling it.

But here's what I know:  better to be prepared, and not need it, than to need it and not be prepared.

Batteries will keep, and there's no harm in having extra canned food in the house.  Theoretically, we haven't even started winter yet.  There's plenty of time for the weather to turned pear-shaped before summer.

We spent the night watching episodes from season 1 of Torchwood and wondering when the Big Storm was going to hit.  We had a few trash cans blow around, and there are tons of branches on the ground.   More than 10,000 people lost power at least briefly, and one kid in the Seattle area got hit by a flying branch and is still in intensive care.

Today, it's raining.  I'l probably go out in it at some point, but it's a good bet I still won't be packing an umbrella!


  1. Getting caught up on some blog reading and just read this. Excellent post! Very interesting since I live in a completely different climate (which is wild because are in the same coast). Since I didn't hear anything exciting I'm assuming everyone "weathered" it just fine? Btw I'm with you on the umbrellas. I have some, no idea where they came from - except one that was a childhood present from my grandpa- that I have stashed places but I truly can't remember the last time I used one. It's hard for me to use something that takes away one of my hands when I'm out and about!


Post a Comment

To err is human. To be anonymous is not.

Popular posts from this blog

In which we take (metaphoric) coals to Newcastle by boat and barge

In which we go to the Highland Games and there's a Henry photo dump