Thoughts After the December Windstorms

When preparing for the Big One, let there be light ... and heat

This month, I didn’t stop to gaze in wonder at Christmas Tree Lane or the Balian Manse, impressive as both may be. No, the real miracle of the lights happened on December 5th, almost a week after the windstorm, the day Edison charged up my house and I rediscovered the marvelous world of electricity.

I don’t know how our forefathers and foremothers lived by candlelight and fire-warmth, but then, I don’t understand how they lived without deodorant or fabric softener. They were a brave and doughty people, packing an intestinal fortitude that can only be imagined.

My five days without Thomas Edison’s finest were spent in a ski suit, three pairs of socks, and oven mitts, trying to make sense of a gas furnace that can only be lit when the electricity is working.

On Day 1, as the winds blew and the power in my house flickered and died, I thought, “Oh, I’d better Google this.”  It was an automatic response. Like the way I continued to flick on the light switch every time I entered a room. 

Even without lights, I could see all the holes in my survival kit. Yes, I had a supply of torches, batteries, radio, water, matches, and Dinty Moore Beef Stew.  But the sum of these parts added  up to many cold, dim nights full of indigestion. 

And depression. Among my few appliances that required no electricity were the thermometers--thermometers that confirmed when the temperature falls to 35 degrees outside, eventually, inevitably, it will fall to 50 or 40 degrees inside. 

Mornings were the worst. I could light the stove burners with a match, but couldn’t make coffee. Not without my electric coffee grinder, I couldn’t.  Not even when I wrapped the beans in a tea towel and pounded them with a hammer. Oh yes, I tried that. Maybe that’s why I found hundreds of  kindred spirits gathering at the same temples–Starbucks, the , Beantown.   

During those teeth-chattering mornings, my fireplace mocked me. It’s an old wood-burning fireplace; a big brick monolith that screams function not fashion. But I haven't had it safety-inspected in 10 years. And the only thing worse than a cold house would be no house at all.

So I consider this little breeze that ushered in December a gift–a chance to review, restock and consider how, during the next emergency, I can not only survive, but also find a little comfort.  

Here is my list of home survival improvements for 2012, some already in the works. This is in addition to what’s already on hand.

Appointment for:

  • Fireplace cleaning and inspection
  • Electrician to install portable generator, one with enough juice to light the furnace and run a light bulb or two.


  • Sleeping bag, something rated for the polar region, pre-global warming.
  • Land-line phone, old style,  non-electric
  • Wood
  • Hand-cranked coffee grinder
  • Food, anything other than beef stew
  • More matches
  • More aspirin
  • Rolaids
  • One excellent bottle of brandy
william sorlien December 28, 2011 at 04:42 AM
Must of been the brandy . . .
Karin Bugge December 28, 2011 at 03:54 PM
P Goeders, you had me at toilet water. William, I'll remember to keep my distance.
Karin Bugge December 29, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Wendy -- as promised, update on fireplace inspector & recommendation. It was Boston Brick & Stone, and they were very thorough ($120 for inspection and cleaning). The results of my inspection were not happy ones, but that's not their fault.
doris finch December 29, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Karin, man cannot live by brandy alone. The bottles of wine on our shelves were a great comfort in time of trouble. I also eyed the old Greek/Turkish/Armenian hand-cranked coffee grinder and the brass ibrik [open coffee pot for G/T/A coffee] with new respect. We use our fireplaces heavily so I have an annual inspection/cleaning. I've used Oregon Chimney Sweep, a one man operation, for years.
doris finch December 29, 2011 at 10:06 PM
PS. Being a dinosaur and it-might-come-in-useful-someday sort of person, we not only had the old fashioned land-line phone in one jack, but I was able to share another from the closet with a neighbor who had only hand held, base operated phones. We put an old dial phone upstairs. I actually made phone calls on it.


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