Power And Wind

Apologies. A previous post jinxed Whidbey’s weather.

“That’s a bold title. It assumes we’re only going to get one windstorm this month, but we’re only halfway to the end of December.” – Whidbey Wind Storm – December 2018

Since then, almost every day has either had a wind event, or an event caused by the wind. And, we’re not done, yet.

Another previous post contained a video of waves and wind hitting the seawall in Cultus Bay during a storm a few years ago. As was also mentioned in a previous post, this storm hit at close to a high high tide, a king tide. Here’s an updated video. The waves may look small to surfers, but watch for logs tumbling in the mix. That particular beach was cleared of logs that were two to three feet in diameter. Nature cleaned house there, and rearranged it on over beaches in tall piles of driftwood.

Did you miss it on the national news? Maybe not even much of a mention in the local news? Western Washington gets power through several utility companies. The one that serves Whidbey Island, Puget Sound Energy, had 320,000 customers lose power. Some people were out for days, over 100 hours, and managed to get it back in time for Christmas. Life on the island can mean major local news items that are only shared with neighbors through social media because they didn’t affect Washington D.C., the rest of Washington State, or even Seattle.

Watch the power go out nearly simultaneously – then slowly come back on. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has a handy outage map that lets people drill into their outage to get estimates for recovery. It’s also handy for seeing the extent of the outage. When it is only a few folks, power may come back quickly. When great swathes of red carpet the map, it becomes a guessing game, but also a signal to fire up the woodstove, tape the fridge shut, and decide how much time you want to spend with friends, books, and bottles of wine. Those numbers in circles can hide bigger issues. One way to think of them is as the number of neighboring neighborhoods that are out. Those big white gaps are usually where the power is on, but in this storm, they were hints that the winds had hit there so hard that people couldn’t even report their outages. (The images span irregular intervals over roughly four days.)


By the way, enjoy the irony of great information online that’s most precious when people may not be able to go online. Islanders are resourceful. They find a way with smartphones and helpful neighbors. Sometimes it’s even possible to drop by the PSE office and talk to a real person. Radical concept, eh?

Many part-time islanders never experience the outages. Most of the year the only interruptions are intermittent showers that seem determined to disrupt outdoor party plans and mowing the lawn. The result is an almost perpetual green, except for August, but we’ve mentioned that.

A persistent participant in the power outages is the chorus of generators that kick in.

Some take a while to begin their song. Their owners notice that the power is out, wait a while to see if it clicks back on, check with some friends, and then head out to the garage or carport to drag out the machine that may only get used once that year. Check it out, fuel it up, fire it up, and then plug a few things important things into it. Two biggies: the fridge and the router. The refrigerator is obvious. A working fridge makes it easier to have normal food, and to eat through what’s there, just in case the gas runs out and the road gets blocked. The router is the internet router, not the one in the woodshop (except for a few determined cabinet-makers.) If there’s a long outage, expect to see a different kind of line at the gas station: a row of people standing by a row of red plastic gas cans.

Another kind of generator kicks on as soon as the power fluctuates. Many houses have automatic generators that provide basically uninterrupted power only limited by the size of the gas or propane tank sitting nearby. Their rumbling call can be the announcement that the power is out. Oddly, but not surprisingly, many houses have automatic power even though they are empty. Occupied homes that are resourceful with camp stoves, candles, and whatever is in the cupboard can sit beside fully functioning homes that will be vacant for months, or years.

As romantic as sitting by the fire and sharing a bottle of wine with friends can be, there’s also a slightly humorous side to life with and without a generator. One of the island’s bands had a bit of fun with the idea. The Power Outage Song by the Rural Characters.

We’re not done, yet. November is historically the month most likely for power outages. Winds that come in before the leaves have fallen can drag down trees through power lines. But December, January, February, and March all have touches of winter.

Whether it is wind or snow or cold, outages here mean islanders are more prepared for emergencies, not just in the gear they own, carry, and wear, but also in their attitude. The first few days after any major outage is a conversational litany of the basics people appreciate. For a short while we reflect on the value of water on demand, heated rooms, lights at the flick of a switch, and as many trips to the fridge as they want. Hot coffee or tea? Marvels! Politics and the rest of the world fade as islanders talk about islanders and the island. Who still doesn’t have power? Do they need help? How did so-and-so get around their walker past those trees. Suddenly there’s an under-supply of aged firewood and an over-supply of fresh un-cut logs. Maybe that’s why the major news outlets don’t follow island news, we’ve got it covered, and covered in ways they can’t duplicate.

Tonight’s forecast doesn’t come with watches or warnings, just with predictions of gusts over 30mph or 40 mph. The last storm wasn’t supposed to gust past about 60mph, but some islanders recorded over 80mph at their houses; so, who knows? One thing we do know, we’re not done, yet.

Screenshot 2018-12-28 at 12.51.19

PS Spoke too soon, again. Wind Advisory

“The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued a Wind
Advisory, which is in effect from 10 AM to 4 PM PST Saturday.

* WIND…Southerly 20 to 35 mph with gusts 45 to 55 mph.

* SOME AFFECTED LOCATIONS…Port Townsend, Everett, Bremerton,
Seattle, Tacoma, La Push, Ocean Shores, Westport, and Hoquiam.

* TIMING…Mid morning Saturday through late Saturday afternoon. |”


3 thoughts on “Power And Wind

  1. the folks up on admiralty inlet, in my case keystone avenue were hit bad by the December 27th King Tide. Not sure if wind was involved, but the bulkhead in front of our property was moved back from 20-30 feet by the high tide. not sure where we go from here, but a real mess for us.

    if you have any great ideas on how to move 20+ foot logs out of our yard and back to the sea I am all ears.

    thanks, Tom
    275 Keystone Ave.


  2. So much interesting weather info. I’m wondering if you know the year electricity came to Whidbey Island. I’m writing a fiction story that takes place in 1905 and just wondering if they were still relying on kerosene and candles.
    Any info you have will be much appreciated. Thank you!


    • From some research I did for a history series about the south part of the island (6 episodes that never aired);
      “Electricity 1915 power plant East half of anthes”

      The north part will have a different time. Individual and small power stations probably preceded the lines that jump across Deception Pass, but it all happened about the same time, I suspect.

      Good luck with the book. Check out WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com in case you’re curious about – well – writing on Whidbey Island.


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