Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blown Away

It has been a strange couple of days around here. We knew on Monday morning that we were in for a gale when we heard the weatherman calling for high winds in Montana. The area in which we live rarely gets any attention because of its remoteness and small population. In fact, I would guess that most people, even relatively close by, don't know we exist. Those who do know the area, once they find out where we live, are quick to ask "Why do you live in such a windy place?!" The reality is we probably get wind less often than either Cody or Billings - but when it comes, it comes with real force. Our record so far in the years we have lived here was 86mph. That was the day it hit 126mph at our neighbor's place. We are a little protected, you see. We get violent winds about six or eight times a year and at least one of those tops 100mph in the area. It is always surprising to me that there is not more damage done during these storms, but anybody building in this area knows you have to prepare for hurricane conditions.

The gale that blew through on Monday night topped anything we have seen to date. Part of the problem is that so many new people have moved into the area and when they arrive at their new home in the gentle breeze of summer, they have a hard time understanding why the rest of us are insisting they need to get in the habit of leaving nothing outdoors. We measured 89mph on our meter - several times - at the height of the storm and it hovered between 60mph and 70mph for most of the night. That means no sleep. And no electricity. One of the things that made this an especially stressful night was the fire in the next drainage. Just as the wind was starting to get itself wound up to full opera strength, we got a phone call from our friend Mary wanting to know if we were okay or if we had to evacuate. Turns out a fire was raging in the more heavily populated area to the north of us. At least six families were being evacuated along with their horses, dogs, cats and whatever else they could load into their trailers. I still haven't heard what started the blaze but it apparently got going farther up the mountain in the brush, which points to the most likely possibility of a careless hunter. A fire is scary at the best of times, but with winds now hovering in the 50mph to 60 mph range, things were looking pretty dire for all concerned. I was glad Mary called because just after hanging up from her call the phone rang again and it was a neighbor a couple of miles to the southeast of us calling to say he could see our house on fire. He couldn't, of course. He was seeing the blaze on Line Creek and misjudging where it was located.

We lost power about 11pm on Monday night and I got it back again Wednesday afternoon. Pretty much the whole community was without electricity for that time so I still haven't had a chance to talk to many people about damages but I did hear everyone in the fire zone has returned home and no houses were lost. I went out to the mailbox on Tuesday and was shocked at the debris everywhere. I saw a number of downed fences, one overturned horse trailer, one broken window with a 2x4 sticking out of it and an unbelievable amount of garbage strewn about. I am really curious to hear what the wind speed was at some of the spots on the plains as I suspect it topped 130mph.

I am just relieved all our animals are safe and we had very little damage. The only near disaster came when the 200lb log shown in the photo to the left was picked up out of its spot and moved about 100 ft toward the house. A little more to the right and it would have gone through the greenhouse. A little more to the left and it would have smashed into the front door. Instead it came gently to rest against the retaining wall and now I just have to figure out how to get it back where it belongs. There is something screwy with part of the electrical system that still needs to be figured out but we got off pretty easy overall. The only bad thing is knowing we are at the front end of four months of possible wind storms, any one of which could be worse than the last!

1 comment:

Christine Thresh said...

Scary! It is hard to imagine that 200 pound log blowing around in the wind.