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Blog: Surviving The Storm Of The Decade

(originally written 12/17/14)

It's safe to come out now.


I owe my life to the various local (San Francisco Bay Area) news stations. Without their advance warnings of what wound up as the Storm Of The Decade—even though the decade is only 50% complete—I'm probably in my watery grave somewhere in parts unknown. Fortunately, I and all my loved ones were spared, and I would now like to share the story of just how I survived this catastrophic downpour. 


Maybe my story can help others.


I valiantly prepared for the impact the night before. At first, being only 34 years old and having experienced only about 100 storms in that period, I had no idea how to brace myself for seven inches of doom. Just as worry seeped in—the news came through yet again. Because of KTVU and friends, I knew to:


  • Have a flashlight. (Before this tip, I was just gonna use the fridge light.)

  • Have batteries for said flashlight. (A lot better idea than my original plan of cramming a 75-watt bulb in there.)

  • Make sure those batteries are the right size. (There's multiple sizes?)

  • Have an umbrella handy. (Those things are a lot stronger than newspapers.)

  • Have an alternate source of information in case power goes out, such as a portable radio or cellphone. (Guess it's not very efficient for public officials to roam the neighborhood knocking on doors.)

  • Drive extra-carefully. (I was gonna save 45 seconds in the storm by going north on the southbound 880 ramp.)

  • Do not touch any downed power lines. (So much for killing time while the power's out by using them to jump-rope.)


I remember waking up the next day—a victory in and of itself—and looking outside to carnage. A trash can blown over. Leaves strewn about. Puddles the size of sweatshirts. But what stood out was the eerie silence. 

I attributed this deafening silence to the devastation. And while I'm sure others felt the 6am hour was the actual reason for the silence...I knew better.


Looking around, water was everywhere. Who knew how high the death toll was. I mean, it's one thing to get wet under a shower in the comfort of one's own bathroom. But getting wet in public? That can be fatal. Why else would so many schools and businesses close?


Next came the task of calling my loved ones. After enduring something like this, one can't help but fear the worst. So many of my friends/relatives have only been through only 100 storms themselves—how would they fare? Recovery starts with focus, and I couldn't focus until I knew everyone I cared about survived.


One by one, I dialed. "Who is this?" said one friend. "Of course I'm okay. It's just rain!" shouted a cousin. "I have to go to work, Skillz. Now's not a good time," grumbled another buddy. Clearly, in addition to the devastation, those closest to me were impacted by—delusion.


"Just rain?" How can you call the Storm Of The Decade "just rain?" That's like calling the Declaration of Independence "just a document." "I have to go to work." Work? My poor delusional buddy. There's no way his place of work could still be standing after Mother Nature attacked us so fiercely.


Storm coverage dominated the local news. One by one, images of cars buried under two centimeters of water filled the screen. Garage sale signs were left in tatters. Streets were littered with dead bodies...of snails.


Humans didn't fare much better. One lady had to walk around in wet nylons—I'm told that's very uncomfortable. An older man failed to bring an umbrella, and a flurry of rain splattered across his bald head—leaving it extra-shiny and vulnerable to teasing. At one point, a fierce wind blew a college student's car door shut before she got all her books out, forcing her to unlock it again. You never get over embarrassment like that.


It was a nightmare. All the warnings, all the preparation and still, havoc was wreaked. (Not unlike El Nino of 1997, but I'm not here to talk about the past.)


As mentioned, throughout the region schools and even offices were closed on the day of the storm "just in case". A very wise decision in retrospect. To risk a child walking from a car to a classroom in such a downpour could land him in therapy. 


And to ask parents to dress kids in raingear is just plain unreasonable during the holiday season. That type of action should be saved for important excursions, such as the mall for Christmas shopping—not school. 

And bravo to all offices that shut down. How could anyone concentrate on work with all that water hitting the roof? Not to mention the safety risk—most office roofs aren't slanted like house roofs; they could collapse in a downpour! You can always make up lost wages. Landlords will just have to wait.


I immediately began my recovery effort, and a week later, I'm happy to say progress has been made. I finally got all the water out of the recycling bin. It's been beyond tough keeping all my cans and bottles in bags, but I got through it no worse for wear. I called a couple of friends, and together we were able to stand my aunt's fallen shovel back up. There was no saving the circulars I tried to bring in from the mailbox that day, but at least I'm alive to receive more.


We survived the Storm Of The Decade, unlike so many of our gastropodic brothers. 

Next time might not be so lucky. 

Be sure to laminate those garage sale signs...

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