Friday, January 04, 2008

Walla Walla Rocked by Wild Winds, Paper Barely Gets Out

Although the winds were howling when my day began, as I walked to the coffee shop where I have been creating my primate portraits, there was nothing exceptional about the day at all - not even the noticeably strong wind. It does get windy here from time to time - kicking up dust and making a mess of the town as branches and power lines fall.

Little did I know that in about 4 hours, my little corner of heaven on earth would be rocked with winds that uprooted huge trees, took down entire power poles, smashed a well-known statue on the campus of my alma mater, and caused the local newspaper (the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin) to be printed by a press located in another city - for the very first time in at least 28 years.

The newspaper had talked about what to do in case their press couldn't actually print the paper, but they never had to execute those plans - until today.

As luck would have it, I was right there on the front lines, observing as the publisher whipped out his own personal credit card to buy the generator that powered up the server and three computers that would put together a skeletal paper for the day. Someone had to get gas to get it going and an extra long extension cord to power up the equipment that had been temporarily moved into the conference room. It was not by any means, a sure thing, that the newspaper would come out at all today.

That would have been unfortunate given that it was a fantastic day for local and national news.

I watched as the experts put together pages in a flash - snagging news stories and photos off the wire, formatting them, writing headlines and sub-headlines, and making sure it was all accurate. Mr. Field Notes demonstrated why he is the go-to guy for getting things done in a crisis. He is calm, cool, collected. I have to say I was impressed and proud.

I even got to play a role; I spotted an error in the headline of the story about the results of the Iowa caucus - Hillary's name was spelled with one "el." It's not that big of a deal, but when errors like that are front and center in headlines and sub-headlines, it really weakens the credibility of the paper. I also caught some minor grammatical errors on the front page.

The pages even came out on time. That is an achievement given that they had to rebuild entire pages from scratch and get them out the door and on the road to Pendleton, Oregon in less than 45 minutes.

That wasn't the only excitement in my neighborhood.

The walk back to my house got increasingly more exciting as I approached home. Away from downtown, old trees line every street and many grow well within the range to do major damage to structures.

The house around the corner from me is completely smashed by the huge tree that fell on it. The root ball of the tree blocks our alley.

Power lines are down everywhere, including the pole that brings power to our house. We will not have power for a good long time, I would imagine. The line that delivers power to, I mean delivered, swings in the breeze right over our front porch.

On campus, old trees are uprooted everywhere. They are mostly pines, but a few others of substantial size are also uprooted. The path over the campus creek to my old building is blocked by a huge tree. That pales in comparison to the damage leveled by the huge tree of heaven that stands, at half mast, behind "Mem." It fell over and crushed the most loathed piece of art on campus - the statue of the "paper clip."

Unless I go somewhere else, which I plan to do, blog posts and all etsy business will be on hiatus until power is restored to my house.

Dinner should be fun...


EcoGeoFemme said...

wow. lucky your house wasn't smushed.

Psychgrad said...

Wow...sounds scary and exciting all in one. I hope the overall damage was minimal and that everyone is safe.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Amazing Pictures! I hope everyone's okay - and your dwelling. Your pictures make the desert outpost look worse than my community did after Hurricane Isabel hit our area back in 2003. Although I admit my community fared far better from Isabel than other towns in Maryland.

Field Notes said...

Oh yes, or house is fine. we didn't even lose a shingle. Amazing, considering our block is FUBAR. It is so bad that the picture that ran on the front page of the newspaper was the scene in front of our house.

We are so lucky.

GB - You would have to see it to believe it. Whitman got hosed. But miraculously none of the buildings got clobbered. There are huge trees uprooted over by Lyman, Maxey, BFC, along the creek, and the interest houses.

I'm charging my video cam batteries so I can shoot footage if the destruction.

Simply Wired Custom Jewelry said...

Wow...I heard about some crazy western U.S. weather going on this morning. Glad to hear you're safe and sound!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Holy crap!!!

I didn't even hear about this until your post! I'm glad your house is okay.

punchanella said...

oh my god, that is in incredible!

DancingFish said...

Glad all are ok! It sounds similar to damage from tornadoes: one house ruined, house next door untouched. Hope you get power back soon!

Bejeweled said...

What wild weather! We had massive flooding here in Oregon just last month so I can relate. Hope you and your loved ones are safe!

Anonymous said...

Hello from the other side of the mountains! Crazy weather we're having, isn't it? So lucky to have your house in 1 piece - your pictures tell it all.