Monday, December 18, 2006

Trees down in Crippen Park
Photo by Opa

So the third of this series of three storms has come and gone and it was a doozy.

When it landed off the west coast of Vancouver Island it was basically a hurricane and the surprise was both that it didn't let up much AND that the winds were westerly, which made it different from the southeasterlies that usually batter us. Point Atkinson had a record wind speed of 115km/h early Friday morning.

The real fun began Friday at about 3:30 am. The trees outside our place were really moving, and the wind was stronger than any I had ever felt. The strange thing was that they were blowing from behind us. We hardly ever feel a westerly wind blowing, but this one was wrecking havoc outside. Miller Road looked like someone had carpeted it with fir bows. I stood on our front porch and saw lots of lightning and watched patches of power go out in Whytecliff. We lost ou power at 3am.

The worst of the wind was over by 8am or so, but the damage had been done. There were trees down everywhere and huge damage to the power grid. The speculation was that we wouldn't have power for three or four days. We decided to use the event as a test run for earthquake preparedness. We broke out our wind up radio and cooked on the woodstove all day Friday and Saturday. Our water supply is gravity fed, so we had no trouble with water (unlike folks on wells) and we had heat and a cooking surface. I didn't even have to fire up the barbeque. In fact, other than going about our regular routines by candle light, things were surprisingly normal around here. That was, I think, in large part to our preparedness and the set up we have. It feels like we could go for four or five days without any trouble. That is what the provincial emergency preparedness program recommends for earthquake preparedness. Of course, if the house had sustained damage, we would have been camping out, but our emergency supplies are all at hand and it would have been no problem to move out of doors. All in all we fared very well.

The power came on about 7:30pm on Saturday, just as Caitlin and I were completing our black belt test in taekwondo, which we did at Cates Hill Chapel in a candle and lamp lit setting. It was a very traditional way to acheive this level in the Korean martial art and it was a very wonderful experience to have been able to do that with friends and family about in the cold and dark as we kicked, sparred and broke our way through the afternoon.

Once the power was on, we were able to see the real damage. There are trees down, and the Hydro crews were heros getting the island back on the grid by Sunday. A few plaes sustained damage from falling trees, but there were more stories of good luck than bad. We were in Vancouver today though and drove through Stanley Park and it is a mess. There are hundreds of trees down there and while not as devastated as Halifax during hurricane Juan, it's as bad as anyone has ever seen.

Bottom line is we're fine, not even a little shaken, and more confiedent tha ever about our ability to weather a bigger disaster if and when it comes.

As for what might come this week, the north Pacific weather map looks like a coache's diagram for a hockey game. There are five lows steaming towards us but we have two all-star defensemen in the form of a couple of huge high pressure zones to the southwest that might steer them north and give us some nice clear weather for Christmas. The forecast calles for more rain but stay tuned...anything could happen around here!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Winds continue to blow strong all day today. Aine and I went down to Pebbly beach to see about a report of a boat sinking there. We saw it moored offshore a little ways - pictures to follow. It looked like its bilge pump must have failed and it just took on water. The wind and waves didn't help.

We had the chimney sweeps over this morning as well. Quite a sight to see them up on the roof in the gale.

The pressure slope has been souteasterly at 7 millibars/60nm this afternoon. That's high conditions for the kinds of winds we have been getting. Ninety km gusts, big swells travelling along the long fetch of the Strait and slamming into Dorman Point and Miller's Landing. The Channel in front of our house has been chaos all day, and as the very high tide receeded, some big water piled up out there. I rode through it this evening in the ferry coming over to the mainland and we shook around coming across the westernmost reach of the fetch. Once the boat gets behind Point Atkinson, about halfway across the Channel, things flatten out considerably, although the wind is still strong.

And, to my delight this afternoon I glanced out the window at the water and saw three waterspouts heading south out of the Sound, the result of some kind of strange wind shear no doubt.

Forescast offshore continues to be harsh, with another system building huuricane force wionds ahead of another warm front. The seas out at La Perouse Bank, about 100 miles of Vancouver Island are running 8 meters tonight. Here is the forecast from that buoy:

Storm warning upgraded to hurricane force wind warning.
Winds west to southwest storm force 60 knots with gusts to hurricane force 80 easing to southwest 20 to 30 early this evening then to easterly 15 late this evening. Winds rising to southwest 20 to 30 overnight then to southeast gales 40 to storm force 50 Tuesday afternoon. Periods of rain. Morning fog patches. Seas near 8 metres subsiding to 5 this evening.
Outlook. Winds gale to storm force southeast veering to southwest gales.

Eighty knots is almost 150 km/h. That's a strong wind. It will ease by the time it hits us but we'll have more wind warnings I expect later in the week as well. As for me, I'm staying in Vancouver tonight, finishing an evening meeting here and preferring not to have to travel back by water taxi.

Nice to have the storms back.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

SPent a lovely afternoon up at Rivendell, celebrating a traditional Christmas. There were about 50 people up at the open house, lighting candles on a Christmas tree, eating food and enjoying each other's company. A really nice time.

Came home to tuck into a pot of soup and watch a storm develop. There is a series of little hurricanes steaming our way from the North Pacific ocean, and the first of them is slamming the coast tonight. We're expecting winds of upt to 90km/h - about half the force of a hurricane - but out on the open ocean the winds are blowing at hurrican force. Here is the weather report from the offshore bouys:

An intense 970 millibar low 120 miles west of cape St James will move rapidly northward west of the Charlottes tonight and reach The southern Alaska Panhandle early Monday morning. A trailing cold front will sweep across south coastal waters overnight and Monday morning. A second low to the south will deepen while moving northeastward towards central Vancouver Island as a 990 millibar low midday Monday then move inland.
Over northern waters storm force southeasterlies prevail Ahead of the intense low with hurricane force winds tonight. Winds will shift to gale to storm force southwest in the wake of the low.
Over southern waters moderate to strong southeasterly winds Will rise to gale to storm force this evening then ease to strong southwest Monday afternoon.

Storm warning continued.
Northwestern half..Southwest gales 40 to storm force 50 knots easing to 20 overnight. Winds shifting to easterly 20 Monday afternoon.
Periods of rain. Seas 7 to 9 metres subsiding to 5 to 6 Monday morning.
Southeastern half..Southerly gales 40 knots easing to southwest 15 to 20 late this evening then to variable 5 to 15 overnight. Winds rising to north 20 to 25 Monday morning then backing to southwest 25 Monday afternoon. Winds backing to east 20 Monday evening. Periods of rain.
Seas near 6 metres building to 6 to 8 late this evening.
Outlook. Winds veering to moderate southwest then rising to gale force southeast.

Crazy eh? Once these lows get past us, there is another one steaming it's way into the Gulf of Alaska. I'll keep you posted. It should bring down lots of good fir boughs for our Christmas wreath.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Ambrose comes through with a lovely set of photos of this week's snowy weather. All the man needs now is a blog...*hint hint*

Saturday, December 2, 2006

A great day to reconnect to this beautiful place. I have been working away for so long that I sometimes feel like I've begun to forget what it is like to live in community here. Today was one of those days that put me right back at home.

I began the day by taking the kids out for brunch at The Galley in Artisan Square. We ran into Amrita Sondhi there, who has just published an amazing cookbook of Ayurvedic cooking. Many of the recipes and anecdotes are by and about Bowen Islanders, making it surprising local. It is a wonderful book, very beautifully designed and full of incredible food. I've been on Amrita to launch the book here in a typical Bowen way: with a potluck. Perhaps soon...

After a hot chocolate and a Perfect Marriage at Cocoa West, I stopped in to hear Jude Neale read and sing a little at her book launch. She has compiled a book of poetry - very spare poems and very full of little twists, like haikus. Jude is a woman of tremendous presence and these poems seem to take that presence and drill it deeply into single moments.

Home to play and eat a little and then we returned to the Cove for the annual Lighting of the Cove which really kicks off the Christmas Season. Islanders gather at Artisan Square and accompanied by Morris Dancers and caroling choirs, we troop down to the the lower Cove, stopping at Village Square, the Orchard Cottages and finally the Union Steamship Marina, where Santa arrives on the water taxi and hot chocolate and mulled wine is liberally distributed. Along the way we sing carols and visit with each other. This year, I finally met Ambrose Merrel and his family who have been long time readers of this blog from the UK. They moved here this fall to start a new life on our little rock and are just as lovely in person as they have been online for all this time.

Crunchy snow and crisp air was the canvas upon which today's events played out. Some years we have drowned in rain during the Lighting of the Cove. This year was a perfect, lovely and seasonal event. I feel right back at home.