I missed the BIG Oregon Coast storm

It’s raining sideways. I’m not even dressed yet and we have already had thunder and hail. The weather guys are predicting high winds through tomorrow and rain for the foreseeable future. Apparently the Oregon Coast has not gotten the word that it’s spring.

A little over a week ago, I was in San Jose, California with my father. I experienced rain and wind most of the trip down, but it felt as if the weather stopped at the Santa Clara County line. No rain in San Jose. The clouds threatened to break loose, but they didn’t until just before I left and then only a few reluctant drops. 

Shortly after I arrived, I got online and discovered that I had made it out of South Beach just in time. A huge storm had walloped the coast, not only with rain and gale-force winds but snow. I wasn’t here to see it, but we had six inches in our yards. Six inches at the beach! Insane. Schools were closed, events cancelled. Electricity, Cable TV and Internet connections went down. People were stuck on on Cape Foulweather for hours. Some had to abandon their cars overnight. All the roads out of here were closed by snow and fallen trees. I could not have gotten out if I left a day later. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Was my house okay? Were my trees down? I would have to wait a week to find out.

After lots of Dad time and a visit to my brother’s house near Yosemite, I drove home through sun, then snow, then rain, determined to get as far as I could the first day. I white-knuckled it over the Siskyou Pass, where the snow made it hard to see but the road was still clear. I assumed that I once I hit lower ground, the snow would be history. But in Medford, where I stopped for the night, it was snowing hard as I checked in and went to dinner at the Black Bear restaurant next to the Best Western (nice place, but don’t order the stuffed chicken).

By morning, the weather had turned to rain. It dogged me all the way home. On the coast, trees and pieces of trees littered the roadsides. New cuts on the branches showed where workers had chainsawed them enough to let traffic go by.  As I turned onto my street, I saw that a fallen tree at the corner blocked half the road, leaving just enough room to pass. I held my breath as I approached the end of the block, then let it out in relief My yellow house was still standing, its gutters a little more bent, but the roof and walls intact.

My neighbor rushed out to greet me. “You missed it,” he said. He told me how he lay awake listening to trees snapping and falling all night. A huge branch just missed his house. He spent all day cleaning up his yard.

Branches hung limp from my 10-foot-tall juniper hedge, broken from the weight of the snow. My hebe bush hung out over the sidewalk, and sections of my rosemary bush lay on the ground. My daffodils had wilted, their one bloom in shreds. But my blue hydrangeas, on their way to blooming, looked fine. Inside, the house was cold, but otherwise as I left it. Out back, small branches covered the lawn. Annie would have lots to play with. The hot tub cover had sailed across the yard, the wind tearing its straps right off. But overall, things were okay.

As rain pattered on the skylights above my kitchen, I knew that it would soon feel as if I never left. And now, with today’s rain and wind, I feel right at home.

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Lessons from the Storms

What a crazy time we’ve had here on the Oregon Coast. Over the last week, we’ve been blanketed with snow, pummeled by wind, and drowned with rain. We’ve had power failures, trees down, closed roads and flooding. Highway 101 just north of where I live has a big chunk out of it where the land slid out from underneath it. Every trip to Newport is fraught with the worry about whether we’ll be able to get back.

At one point, all the roads east were closed, along with the Yaquina Bridge where the wind threw a semi into a pickup truck. I wondered how that could possibly happen until I tried to drive home from church yesterday. I feared that any second, the wind would have its way with my car.

Meanwhile, the creeks have turned into rivers, and the rivers have turned into lakes. Today, on a rare storm-free day, people are returning to flooded houses to see what they have left. We definitely got paid back for all the clear days we had in December, and the storms aren’t over. Rain and wind are expected to return tomorrow. Everybody’s talking about the weather. Conversations often conclude with, “Well, that’s life on the Oregon coast.”

It can be a challenge living here, but we certainly appreciate our sunny days. Meanwhile, I’ve learned a few lessons from the crazy weather. Here are just a few:

1) If you don’t buy rainboots, you’ll always have wet feet. They don’t have to be cute, just waterproof.
2) Don’t let the gas tank or the refrigerator go empty, and stock up on toilet paper. You might not be able to drive to the store.
3) Water and electricity are not guaranteed.
4) Find that old camp stove and figure out how to work it.
5) Keep at least one old-style phone that works without electricity.
6) If the sun appears, run outside and pay homage.
7) If you won’t go outside in the rain, the dog won’t either.
8) The best coastal hairdo is a hat.
9) All plans are tentative.
10) Get a boat. 

What have you learned with this winter’s weather?