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We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

We moved to our new home on the Oregon coast on December 31st, New Year’s Eve. It was much colder than it had been when we were visiting the Oregon coast back in October and it was lightly raining. Since then, the winter has been wild here on Ten Mile Lake. We’ve had snow 3 times! Keep in mind, we are at about 200 foot elevation and right near the ocean, so snow was not something we were expecting. It was the dreamy winter-wonderland that holiday cards are made of. I loved it!

Since we moved in, we’ve had a handful of storms that have traveled across the lake and really rocked our world! The first big storm we had a large, approximately 15 foot, tree branch fall and hit the roof of the house and land in the next door neighbor’s yard (the home is currently unoccupied). It made a loud crash on the roof and shook the floor upstairs – where we were at the time. We thought a whole tree had come down, it was so thunderous! Dennis ran outside to check the damage and to see what had fallen. We were shocked at how large the branch was… that is, until the last storm that came through.

Fast-forward a couple of smaller storms to our last experience. The wind gusts made me hold on as if we might just get snatched up into the air over the lake! Hail would fall for a few minutes, then heavy rain, followed by howling winds. It was like a wild roller coaster ride of weather. The wonderful man that Dennis is, he was out pulling things in under-cover and bracing things so that they wouldn’t blow away or get damaged – all while the unrelenting rain was pelting him in the head. He came back in soaked, but I was so happy to have him with me in that moment. I often think about whether or not I could live in a place like this on my own. I’ve lived a long time on my own in the past, and I know I’m strong, but I still wonder. Sometimes, it’s like we live in another world from the rest of civilization (which I mostly love by the way). Eventually, we fell asleep as the rain pounded the roof. We both woke up several times from the sound of the wind and one time from an extremely loud crashing noise. It sounded like a truck had crashed off of a cliff! If we had lived closer to town, I would have been outside looking for casualties and survivors. We knew it had to be something else, but being new to this environment, we couldn’t even guess what it might have been. The crashing sound happened around 3am, leaving us sleepy and exhausted. We tried to sleep a bit more. We made it another 2 hours but at about 5am, we gave in to the storm and got up for the day. MUCH earlier than either of us likes to rise and shine. We got dressed and Dennis had some coffee. Watching the storm and everything moving outside in the dark, night sky, gave us with plenty to talk about. The sun wasn’t close to rising yet. And then the power went out. BOOM. I called the power company to report it. Our home is on a different electrical grid from the one in town and I never know if anyone else is up yet or knows that the power is out, so I make the call just in case (yes, this isn’t our first go-round with a power outage on the lake, but they are often short and all up to this point have been during the night). The woman on the phone lets me know they have 200 people without power right now – they specialize in power for remote areas, so while that number doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s a pretty big number when you realize the vast area of the outage is. She adds us to the list and I get off of the phone. Thank goodness for cell phones that don’t need phone lines or electricity! And thank goodness our service works out here on the lake.

Now what do I do? I keep wracking my brain for all of the things I can do while the power is out. I could crochet, or read, or draw – all sound delightful once the sun comes up and I can see a bit better. We talk about the storm and wonder if everything outside is okay. When it finally settles down a bit, Dennis heads outside to check the major areas for damage. There’s a very large tree branch on the roof of the house and several smaller ones. Tree branches down on the steps and deck. The vehicles looked okay. Then he finds it – our loud crashing noise from 3am. A large, 100 foot tree had fallen in the yard. It hit the corner of the shed and landed inches from the driveway. He came in and told me and we were so thankful that it didn’t do any damage. We found out later that a few other homes were not as lucky. A house down the way had a tree branch go right through the deck, another house on the lake posted a picture on Facebook of a tree that fell and destroyed half of their deck, and yet another home got the worst damage. They posted a photo of a fallen tree that went through the roof! Yikes! Everything in our home here runs on electricity. The stove, the pellet stove (for heat), our water/plumbing – everything. First, I sort of milled around, worrying about the storm. Watching it through the windows, wondering what it will do next. Dennis wanted to head to the beach and see the big waves but I was nervous for him to leave without me and I was more nervous for us to both leave and something happen causing the kitties any harm while we were gone. My brain was a mess – filled with too many worrisome thoughts. I hate to worry. It never does any good and only leads to being anxious. Gathering up my courage, I finally stand up, put on a dress and put my hair up and say “let’s go”. I told Dennis that I’d rather get out of the house for the day than sit here and worry. We can head to the beach and check out the surf, have lunch somewhere, pick up some food items that don’t need to be cooked at the market, and come home. By then, maybe the power would be back on. I crossed my fingers everything would be safe at home while we were gone and we headed out.

As we walked up the stairs, I saw the downed tree. It was frightening to see such a large tree come within inches of destroying the shed. It made us much more anxious to get any and all of the dead trees around the property down as soon as possible. Later, Dennis would have to chainsaw the tree into pieces to get it moved. It was too large to even budge as a whole. I was feeling so very lucky in that moment that we were okay, the house was okay, and everything was in its place otherwise.

We were SO GLAD we left the house. Our road was littered with tree limbs and fallen debris, but once we got to town, there were practically no signs of a storm at all. I guess it’s because the town is so much less wild than where we are at the house. Manicured yards and not inside of a forest of trees. The weather was even sort of calmer there, almost nice out. Driving to the beach, we couldn’t help but remark on how different the weather was away from the house. How much less wild and scary it was. We drove a couple miles down the highway to a look out spot over the ocean. The waves were big but not as large as we thought they might be. We drove a bit further into Reedsport to have lunch and decided we would stop at the beach on our way back. Of course, we went to our favorite diner in Reedsport now. The Main Street Family Diner - they claim the best pies and they sure aren’t wrong. I’ve never seen Dennis so happy eating a piece of pie before and it was banana cream no less – something I didn’t even know he liked. He ordered his usual, the “pie lover’s special” – a half sandwich, a cup of soup, and a slice of pie. When I say slice, I mean more like a quarter of the pie. The soup of the day was his favorite, creamy turkey, yum. It’s like a turkey dinner in a cup of soup and it might be the most delicious soup I’ve ever had. I ordered the second of my two favorites at the cafe (the first favorite being fish & chips), the Maui Burger that came with pineapple, Swiss cheese, and lathered in teriyaki sauce, mmm! They serve it with homemade french fries made from real potatoes. I opted not to have pie this time – it’s always too big of a slice for me to eat and having a bite or two of Dennis’ pie is always plenty satisfying. Instead, I ordered a chocolate malt – hadn’t had one in ages and it was SO GOOD.

After lunch, we headed over to the beach. It was incredibly windy at our favorite little beach over in Winchester Bay, but we went out anyway. I was determined to find a couple pieces of drift wood to bring home for my the little drift-wood-hanging-craft I wanted to make that I saw on Pinterest. I combed the beach. It was literally covered in drift wood from the storm. There was more wood than sand!

The wind was fierce as we walked the beach. Dennis led us over to one of the drift wood structures that someone had built to shelter people from the wind. It was nice in there and so calm. We watched the waves for a few minutes and then I headed back out into the wind to look for pieces of wood. I found several small pieces that were perfect and one large piece that I’m thinking about making into a candle holder/ table centerpiece (I’ll post pictures of both when I get them made). It’s funny that the weather wasn’t “beach day” weather but I still loved it. The beach combing and the walking into the wind made me feel so alive! Too cold to continue looking, we headed back to the van and warmed up. We drove back to Lakeside and stopped at the market to pick up a few snacks and the items for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just in case the power was still out when we got home. We had been gone all day and we were hopeful that it was back on. We drove back up the hills, the downed limbs on the paved part of the road had been moved over to the sides. But our gravel road was still pretty littered with debris. Thank goodness, Dennis was driving because I could not have driven over the limbs and branches that he did! I kept saying “are we going to drive over that?!” He would just confidently keep going. Thanks to him, we made it home safely and walked inside with our groceries. Sadly, the power was still out. I put the groceries away and then we sat and read books. I sat in bed with blankets over me so that I was cozy and warm. Dennis sat downstairs on the couch, feet propped up so that he could see out of the windows to the lake. Eventually, Dennis tired of reading and took a nap. I finished my current book so I got out my drawing supplies and started to draw. When he woke up, the power was still off. I called again the power company again to find out if there were any updates. It had been off for 12 hours. She said that they had to go out on the boat to fix it. That seemed wild to me, but Dennis knew right away where they most likely had to go if they were coming out via the lake. As it started to get dark, I gave in and made us sandwiches and we ate. Just as we were finishing dinner, I saw a handful of guys in a boat heading back to South Lake (where the public launch is). The power came on minutes later and we enjoyed using the internet for the rest of the evening until we headed to bed early after our early rise that morning and a long day adventuring. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I thought “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” ••• What is the worst storm you’ve ever been in? Have you ever been worried about property damage in a storm? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!•••

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Illustration by Blume Bauer ©

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