Hurricanes

From my window in the Shack, I can look across the Slough and see the guys from HEA working to get the power back on.  They’re lighting up their work area with trucks’ headlights — it’s 6:15 pm and has been pitch black outside for a while now.

I went for a walk last night around 9:30, and they were working by truck headlight then, too.  Maybe they have two crews working around the clock, tag-teaming it.  While one crew works, the other sleeps, slurps hot coffee, tries to dry out their boots.

I’m lucky (I guess) because the Shack is in town and we only lost power for about six hours.  Seldovia has an enormous diesel generator, which has been running for three days.  It’s loud and stinky, and the longer it’s on the bigger our electric bills will be later, but I’m grateful my freezer has power so I won’t lose my halibut and salmon, moose stew and berries.

But the generator can’t help the folks who are beyond the breaks in the line.  I heard today that Nanwalek still doesn’t have power.  By midnight tonight that will have been about 96 hours.  For people who may have their entire winter’s food supply in the freezer, and no grocery store down the street, a long power outage can be a big problem.  And even if you do have a store down the street, the stuff they sell there isn’t a suitable replacement for wild fish you caught, game you hunted, plants and berries you gathered.

Chainsaws, heavy equipment, back-up beepers, generators, helicopters; this place has been raucous with all the sounds a hurricane leaves behind in its path.  “But Alaska doesn’t get hurricanes.”  Yeah, well neither does Michigan, but one hit there this summer, too.  A category 1 hurricane has wind speeds that reach 74 to 95 miles per hour.  Tuesday’s storm here in Seldovia clocked in at 93 mph.  Northern Michigan’s storm I witnessed on August 2 had winds up to 100 mph.  Global weirding has reached us, I reckon.

Both storms resulted in similar devastation to the trees. Snapped off, twisted, uprooted.  It’s a mess.  Of course all the trees here are Sitka spruce, and the trees in Michigan were oak, maple, locust, ash, beech, white pine.  Tremendous damage to the forest.  It’s a great blessing to the firewood scavengers, and I wish them well. If I had a chainsaw, a truck, and a spot to put more wood, I’d be right out there with them.  But it’s heart-wrenching to walk around and see the broken trees.  The Otterbahn Trail, which goes from Seldovia to Outside Beach, has big craters where trees crashed over, taking the trail with them.  The trail, and the forest it meanders through, has been changed forever.

Today, one of my neighbors rounded up some folks, collected come-alongs and rope, and pulled the tree in her front yard upright, bracing it with stakes and lines.  It was a loving act of faith and kindness.  I hope the tree can be saved.  I hope it will survive.  I hope its roots can dig back in, embrace the earth, and hold fast.

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