Tag Archives: wind

Stuck on #PDX

portland-power

Portland motorists confused by a power outage.

I live in Portland, Oregon, which mostly receives electrical power from Portland General Electric. Founded in 1888 the company was eventually owned by Enron Corporation from 1997 until 2006 until Enron went bankrupt.

See? I just used a writing technique known as foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an author hints what is to come.
–Wikipedia

By dropping the name Enron, you are now on notice that this story does not bode well. The portends are decidedly not in our favor. It’s time to omen up.

Yes, I’m being mysterious. I’m trying to leave you in the dark. Just like Portland General. Bazinga!

Being a major metropolitan area, the City of Portland is designed with security and reliability in mind. Power outages simply do not happen unless:

  • The wind blows up to one (1) mph
  • A squirrel gets hungry
  • Water magically falls from the sky
  • A drunk person, in a trillion-to-one event, rams their car into a pole

Such simple criteria means the city loses power about every 42 minutes. Who knew that cramming 625,000 people in the same area would make stuff happen? Yes, I live in a city where squirrels are frequently blamed for power outages.

At least Portland is safe. No one, not even a terrorist, could ever fuck with this city unless:

  • A tweaked out kid needs to take a whiz in a city resevoir
  • The wind blows and a branch falls and an entire power grid goes haywire
  • Water magically falls from the sky

Portland has many names. The City of Roses. Bridgetown. Stumpdown. Rip City. Little Beirut. PDX. Cloud City. But, during autumn at least, it could also be known as The City of Leaves. (Leaves are the unpredictable byproduct of shitloads of trees.) And the city has a great strategy for dealing with them. “Clean ’em up your own damn self. You want your storm drains to work? Better get on it. By the way, we’re adding a street fee. You need to pay more taxes for this.”

So it rained on Sunday. We were out running errands. We had to retrace our steps. We drove through St. Johns. Then it started to rain. An hour later we went through the same area. It had already flooded the size of Lake Erie. It wasn’t even a heavy rain.

There had been a few brief gusts of wind. So, yeah, the power was already out. We pulled into a bar just as thunderous lightning spooked everyone in the place. They were amazed. Lightning? Wowwee. Perhaps Portland has exactly the power company it deserves?

We continued on our way and that’s when I noticed it. The traffic signals were are dark. None of them were red. None were yellow. None were green.

You know what that means, right? The entire city went Starman on steroids. Perhaps we can add “Starport City USA” to our lengthy list of nicknames?

[Starman is driving the car, and speeds across a recently turned red light, causing crashes for the other motorists]

Starman: Okay?

Jenny Hayden: Okay? Are you crazy? You almost got us killed! You said you watched me, you said you knew the rules!

Starman: I do know the rules.

Jenny Hayden: Oh, for your information pal, that was a *yellow* light back there!

Starman: I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.

Apparently the collective wisdom of the hipster lumbersexuals in PDX is this: No street light, go very fast.

That’s weird because the law says an unpowered traffic signal is to be treated as a four-way stop. It’s so weird that no one in Portland knew that. Keep Portland weird.

So we sat at an intersection watching an endless stream of cars whiz by at top speed and we never got a turn. To pass the time we celebrated several birthdays. And I plotted revenge. Now I understand where Joker, Riddler and Penguin are coming from.

This may be my last blog post for a while. I’ve decided to keep my computer turned off when I think Portland General will be unable to keep the grid powered. By my calculations that means I’ll have a 42-minute window of electricity per day.

Khan With The Wind

blusterydayI sit here, my tushy gleefully ensconced in a chair of rich, Corinthian leather, in the mood to share a story that really blows. -Ed

It’s been about eight months since we moved to the big, big city of Portland, Oregon. The snow storm was fun. Sure, it wasn’t the 50′ of being buried alive of my dreams, but it was cute. We spent seven cozy days “trapped” in our home.

Then came the wind.

Last night the wind mercilessly ravaged our house. As much as I’m loathe to consider any weather-related thought, it finally crossed my mind: Jeez, when is the wind going to die down?

Sure, I enjoy as much as the next person finding my garbage cans tossed about and the contents strewn about the neighborhood. Who doesn’t? But even that can eventually get old.

What gives? Is this typical for Rip City? Or is it something new, perhaps a harbinger of doom?

I’m betting on the latter. Take off your helmet, stay awhile and listen. Lend me your ears because I’ve got some of the indigenous lifeforms ready to help us bore down into the story.
Continue reading →

Blighters On The Storm

portland-rainIt started like any typical horror story should. “Nordstrom.”

I screamed.

Our friend had driven in to the big city from our former hometown for a quick visit. It turned out to be the rainiest weekend since we moved to Portland, Oregon.

“Nordstrom.”

That word is Norwegian, I think, for “mythical beast with huge nords that consumes souls.”

And they wanted to shop at the one that lives in the heart of downtown, by Pioneer Square, where everything happens.

It was a rainy day. I figured at least there was at least a chance the city wouldn’t be nuts.

I was wrong.
Continue reading →

Guru Comic: Feelin’ Feisty


Guru feels feisty. I looked up the word “feisty” in the dictionary to make sure I was spelling it correctly and included in the footnotes it said, and I quote: “break wind.”

I shit you not.

I then clicked “break wind” because, what the hell, it was clickable!

That resulted in this gem:

break wind:
release gas from the anus.

Yes! I love it when things go full circle. I work in mysterious ways, much like a fart in a hurricane.

My work here is done.

The collapse of a fair

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
–William Butler Yeats

Who doesn’t love a fair?

Me, for one.

Around here in my hometown there are yearly events like the County Fair and Derbytastic which some of the locals disparagingly call Dirttastic. (I’ve changed the name to protect the dirty.) In the 10 years I’ve lived in this small town I’ve never been to either event.

Somehow I don’t feel too deprived.

I think, when it comes to humans, there are two inescapable realities. Things can go wrong and, when they do, the protestations of “not my fault” by the people in charge will often be the result.

“We never could foreseen that” is a common refrain. It is incumbent on the rest of us to determine, for ourselves, if that is really true or not. When there has been loss of life, we have to know what happened. Was it preventable? Or not? Was there negligence? Was all done that could and should have been done?

In the case of a nuclear reactor in Japan we were quickly told things like “no one could have anticipated” what had happened. We were told it was a freak set of circumstances.

At Fukushima, what happened can simply be explained. The plant experienced an “act of God” that exceeded what the plant was designed to withstand. Then we get told how unlikely it was. What does that really matter when it already actually happened?

What about the Indiana State Fair, where five people lost their lives after a stage collapsed?

The information I’m about to write about is from news reports. The information can be wrong, either by design or accident. Therefore, as always, take what you read on the internet with a grain of salt. This is an opinion piece and contains my speculations.

Rolling Stone Music quoted a police officer on the scene as saying, “When you’re dealing with issues of freak circumstances of weather, I don’t know what you can do.” The governor of Indiana called the accident a “fluke.”

One article says that fair officials have not said if the stage and rigging was inspected before the collapse. This seems like the kind of thing they should know. With certainty.

The concert was being held in Indiana. High winds, storms and gusts are not that uncommon in the region. That sort of thing occurs with enough regularity that you’d think public events would consider the possibility as it pertained to human safety. Certain standards would be met and there would be plans to deal with and react to various contingencies, like evacuating under certain conditions.

Was a collapse an unforeseeable event? Hardly. Rolling Stone Music reported that the Indiana State Fair tragedy was the third such event just this summer. It was preceded by an outdoor stage collapse at a Cheap Trick concert in July in Canada and, only a week earlier, an incident at an outdoor concert of the Flaming Lips in Oklahoma where equipment was blown off the stage.

On the same night as the Indiana State Fair tragedy, just 15 miles north, another outdoor concert for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was evacuated.

Tom Ramsey, the orchestra’s vice president and general manager, said the group reviews information from a private weather company and consults with the National Weather Service, with a goal of giving patrons at least 30 minutes to get to their vehicles if bad weather threatens.

“We saw a storm that contained lightning dip south a little bit. Once we saw that, I made the decision to stop the concert and send everyone to their cars,” he said.

Source: USAToday.com

Unlike my coworker, who seems to blame concertgoers for not taking evacuation on their own, I have many questions. Those who conduct public events assume responsibility for taking every precaution to protect the lives of people who attend their events.

I have many questions about this event. I wonder if all that could and should have been done was done. Were all reasonable precautions made? Was the decision to delay canceling the concert the correct one?

This post delayed by the weather

Lightning Ball

Lazing on a Sunday afternoon

I got a little cooked, but I’m all right!

With those words today, Tom B. Taker let the world know he was still alive and well.

Wait. Scratch that. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. 🙂

And, to be quite honest, I think Luke Skywalker was the first to utter those words. But I feel confident that whatever Taker said was just as impressive.

No, your humble host wasn’t caught in an earthquake. Nor was it a tsunami, either, although those are both serious weather phenomenon to be sure.

Tsunami Photo(On a side note, it doesn’t feel that peculiar to be talking about myself in the third person after all.)

No, the circumstances that affected Taker were far more mundane. You see, there was a bit of cloudy weather. And then came the raindrops. Then the wind kicked up and the rain fell a little harder.

And then…

There was a flash of white light.

“Holy mother of God,” the cry went out. “It’s lightning! Batten down the hatches!”

He sprinted across the house to power down the computer but it was too late. The power had already gone out. There would be no ordinary shut down of the computer this time.

You see, in his neck of the woods, a bit of rain, a skosh of wind and a lightning bolt or two is all that is required to knock out the power grid. Repeatedly. For hours.

Yes, this really is the year 2011, the most advanced year we’ve had to date, and astronauts drink Tang, too.

Ah, the weather. For all of humankind’s magnificence, we are still very much at the mercy of things like the weather.

Personally I could care less about the weather. I hardly ever check the weather reports. The weather will be what it will be, right? I tend to be fatalistic about it. And no news or media outlet warned me there might be a lightning storm today. I used the Mother Nature notification system instead. That’s also know as “looking out the window.”

When the power came back up long enough, I did briefly turn to the Weather Channel out of curiosity. They were glad to tell me that the temperature in my town was 54 degrees. Gee, thanks. That’s useful information. I’m sure my outside thermometer outside the kitchen window couldn’t have told me that.

Who thought the Weather Channel would be a good idea, anyway? Weather is to be tucked away on a corner of the newspaper or given a few minutes on the news broadcast. It is not “entertainment” or very useful information in and of itself.

“Hey, let’s invent a television network that no one will ever watch for more than five minutes at a time.” Great business model.

That might be why the Weather Channel decided to add a little excitement by showing movies. Yep. Movies. The Perfect Storm is a no brainer. And so is Twister. Those movies promeninetly feature weather phenomenon.

But what else is there? Just how many movie plots have been driven by the weather?

Singing in the Rain? Ha!

How about March of the Penguins? I thought that was more about penguins than the weather. And the weather is sort of monotonous. “Today’s forecast is snow and cold.”

Well, how about Misery starring Kathy Bates and James Caan. Didn’t she win an Oscar for that performance? Sure, but what’s the weather angle? Oh, wait. The Caan character crashed his car because of the weather. That’s a perfect tie in!

Not content to just run someone else’s movies, though, The Weather Channel decided to make their own content. Yeah, everybody knows that’s the only real way to have a seat at The Big Table.

Thus, When Weather Changed History was born. This informative television series answers the big questions like: “If it wasn’t for the weather did you know the Hindenberg would have crashed somewhere else?”

Flood of June 2006True, dat! Or how the “weather” affected the Titanic. Um, wait one. Are they saying that icebergs are weather? Seriously?

“Next up, how huge chunks of ice may affect your evening commute. More about that and other stories in three minutes after these messages by Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and Toyota.”

What other events from history make their list? Hurricane Katrina. Okay, that one is legit.

Oops. I have to cut this post short. I just looked out the window and the ground is still wet. We might be loosing power and I don’t want this post to be lost to humanity.

The weather today did change history when it turned off the power to my house. Unfortunately we’ll never know the “could have been” of that alternate unaltered historical timeline. We’ll never really know what might have been irrevocably lost.