JANUARY 6, 1997
Weathering the storms the old-fashioned way
by Wendy Walsh, Community Editor
To find out how Woodinvillites coped with the stormy weather this year, I put on my Sorrell boots and heavy storm parka and tromped about asking folks what they get up to when the power goes out.
Well, some people thought it was none of our business. I wondered if we'd see them in the maternity wards next fall. However, there were plenty of others who were willing to share "Life In The Dark When The Power Goes Out."
Cindy Hohlbein, who lives on Bear Creek, is used to power outages and winter storms. After all, she was born and raised in Woodinville, and knows all the ropes.
"During the year, I collect games and hide them in closets just for Storm Days," she said. "When the power goes out, we light the lanterns and candles, and sit by the fire and play the games." This year, the family played "Sorry" and giggled a lot. Building family memories is part of the fun.
Upstream live Heather and Craig, who understand technology better than anyone else around here. They're not about to let a storm get in the way of enjoying the amenities. They have a multipowered generator which gets fired up at the first crash of the tree on the line. However, finding fuel for the generator can be difficult. They recommend hooking the generator up to natural gas in the future.
Several neighbors said this was a time for walking through the woods and visiting. Wood stoves are a must for the oldtimers, and the kettle is always on. Goodies are dispensed from the ice chests, and a good chat is full of the year's news about friends and families. I wondered why it takes a storm to discover the fun of a good old-fashioned visit.
In most homes, the ice chests get dragged out and filled with items which are going to be used a lot, so the fridge and freezer doors don't have to be opened. Some people keep bags of ice in their freezer for emergencies, then throw them into the ice chests.
One older lady who lives in the woods says she holes up in the bedroom with her wood burning stove and her kerosene lamps and writes all her Christmas cards: "Thanks to the storm I'll probably get these cards out before Groundhog Day!" Her wood stove is compact enough to provide heat and do the cooking.
Modern homes aren't always as well-equipped for storms. Those with gas ranges fare well for cooking, but heating is marginal because the gas furnace won't run without power. What works best is to have a "cozy room" where there can be a little stove for heat and cooking, and doors to block off the cold areas of the house. Some people use blankets to keep draughts out. Fireplaces help keep the warmth in, but are not as efficient as small free standing stoves.
Since power outages are a way of life in this part of the world, it is wise to have stuff on hand for the Great Campouts. Sleeping bags in front of the fireplace can be a great adventure, and marshmallows on sticks and old-fashioned popcorn can be part of the fun. Electric blankets (which don't work in a power outage, of course) can be covered with sleeping bags for those who prefer their beds.
Storms can be a special time of togetherness for neighbors and families. It harkens back to how our ancestors lived 100 years ago: Build the fire, wait for the kettle to boil, then stir up the oatmeal and eat it by candlelight. Afterwards, play games, chat, play in the snow, or go look at the floods, and enjoy the qualities of the simpler life.
When the power comes on, it's nice to feel the warmth of the furnace and to turn on the TV or the computer, but life gets complicated again, by all that stuff we couldn't do when the power went out.