High winds and humility

Last Wednesday night, our area of Los Angeles experienced 100-mile-per-hour windstorms that left 300,000 people without power, area schools and businesses closed, and a lot of cleanup from falling trees and other debris in the road. I’d never experienced anything like it in all my years in Southern California. I was humbled by Mother Nature.

We couldn’t sleep all night as the winds went on for several hours and our old windows kept flying open, and all sorts of things were banging outside all night. We had piles of leaves and branches and part of a neighbor’s fence in our back yard, along with a pillow that we finally found came from a neighbor several doors down on the opposite side of the street. But luckily, we didn’t have any major damage or lose our roof like a lot of other people.

The power went out about 2am and we didn’t get it back until two days later in the afternoon. That was two nights, two mornings, and almost two full days without power. And it got me thinking about how much we take for granted.

Naturally we didn’t have lights, and had to light candles. But we also couldn’t cook very much without a stove, microwave, or toaster oven. I managed a simple dinner on the stovetop since we have gas burners, but I wasn’t looking forward to figuring something out for the second evening, and luckily our power came back on a few hours before I had to worry about it. Our neighborhood restaurants and coffee shops did a great business for a few days.

Without power, we didn’t have any heat, and of course couldn’t use space heaters. Our house was definitely in the low 50s in the early mornings and my husband wore his fleece jacket to bed. I wore mittens a scarf around the house.

Naturally, we couldn’t use our computers or get online, so I had to walk to the library a few times a day just to get email, since I don’t have a smart phone. Obviously, we also didn’t have TV or a connection to watch DVDs, so after trying to read by candlelight for a few hours, we gave up and went straight to the local wine shop to hang out.

There is really not much you can do without power, especially when you’re freezing. Whenever I hear about people losing power, or not having it in the first place, I’ll be much more sympathetic now. Even in our house, where many evenings are spent hanging out and reading, we felt completely dependent on our modern conveniences.

Luckily for us, we still had hot water so we could take a shower. And we are very good friends with our neighbor across the street, who is on another grid and still had power, so we brought the food from our freezer and refrigerator over there and none of it spoiled.

But we had friends who were without power an additional day (54 hours total), and there are still some people who haven’t had theirs restored 5 days later. When we met our friends for a movie that second evening, after the movie, instead of asking if they wanted to come over to hang out or have a drink, my husband asked if they’d like to come over and take a shower. They enthusiastically accepted. They’d been going to work for two days without showering, and that is no fun.

The whole episode was a great exercise in gratitude for me. On top of being thankful for my husband and our love and our health, I won’t forget to be grateful every single day for all the modern conveniences we enjoy and generally take for granted.

It’s a rich life, indeed. What are you thankful for? Please share in the Comments section.


  1. says

    A few years ago, my area experienced similar winds. My husband and I lost power for several days. We’d just been grocery shopping, and lost all of the perishables in our fridge (though we managed to save our frozen food by driving it to his parents’ house). Local schools were out for a whole week, and some people didn’t regain power for two. Even though my husband and I love to read and do simple things like that, we were amazed by how difficult life was without electricity. It’s hard to read in the dark unless you light a TON of candles. Thankfully, we were still able to take hot showers and do a little cooking, since we had a gas stove and gas water heater. We were happy that the windstorm occurred in September, when the weather was nice.

    Later that same year, in late January, we had a horrible ice storm that closed schools for another week. This time, we didn’t lose power and were able to stay cozy and warm in our apartment. But many other people lost power for a week or two, and it made me very thankful for what we did have.

  2. Hilda says

    I am also thankful for modern conveniences. I would not have made a good homemaker living in “The Little House on the Prairie” days. I am thankful for Christmas, my family and good friends. Life is rich, indeed.

  3. Tracy says

    We lived through a 6 day power outage a few years ago. We live in the pacific NW. The temps were in the mid to low 30’s at night and low 40’s in the day. We had one gas fireplace off the kitchen so one room warm. Hot water but everything else was electric. We charged our phones in the car, cooked between the bbq and a propane cooker and light by oil lamps and candles. It was a huge power outage for our area. I would get outside in the morning to boil water for coffee in my french press….my husband still had to go to work…they had generators there. With the weather being so cool we could store all the food on the deck. I would use up whatever was thawing first in a cast iron skillet on the bbq for any and all meals. All the restaruants were out of power too. We had to make do and did. We also learned what we did right and what we should do in the future and set that plan into action. For instance, we don’t keep so much in the chest freezer. The kids freaked out for the first couple of days then got used to it. We homeschooled so they were able to keep busy with that, books and handheld games that we charged in the car. It really wasn’t so bad other than the fact it was so cold out. We really did learn that we were pretty resourceful and able to live without power for an extended amount of time…not something I would want to do again but could.

  4. Margit says

    Comments from the Artic Circle, Norway:
    I just returned from fieldwork in rural Cambodia where flooding has ruined peasants already poor livelihood. The price of rice; staple food for most Asians, is rising, and my friends who work with selfhelpgroups for minevictims and widows are very worried about the situation.
    Back in Norway I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to learn to know these brave and courgeous people who never give up! I am also grateful for my four healthy children and my safe home. My challenge now is to face the Christmas craze that sweep Norwegians since we seem to be the only country in the world not affected by the financial crisis. After facing the tyranny of poverty I am almost unable to buy any presents for X-mas at all…..

  5. says

    It is the stuff we take for granted – light at flip of a switch, water at the twist of a knob, and heating and cooling set on auto – that much of the world cannot even imagine on a daily basis, let alone after a catastrophe.

    Here in Thailand the flooding severely impacted the outlying areas of Bangkok. We are far away in the mountains of Chiang Mai, but we still feel the effects in supplies. Some companies closed due to severe flooding, and some shipping was interrupted due to flooded train tracks and roads. The small inconveniences to us are the livelihoods of other people in Bangkok, and it is a subtle reminder every day that their lives are still not back to normal.

    Last week there was an anniversary celebration of the enlightenment of the Buddha. 12,600 monks lined one of the main roads in Chiang Mai and received alms from the people as they do every year. This year they requested rice and food suitable for flooding victims, as they planned to distribute it to the temples helping those in need. It was a beautiful ceremony.

    Even when Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge, I am always gratified to see humans respond with compassion and help to those affected – whether it is a shower, a bowl of rice, or a warm bed.

    I’m glad you guys are safe.

  6. Marie-Josée says

    Angela, I’m so glad you and your husband are OK. I’m very grateful for electricity, especially in the heart of our Canadian winters. Brrrr….

  7. Carla says

    The longest our electricity was ever out was about three days during an ice storm several years ago. During that time we bought a propane wall heater for emergencies. We already had a propane single-burner cooker. It was showers we missed the most and ended up going to my husband’s workplace to shower at least once. But when things like this happen, I think about how spoiled we all are. Electric lights at the flip of a switch? Hot showers by turning a knob? Shoot, running water right into our homes — cold AND hot, at that! What riches these are and yet we take them for granted! There is an old hymn, “Count Your Blessings”. Even when I sing it I forget these services which are luxuries, really. Shame on me…

Leave a Reply to Cate Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *