There’s no sun up in the sky

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I usually make fun of the Bay Area for going into a panic whenever there’s a light drizzle outside, but today’s storm shut me up pretty quick.

I left for work thinking nothing unusual was going on, and things just got progressively worse. Stoplights were out on Fulton street, but they had crossing guards keeping everything moving. Traffic was pretty tolerable on the Golden Gate Bridge, but then as soon as you passed through the tunnel, you started to see more and more tree debris on the freeway. Power was out in the entire shopping center at Marin City, forcing me to go to a McDonald’s for breakfast (intolerable! Call the National Guard!)

Most of it was this weird juxtaposition of normal day-to-day activity in self-absorbed Marin, with the occasional bit of weirdness like an entire tree lying on a freeway on-ramp. Nothing worthy of an Irwin Allen movie, but still eerie for a morning commute. I think what made it even creepier was that I had my iPod on shuffle, and both the Royal Crown Revue and the Pixies version of “Stormy Weather” came on.

I’d reached the exit for work when traffic on 101 ground to a halt. I got a message that power was out at the office, so I should turn around and head home, but by that point it was too late. I was stuck at the San Anselmo exit for an hour and a half. I had to give up that route and pull off into a shopping center with no power, to use their facilities in the dark (which is itself a nerve-wracking experience).

When I eventually made it back to 101 South, traffic was moving more quickly, which brought its own set of unnerving incidents. Even going 35 mph, the car kept hydroplaning, and then a gust of wind would come up and threaten to blow me into the next late. Driving through the headlands, you could see huge branches fall off the trees and start rolling down the hills towards the freeway.

And getting back on the Golden Gate bridge was something I don’t want to do again — it was like driving through an automatic car wash. There was a solid gray wall on either side of the bridge, and the wind sounded like it was coming from every direction. Everyone was driving slowly enough not to get blown into each other’s lanes, but it was still impossible not to get that image of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse out of my head.

Back in the city, stoplights were still out along Park Presidio, and I saw a car that’d been parked on one of the side streets had its roof and windshield crushed by a fallen tree branch. And of course, ten minutes after I get back home, I see on the news that they’ve shut down 101 between the GG Bridge and Sonoma County, asking everyone to avoid going to Marin. Now they tell me.

Considering that I’ve still got power and even my satellite reception is unaffected, I think it’s a good day to stay inside. And remind me never to give the power and roads workers any grief anymore; those guys were out all over the place, in the worst of it, guiding traffic, repairing power lines, and clearing roads. They get this kind of stuff completely cleared away while I’m still in bed.

7 thoughts on “There’s no sun up in the sky”

  1. You missed some of the fun in San Rafael, then. The reason 101 was closed was because lumber and other junk from the new overpass blew down onto the lanes. Then on top of that the Richmond bridge has been closed all day.

    I had about the same story… I got as far as the civic center and had to *very slowly* get off the freeway and turn around to go home.

  2. your California windstorm is a choirboy compared to the one that put Seattle in the dark for a week last year! Tell em Steve!….Steve?

  3. Doug: I must’ve been seeing the after-effects of that, then. Traffic was at a standstill all the way back to the Lucky Drive exit. Seeing those pictures of water coming up over the onramp to the Richmond Bridge made me extremely glad I wasn’t trying to come in from the east bay.

    Cory: I realize that storms around Seattle are more severe, but in a way it’s worse here, seeing bad weather happen to a place where people actually want to live.

  4. Also, California isn’t built for storms, so when a big one one shows up every couple of years, it really screws things up a lot more than areas where that sort of thing is a bit more commonplace. There’s all sorts of metal bits ripped off of the side of the office, strewn around the bushes, and hanging down from the roof like that super-scary drainpipe that crashes through the window in Michael Meyers’ house in Halloween. I imagine in other, more storm-ridden places, people actually have to consider things like rating their buildings against low-end hurricane-grade winds. Nobody builds for that around here, and it occasionally bites us in the ass.

  5. Chuck and Cory:
    The biggest difference between Seattle and Bay area windstorms is that in Seattle they actually affect home owners, with the key word being “owner”.

  6. Just as I was getting in my car to go to the office, one of my co-workers called to tell me the Richmond Bridge was closed, so I was spared the mistake of trying to get across it. About three seconds after he hung up, a tree branch the diameter of my thigh hit the ground about fifteen feet in front of me.

    I figured that was as good a sign as any that I should go back to bed.

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