There’s no sun up in the sky

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.