Last Thursday night, Seattle was hit by a major windstorm, which brought down trees and powerlines across the city. While I was lucky enough not to have been directly impacted by the storm, I was in one of the million-odd households that lost power. In our case it was out for about 48 hours, and tens of thousands are still waiting to get theirs back.
While two days without power is nothing compared to what some people have to deal with in disasters, it is enough to make you realize how utterly dependent you are on power and communications. With the power out, we also lost internet access (which normally comes from the powered cable modem), and the telephone land-line may or may not of worked - we couldn't tell since our only phone is a cordless requiring a powered base. And on top of that, most of the local mobile phone towers had apparently lost their power too, as we couldn't get the mobiles to work most of the time. The good news was that we use gas for the stove, hot water and the fireplace, so we were a lot better off than a lot of others in the area.
On Friday morning, with no power at home, Paula and I thought we would head into work to see if it had fared any better. Unfortunately one of our cars was trapped in the garage (which wouldn't open without power), so we ended up driving into the main Microsoft campus in Redmond together. The trip was quite interesting with all of the traffic lights out and lots of downed trees, and when we got there we found that there was no power in my building, lots of tree carnage and nobody there - so I quickly abandoned the idea of staying there. We started heading towards the Issaquah campus where Paula works, but after she got a call that things were much the same, we (along with everyone else it seems) decided to abandon any thoughts of work and head home.
With the power still out around lunch time on Saturday, we'd had enough and decided evacuate. The two nearest cities are Vancouver and Portland, but since we're already heading north for Christmas we decided Portland was the best plan. With no access to the internet on our PCs, we needed to rely on mobile phones for dealing with logistics (the reliability was generally improving by Saturday). This was the first time I've really used Windows Live Search Mobile - and I was really impressed. It helped us find a hotel, give us numbers for reservations and directions. Since it's not web based (there is a .NET CF version and a J2ME version) it's really fast and convenient - I'd definitely recommend giving it a try :-)
Anyway, after a nice night and morning in Portland, we headed home today to find the power was back on, with the only real casualties being most of the contents of our fridge. So with a bit of luck I may actually get something done next week!
I've felt that pain before. I think the worst part about being without power for 24+ hours comes when you realize your hot water heater is electric. On the other hand, it's also kinda neat to see people helping each other out during these mini-disasters (neighbors helping neighbors with trees, etc).