August 31, 2012

Typhoon Bolaven. . . The End.

I have to say I'm sorry that it's taken me a week to write about the rest of the typhoon. One of the reasons is that we lost power in the middle of the night and were without it for 15 hours. While being without electricity for 15 hours is annoying, irritating, and infuriating, especially considering that my neighbors down the hill still had theirs, it could hardly be considered a hardship in comparison to what could have happened. Also, my son starts school after the Labor Day weekend and we've been very busy preparing for that.

So here are my thoughts on the beast that was Bolaven. First of all, it was not nearly as bad (for us) as they made it out to be. Its intensity diminished a bit right before it hit us, which isn't really saying much once the winds get over 100 mph. It was downgraded to a Cat. 3, but then back up to a 4 as the eye was approaching and within a few hundred miles of the island. My family lives up on top of a hill so you'd think that would make the winds worse for us. But our building is protected by a retaining wall on two sides, and another building on a third, which really muted the worst of it for us. It was actually louder upstairs where the winds and rain had easier access to smash up against the windows, than it was downstairs which is a bit more protected. I can only imagine what it was like for folks who live right on the beach. Aside from our power outage we had no real significant damage in my neighborhood. A few saplings didn't make it, and there were some small downed branches, but everyone's windows, and cars survived. Several people did experience leaking and flooding, but we got lucky and did not.

I did learn a few things from this though. My typhoon preparedness skills are not totally lacking. We had more than enough food and water and batteries. We'd have been fine for a few days!! My husband's grill, which I had to tie down to our patio and sandbag, didn't move an inch, nor did our garbage can which received similar treatment since I refused to bring either item inside my house. Next time though I will make absolutely certain that we have multiple computers, ipads, iphones, etc powered up and use only one of them at a time, and use them sparingly. I'm also considering purchasing a second Leap Frog Leap Pad for my daughter so that BOTH kids have one for such occasions. My kids were bonkers with boredom! We did everything we could think of! We played board games, cards, did arts and crafts, played tic-tac-toe and other various games of that sort. We played hide and seek, did gymnastics in the living room, put on a play, read books, took naps, played with the dog, and so much more. But by 2 PM they'd had enough and so had I! That's not to say we can't live without technology, it's just that when we do live without technology we're usually able to leave the house. Anywho, the stress and pressure of having to instantaneously come up with new activities to keep a 2 and 5 year old entertained prompted me to crack open a bottle of wine around about noon, and I ran out around 4. Lesson learned. Next time, buy more wine. Not to get drunkity drunk drunk, per say, but a glass an hour to take the edge off would be ideal. And all those who know me well, know that I have a perpetual stick up my ass thus, wine (during a 15 hour power outage whilst stuck in the house with 2 children and having no chance of leaving, hiding, or escape, and having my husband gone) is an asset.

Another thing that my first typhoon experience taught me is that our houses rock. They're made out of concrete and can withstand just about anything. The sounds of the wind gusts and the rain running into our house at 100+ mph were quite loud, we could barely hear the rest of the storm. . . until our power went out. . . and with our tv on you'd have to look outside to really believe there was a typhoon occurring outside. Builders and contractors on the eastern seaboard should really take some advice from the Japanese on how to build hurricane proof houses. Sure you can get hurricane proof windows and doors, but when your house is made of matchsticks wood as opposed to concrete, yeah, it's probably gonna get destroyed. It would be much safer for residents and cheaper for insurance purposes if coastal houses from the Texas Gulf Coast, around through the Florida Keys, and all the way up to oh, say, Virginia, were made the way ours are. Just my opinion.

So with all of that said I wasn't able to get the photos or videos I wanted to be able to show you because the worst of Bolaven came raging through in the middle of the night which is why we lost power at 3 AM. While we were relatively protected from the wrath during both the front and backside of the storm, here are some pictures of what the rest of the island experienced. (the following photographs are not mine, therefore I do not claim credit)

August 25, 2012

The Impending Wrath of Typhoon Bolaven Diary 7:00 PM

Saturday August 25 7:00 PM

As the sun sets, and the darkness sets in there is an erie calm settling in. Stepping outside the air is thick and heavy. If I didn't already know, I'd swear that something big was coming. There are moments when things are absolutely still, not a leaf out of place, and then in next second the wind gusts so that it looks as though the trees above my retaining wall are going to blow sideways. It's like when I was growing up in Wisconsin, right before a tornado would hit, everything would be absolutely silent and still. 

My poor dog is a testament to the gusts of wind, his long white fur whooshes around his face and legs as he tries to sniff the air. I think he too senses the storm. He usually prowls around in the yard making sure that his territory hasn't been violated by other dogs in the neighborhood, most particularly the dog next-door. Instead he does his thing, and comes immediately inside.

There isn't any rain yet, but there are brief patches of blue sky, only to be instantly covered by the low, gray, rolling clouds. It's as though Bolaven is saying, "Rest easy, I'm not quite ready." even though we've already been warned.  For now, we'll sit and be safe, the worst is yet to come.

The Impending Wrath of Typhoon Bolaven

One caveat of living on a small sub-tropical island especially in this part of the world is the frequent occurrence of typhoons, aka tropical cyclones, aka hurricanes. Call it what you will, I've never lived through a hurricane. Despite the fact that my husband and I lived on the southern seaboard for 7 years, I've still never seen a hurricane. If an impending hurricane is projected to be bad enough, cities in the path of destruction evacuate. Well, here on Okinawa there is no where to go. So you ride out the storm in your concrete cinder block house and hope for the best!

So far this year there have been several near misses, all for which I am thankful. I knew that luck and nature wouldn't hold. But I never expected this. I suppose I should have! Thus, here we are on the verge of being slammed into by what is being called the worst typhoon Okinawa has seen in 13 years.

I've heard horror stories from friends about water coming through minuscule cracks in the walls, projectiles flying through our "typhoon proof" windows, windows bowing inward, lamp posts and trees demolishing cars, being without power for hours - days. . . and this one is supposed to be worse. The worst. This big bitch is packing sustained winds upwards of 130mph!! - I think I've just soiled myself.

Here is the projected timeline that Bolaven is on.

-- Sustained 35-mph winds and greater, 8 a.m. Saturday.
-- Sustained 40-mph winds and greater, 7 p.m. Saturday.
-- Sustained 58-mph winds and greater, 3 a.m. Sunday.
-- Maximum 138-mph sustained winds and 167-mph gusts, 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
-- Winds diminishing below 58 mph, 11 p.m. Sunday.
-- Winds diminishing below 40 mph, 7 a.m. Monday.
-- Winds diminishing below 35 mph, 6 p.m. Monday.

I can't even conceive of what 130mph+ winds are like. Can you? So, we have lots of water, our fridge and freezer are on the coldest setting, a bathtub is filled with water, there's lots of nonperishable food items in the pantry, batteries, flashlights, and we're all set!! 

To stay occupied and sane during what I'm told is the inevitability that we'll be without power at some point, I'm going to do my best to take lots of pictures and videos of this storm. I've got a limited view from where I live, but we've got lots of fun, fun trees in our backyard! Surely one of them will uproot and make for some good footage!!

So here is the start of my "Typhoon Bolaven Diary".

Saturday August 25 3:00 pm.

We woke up this morning to some sunshine and blue sky. Throughout the morning and early afternoon the clouds have been rolling in and moving at a pretty quick clip. Occasionally we can see some patches of blue sky, and there have been some small sprinkle showers. So far the winds on the ground aren't too bad. Breezy, maybe a good day to fly a kite if we didn't know what was coming. Though the sky is getting darker and the winds are starting to pick up.

I've got everything tied down and sandbagged so I hope we're good with that. There are some things I just couldn't bring inside the house. However a few of my neighbors STILL haven't dealt with their garbage cans and recycle stuff. If it comes down to it I just may go put their shit on their doorstep, ring the bell and walk away. If I find their trash all over my yard, I'll walk it all over to their doorway anyway. . . 

According to the radar and websites I check, the outer bands of the storm are just approaching Okinawa now. The winds will pick up over night and we'll see what we see. At the moment it seems it's the calm before the storm.

Stay tuned! And stay safe Okinawa!!