Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Pineapple Express: No Trip to Paradise

Here is South Central Alaska, we're used to a bit of rain and wind, but when the forecast calls for hurricane-force gusts, even we sit up and take notice. Or rather, batten down the hatches, cover our heads and take notice.

For the past few days, the region has been hit by a warm front racing up from the south. It's locally known as the Pineapple Express because it originates near the Hawaiian Islands. The front brings with it temperatures in the mid thirties to mid forties, lots of rain, and lots of wind. The abrupt change from the clear and cold weather we'd been having was a tad disconcerting, but not terribly surprising. I liked the clear and cold. I particularly liked the lack of snow. More precisely, I liked not having to shovel snow.

The rain has been no big deal. After living here for more than a year, I'm getting used to the amount of precipitation that lands here. We are, after all, in a temperate rainforest, meaning we average over 70" of wetness annually. It seems like we've received half of that in the past few days, but according to NOAA and this map, we've hardly dented the rain gages. I think NOAA needs new gages.

This year is particularly windy. Our living room has four windows that are 3' X 4', better to catch what sunlight we can (when it's out) and better to view the lake and mountains across from us. All very lovely in nice weather, but when the wind blows, and it does, the windows flex. When the wind blows at gusts over 100m.p.h., they rattle and threaten to come out of their frames. And the entire house shakes as if it's about to come off its footings. It was scary, to say the least, and I hoped the windows would hold up. Maybe I was being wimpy, but we aren't used to that kind of force. (It made me think about folks who live in more vulnerable areas, and those who don't evacuate when they can and should. Why someone in a hurricane-prone area would choose to stay during one of their storms is a total mystery to me.)

I sat in the living room with my husband, watching TV with the sound turned up loud enough to hear over the wind and rain, wondering if we had plywood sheets large enough to cover all the windows. Wondering how much stuff from beneath our "dry" storage was now strewn across the yard. And was the roof still on? We detected no leaks, so we assumed all was well when we went to bed.

The next morning, things had calmed down enough to make rounds. We'd suffered nothing worse than some excess water in our covered storage and a few up-ended empty garbage cans. A neighbor had lost a panel or two from his metal roof. That seemed to be the worst of it in our area. On the plus side, there is no longer a sheet of ice covering my driveway or the roads.

They say a gift from Hawaii is like receiving a bit of paradise. Personally, I'd exchange this one.


At 6:12 AM, Blogger Writer and Cat said...

Creepy! I figured that story was going to end in broken glass. Glad to be wrong!

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

I thought the same thing, W&C. I doubt the windows would have withstood continuous battering of 100mph winds. The other concern was debris. Some "pings" as bits of branches and such were tossed about made us flinch.


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