I experienced another Alaska first last night. The television was on and that familiar and irritating warning signal went off. I was in another part of the house, so I went to see what the warning was regarding, expecting it to be a test signal. Turns out it was a real warning….for a tsunami! Luckily for us, the warning was well south of Anchorage. The warning system is for the entire state of Alaska so we heard it as well. A 7.7 earthquake had occurred off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. The tsunami warning was issued for British Columbia and southern Alaska. All in all, it was a sobering reminder that we live along the Ring of Fire and to expect the unexpected. I’m also grateful for my home on the Hillside, well out of the way of a tsunami.
On a much, much lighter note, I had another first ten days ago or so. The Christmas lights are up on our house. Yes, you read that correctly. We have Christmas lights up and functioning in the middle of October. Now I’m normally a person that takes one holiday at a time. I don’t like to rush through Thanksgiving to get to Christmas. But here’s the reality of living in Anchorage – you have to get the Christmas lights up before there’s too much snow on your roof. Our days have gotten considerably shorter now that we’re well into fall. The Christmas lights provide a little more light during the long nights and seem to make everything a tad more cheerful. The Christmas lights will stay up and on through February, possibly into March. I’ve been told some people like to leave their lights up until the Red Lantern award has been given at the Iditarod. The Red Lantern is given to the last musher into Nome. I like that idea. When the Iditarod is over, the days are finally getting longer and though it’s still bitterly cold, spring is only a short time away.
1. Using the term “y’all” in conversation automatically labels you an outsider.
Me: Are y’all going to take down that tree or is another crew going to come do that?
Workman: Y’all? You’re not from here are you?
2. Women in Alaska don’t refer to each other as “honey”.
Me: Oh, honey, I made that entire cake from scratch. Icing and everything.
Friend: Did you just call me honey?
Me: Um, yeah. Do they not do that here?
3. There seems to be an abundance of redheads in Anchorage. I’m not sure why. My theory is a lot of people have families that migrated from Minnesota and Wisconsin and thus brought Nordic genes with them. Not sure if that is even slightly correct, but it’s the answer I’m going with.
4. Keeping a chicken coop seems to be a bad idea. In the past two days, two brown bears have broken in to chicken coops to try and get one last good meal before hibernating. Unfortunately, both bears were shot. One incident occured out on Kodiak Island and the other only two minutes from my house!
5. October 22nd is way too early to have temperatures in the teens.
In my last post I described the windstorm we had here in SouthCentral Alaska last week. Well guess what? We are predicted to have another one this weekend. Winds are predicted to be 40 miles an hour with gusts to 65 mph on the Lower Hillside and 75 with gusts to 100 mph on the Upper Hillside and Turnagain Arm. Fun.
We were quite fortunate last week as we suffered very little damage and did not lose our power for an extended period of time. Our friends and neighbors were not so lucky. We’ll take all the prayers you can send this way that the storm damage is minimal, as many people are still cleaning up from last week.
And now guess what I’m doing this evening? That’s right. Checking the flashlights and lanterns. Putting anything that can become a missile in the garage. Charging the phones. Doing laundry so we all have clean clothes and checking the pantry.
I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast. Hurricanes and tropical storms are just a part of summer. Many childhood summer memories revolve around tracking storms to see where they might hit. My godfather and his wife had a magnetic map with longitude/latitude lines where you placed red magnets along the path of the storm. Sounds very low tech doesn’t it? As a kid I thought it was pretty cool. Please remember this was the 1980s and before the internet, but I digress….Bringing lawn furniture into the garage, checking the batteries in your flashlights and lanterns, taping or boarding up your windows and making sure you had enough water and non-perishable food was part of the summer ritual.
I didn’t ever consider that those skills might come in handy up here in the Last Frontier. They did. Last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we had an Alaskan windstorm. Overnight winds were tropical storm and hurricane strength. My understanding is these storms can be common in the fall here, but this storm came early in the season and was particularly bad. Downtown had winds in the 40 mph range, though looking at some of the pictures in the paper of storm damage I think it could have been higher. As you moved up what’s called the Hillside (closer to and up into the Chugach mountains) the winds were stronger. We live mid-Hillside and we had winds in the 60-70 mph range. Even higher up winds were over 100 mph. So in other words, we had a hurricane minus the flooding and storm surge.
I really didn’t sleep well that night; the wind was so loud and I was concerned with what I was going to find the next morning. We were lucky. We kept our power, though we did have many power surges. We had no major damage and only one small tree at the back of the property was down. Our neighbors weren’t so lucky. One of them had three large trees down. Others had at least one tree down. School was cancelled all over town on Wednesday due to power outages and trees down over the roads. Many homes didn’t get power back until this weekend.
Lessons learned: put away all lawn furniture, make sure you have enough water and non-perishable food, check the batteries in your lanterns and flashlights, consider purchasing a generator. I think some of my hurricane preparedness training will come in handy.
Tree down in the neighborhood
It’s been quite awhile since my last post. It was never my intent to go so long without posting. Life, specifically, summer seemed to get in the way. We had our family vacation in June. The girls had a couple of nature camps they attended in July. Then family came in town at the end of July and the beginning of August. We camped, we fished, we rafted and then what do you know? It was time for the kids to go back to school.
This summer has been really long. No, really. The school year here is about two weeks shorter than our school year back in Texas. By the middle of July, the kids had already been out of school for two months and I was on the edge of insanity thinking what am I going to do with them for another month?! Luckily, grandparents came to town just in the nick of time! It hasn’t helped that this summer has been rather rainy and cold. There were several times when I really had to bite my tongue when people would ask how I was enjoying my summer. “Summer, what summer? It’s 62 degrees and raining all the time. That’s not summer!!” I will admit I couldn’t always keep my disappointment in check. I mean, isn’t that supposed to be part of the beauty of Alaska? Its summer. I found myself disappointed and craving warmth. In all fairness, the 8 -12 pretty days we had were absolutely fabulous. I just wish there had been more of them.
Then from the other perspective, the summer flew by. Don’t you hate how that happens? There were so many things I planned to do and somehow they just never happened. I wanted to hike more. There were projects in the house I wanted to get to and never seemed to. I finally made the girls sit and write their thank you notes for their birthday presents (Their birthdays were in May and June. I know, I know. All the good, Southern girls out there are shaking their heads at me. I went way past the 2 week timeline to meet proper etiquette.)
And now September is here. Leaves on the trees in our yard have started turning from green to yellow. The last several days have been very windy and are blowing those yellow leaves off the trees. I’m having the kids try on their heavy coats and snow pants and see who needs new things. I need to get Jack new snow boots. I’ve googled Halloween costumes. The other night as I was walking the dogs, I looked up at the sky and wondered what the light was shining through the trees. It was the moon. The days have finally gotten shorter. Night has returned. And so it seems we’re heading into fall.
The girls playing in the front yard
Jack playing in the front yard