I’M HUNKERED DOWN THIS OCTOBER SUNDAY in Wee Nooke, my tongue-in-cheekily named writing hut on the rocky knoll behind my cabin, and the cyclone has arrived.
A far edge of the cyclone, anyway.
I feel pretty safe and, with an under-the-desk electric radiator roasting my feet, cozy. My 6-by-6-foot cedar shack sits in a mossy clearing, clear of falling branches. But as I look out my windows the trees are definitely dancing, as Barbara always described it.
The media is full of headlines about this Bomb Cyclone, a term that evolved from “bombogenesis,” which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls “a phenomenon that occurs when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours.” Headlines in some of the more sensationalist media are greatly overstating the severity, especially the American version of Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid, The Sun, which shouts “Seattle to be hit by BRUTAL (sic) subzero weather storm that will ‘rival a hurricane’.”
Yeah, right. Local news media say Seattle will experience relatively mild storm conditions. The idea that temperatures will be “subzero” is some bored headline writer’s fantasy. (It is the season for magic mushrooms in the woods.) Last I looked, the National Weather Service reported that Seattle’s temperature was 57 degrees F.
Tracking winds and weather is an obsession among us Center Islanders. No big surprise there, considering how reliant we are on boats or planes to get us anywhere but here. I love my classic 1957 runabout, but WeLike isn’t a rough-weather boat. I don’t leave the dock if there are whitecaps, which generally occur with winds of 13 mph or greater. (For the nautically obsessed, that’s Force 4 on the Beaufort Scale, on which Force 12 is called a hurricane.) In high winds and roiling currents, WeLike can rock and roll to rival Mick Jagger.
So how do we get our wind predictions? Practically everyone I know uses a smartphone app called Windy.
As a card-carrying Luddite (well, we would make cards if an electronic printer wasn’t required), I’ve rebelled against “apps” since the first techie child decided it was too much trouble to use the full word “application.” But with Windy, I’ve totally caved. In fact, I shell out $20 a year to get the upgraded hourly forecast rather than the free summary that is limited to measly three-hour periods. The localized forecasts’ accuracy is impressive.
Today, the Windy map shows a huge, scary spiral of counterclockwise winds off the Washington coast, centered 280 miles offshore and whirling toward British Columbia. Much of it is bypassing Seattle, but the San Juan Islands are picking up more of the storm’s fringes. As I write, we have steady winds of 25 to 30 mph out of the southeast, drawn by the offshore maelstrom.
The good news for Nuthatchers, me and Galley, is that we’re on the west-southwest quadrant of Center Island, so we’re not getting the brunt of those southeast winds.
And, frankly, winds of this magnitude are no big deal for us, in most respects. We’ll get this kind of windstorm four times in January. What sets this apart is that it’s only October. We should still be enjoying some sunny fall days.
The sobering factor to Windy’s forecast for the next 24 hours: Starting at 9 p.m. and continuing through the 6 p.m. hour tomorrow, my island is supposed to get nonstop winds exceeding 30 mph. Gusts will near 50. That’s a war of attrition on our tall trees. I won’t be surprised if some come down.
A saving grace: We’re getting little rain with the storm, whereas the outer coast expects dumping rain and flooding. And this early in the season, after a summer drought, our ground isn’t yet softened by saturation.
I’m as ready as can be. WeLike is out of the water, on a trailer, in as safe a spot as possible. I chopped a lot of firewood and kindling these past few days, so heat won’t be a worry (even if those subzero temperatures arrive). If power goes out for long, I have a generator, which I fired up two days ago for a pre-winter check, so I can keep my fridge going. And I did a major shopping expedition this week to Costco, Fred Meyer and Trader Joe’s. The pantry overfloweth.
So, bring it on, if we must. Wish us luck against falling firs. On behalf of me and my app-loving neighbors (and I ask your forgiveness), I leave you with this earworm, of which I owned the 45-rpm vinyl back in the day: The Association’s 1967 mellow-rock hit, “Everyone knows its Windy.”