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November 14, 2008

At Last, The Wind Dies Down

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a tiny ant standing in the direct blast of a hair dryer, I do believe the last 24 hours in Nederland would be a close approximation. Unrelenting, sustained gusts of 80 mph slammed our little mountain town beginning on late Wednesday afternoon and before the front finally conceded to the plains this morning, we had lost two lodgepole trees (one of which narrow missed our house) and gained all manner of detritus in our driveway.

I have spoken before of Nederland's winter winds, sinking air pressure rushing off the divide, raking our valley in a maddening rush. It is easy to forget, from June till November, the experience of bending low from the waist to walk (or simply just walking backwards), of grasping the car door to keep the hinges from breaking clean off, of donning ski goggles to walk Stella. Every Spring Jim and I talk of installing a bank of PVs to offset our electricity usage and forget that come late autumn, a wind turbine would not only be more efficient but more intuitive. I can't imagine the kW we could have generated over the last 24 hours.

It started Wednesday morning as a diffuse white front sitting immobile on the divide. The Arapahoe Peaks were still visible for most of the morning, the wall of white a solid backdrop behind them. About 2pm, the wind picked up, pushing the lodgepoles around, but not yet with enough force to make the house creak or sing. I started dinner early, a four hour beef stew, to the odd sound of shoreline. Waves of wind crashed against the house like breakers as I dissembled a five pound chuck. Nothing out of the ordinary. After putting the stew in the oven, Stella and I set out for West Magnolia to meet Dawn (and Fergus, the Argentinian Speed Racer, and Tess, a petite Border Collie) for a walk in the mostly tree cloistered National Forest. We were a bit chapped by the time we got back to the car and it was full darkness, but Stella was happy and I felt geared for stew.

Driving the three miles back home, however, the Egg whipped about on the road. The wind was picking up and my teeth began to ache, a sure sign of weather.

We slept fitfully Wednesday night, the house loudly popping and straining. The western side of the house pushed inward with a groan at each gust and the eastern side of the house cracked in a serious a short staccatto burts outward in the vacuum left behind. The electricity sputtered off and on and off and on, accompanied each time by the BEEP of the cordless phone. Every so often there would be a loud "CRACK" which would startle me out of a shallow sleep, but which appeared to be nothing more than a superficial protest.

We woke up yesterday morning to a mad world of lodgepole pines whipping about in crazy, random motion and dirt flying horizontally down our road. Even though sunshine poured above the house, the peaks were now gone, obscured by the white front. The house was now in constant, vocal defense, creaking and popping with each wave of wind. We looked out the back door to find a lodgepole had snapped and come down just a few feet from the house and a smaller, superficial pine had snapped deeper in the stand. When Jim walked Stella, he discovered across the road a very large and well established lodgepole downed, the remaining stump split violently. We've been in this house nearly four years now and this is the first year we're seeing lodgepoles fall with such regularity. This is also the first summer we saw the first inkling of widespread beetle kill. I don't think this is a coincidence.

Jim and I hunkered down in the house yesterday as the world about continued its kinetic madness. We drank copious amount of caffeine and threw a tennis ball for Stella down the hall in an effort to give her a little bit of interior exercise. My teeth throbbed in time with the wind. Every so often we would look out the window to watch the front's slow progression over the divide, marking the miles slowly till it would overtake Nederland and our house. Finally, at about 7, we heard the tap tap tap of tiny frozen snow balls on our roof. The clouds had finally reached us.

Last night was less violent and by the time I woke up this morning, the world was once again still. Stella and I walked down to the end of the road to survey the damage and find what the front had left for us in the yard. We discovered a heavy, steel tipped snow shovel (score!) and some crushed plastic 2 liter bottles. Last year winter weather delivered to our house a crumpled twenty dollar bill and a brand new flash thumb drive, still in its plastic, clam shell packaging. I am waiting to discover a brand new Prius blown wayward into our yard. It could happen.

Even though it is quiet today, I know this week's wind is just the beginning of winter and that I should relish the relief today. It really is, after all, more of the exception than the rule.

Posted by bethamsel at November 14, 2008 10:46 AM

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