Back in 2012, one of my successfully achieved goals was to build Emergency Preparedness kits for my home, work, and car. The problem is that I never really get to test myself in emergency situations. In fact, I walk around waiting for them to happen in hopes that I’ll be able to put myself to the test.
Yesterday, I got to have a little taste of survival in a very urban-yuppie kind of way (is urban-yuppie an oxymoron?). Portland doesn’t get much snow. We can handle rain, flooding, and even a week long heat spike, but snow is not our forte. While many of us enjoy mountain sports, sadly much of the city is not well-versed in snow driving or equipped to handle an icy commute.
In addition, my school district is NOTORIOUS for not calling a snow day correctly. Earlier this month, they made us go in on a day with freezing rain, and then later gave us a snow day when it was 50 degrees and sunny. Of course we were all teaching when the highly publicized snowstorm rolled in at lunchtime yesterday. Yes, they did call an early release, BUT WE CAN’T LEAVE TILL THE CHILDREN ARE ALL PICKED UP (to those four parents that made me stay till 3:00, I prefer a grande cinnamon dolce latte with half the syrup, please). I have a Pathfinder with 4WD so I’m never worried about my own driving, just all those Southern California transplants that might plow into me.
Traffic was snarled all over town and Google Maps announced that my commute home would be 3.5 hours. No thanks! My friend, Amanda, lives right down the street from my school so I parked myself on her couch to wait it out. Everyone was texting me heinous stories of being stuck on the freeway, and I was enjoying a frosty beer. Once Google alerted me that my commute was down to 32 minutes, I was on my way. Or so I thought.
Once downtown, things deteriorated. I live in the “West Hills” area (hills being the operative term) and of course there are only three routes over the hills to the westside. They were all closed and I was stuck in traffic with nowhere to go as the sun was going down. Cars were strewn everywhere; flashing lights saying “Road Closed” kept diverting me. I quickly decided to park my car next to Pottery Barn (a sure sign of safety) and book a hotel via the Expedia app on my phone.
Then came the fun part.
Snow was already several inches deep and coming down hard, so I threw on my snowboarding pants, jacket, and snow boots. I always keep my snowboarding backpack stocked (in addition to the emergency kit) with some basics: gloves, goggles, hand warmers, hat, socks, cash, etc. I then strapped my workbag to it and trekked a couple miles down to the hotel.
It was like those apocalyptic movies. People were running EVERYWHERE. Cars were going the wrong way down major streets. Police and fire sirens were screaming in every direction. Even Taco Bell was closed. Yes, the word “apocalyptic” is totally valid when snow hits our city. Once I at the hotel, I took stock of what I still needed and went another half mile down to Target (as I was still without a toothbrush and a Snickers bar).
I was feeling pretty confident as I stepped off the elevator; then the power went off. You know those green EXIT signs? Yeah, they went off, too. I fumbled my way around and used my phone’s flashlight for several minutes until it came back on…but I admit it was unnerving. Then the front desk informed me that the heat was out.
Back in my room, I prepared for a Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Carrie Bradshaw kind of night. I wrapped myself in two down comforters, ordered a cheeseburger, and watched some Project Runway.
I woke up early in the morning and trekked back to my car. The entire town was dead and I made it home in about ten minutes.
So what? What’s important to learn about this? (<—- that’s one for my SIM friends)
First off, I played things safe. To me, it is NOT worth risking my safety or others to get home. It will still be there in the morning.
Second, while it was stressful to not go home as planned, it felt great to be so prepared when everyone else was clearly not. As I was walking down Burnside and the winds were hitting 50-60 mph, one guy pointed at me and yelled to his friends, “Now that’s smart! She’s ready for anything!” and I waved in approval.
Here’s a list of all the items I had with me, easily stored in my Burton backpack:
money, 3 pairs of gloves (heavy, fingerless, & lightweight), goggles, running shoes, socks, padlock, hand warmers, cough drops, ibuprofen, hat, earmuffs, bottled water, protein bars, deodorant, and a phone charger. I did leave some of the more “serious” items in the car (like an emergency blanket, etc) because I knew I wouldn’t need them at the hotel.
We don’t have many disasters here in Portland (which is just one of many reasons it’s ranked one of the best places to live in the world) but when we do, I find most people I know are terribly unprepared. Don’t be that person.