Friday, May 16, 2008
Austin's East Coast Blackout of '03
That's what the May 15 storm is for me. It's Austin's version of my NYC blackout experience. I moved to New York in June of 03. Just a couple of months later was the huge east coast blackout that sent all of New York City into darkness. We all walked home, down avenues, over bridges, crossing streets at our own peril (alas, what is there to stop the traffic?), clinging onto overcrowded buses, queuing at Mister Softee trucks. It was a truly interesting experience, especially for someone as new to the city as I was.
The best part about it, though, was that as time passed and I had come to be in New York for a while, when friends would gather and play that game, "Where were you when...?" Well, I had an answer for the blackout. And it made me seem as if I'd lived there a long time. I remember the first time this conversation came up and a friend hadn't been in New York when it happened. I'd always felt like we'd lived there an equal amount of time. But in this case, the one year difference made all the difference.
Well, that's what the storm of May 15 will be for me in Austin. Sometime down the road we'll all be sitting around and the event will come up. And I'll seem like I've lived here longer because I'll have a story, even though when it happened, I'd only been living here just over two months.
What is the story? Well, I was lying in bed reading, and I could see all the lightning flickering in the difference. It had been a crazy spring, so a storm moving in was no big thing. But for some reason I went and grabbed my camera to try and see if I could video some of the lightning. I attempted that for a few minutes, and then I saw the green lightning. I went back inside and a few minutes later, all holy hell let loose. Wind, hail.. more wind and hail. The power went out. I crouched in the bathroom doorway, away from the windows and ready to slam the door shut should it be necessary. I screamed for my cat, who had stashed under the bed, but I could barely even hear myself over the roar. I made wussy scaredy-cat noises.
When it was over, all that had happened was this window had blown out. There was rain and hail and shattered glass all over my living room. And my neighborhood was littered with felled branches and trees (some on top of houses). The chimney on the roof of our building had been blown flat onto its side. Paint on siding had been literally blasted off. And my tomato plant had snapped in half.
BUT. I had a story.