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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere!

My apologies for not having posted anything in a while. I had a bad sinus infection while recovering from my heart procedure, then threw a baby shower, then got my plants growing at school for my "big" experiment, then my parents came up for the week before Christmas to install windows (Dave took the week off for that, too), then the craziness of the holiday. And now Eddie and I are up in Gualala for the week while Dave works. We will head to Livermore for New Year's Eve before finally resuming my normal life of daycare, work, etc.

The internet here at my in laws' house is nearly dial-up-slow so using the computer after Eddie is asleep is not appealing.

It started raining today but before it got intense, Eddie and I played in the puddles on the runway. He got soaked...mostly because he fell down a lot and because he's so short that even non-puddles cover his boots. I had his jeans rolled way up high so they wouldn't wick water up his legs, but I should have just dressed him in shorts. But those have been packed away in a vacuum bag in his closet for months...just waiting for the next kiddo to come along and wear them (probably Dyani's babe).

I didn't realize it'd be raining so heavily or for so many days when we decided to come up for the week. Eddie's daycare is closed this week and I wanted to "do" something instead of just hang around in Davis. Plus seeing my in laws is always fun.

Since Gualala is barely a dot on the map, there aren't a lot of indoor, rainy day things to do up here with a kid of Eddie's size (and energy level). His attention span and interest aren't developed enough for coloring, decorating cookies, building forts with tables and chairs, playing with playdough, and all the other obvious ideas. So we spent as much time outside as our rain gear would allow, then played with Grammy's pots/pans, made towers to knock over with her canned goods, threw balls for the dogs, ate lots of snacks (Peggy has yummy stuff we don't usually have at home like fishie crackers and cheddar popcorn), and visited Dave and his dad at the water company office. Eddie had fun seeing them and Taters (Dave took him to work that day) and running around like a banshee in the conference room. Swivel chairs, panels of light switches, rotary phones, and a metal desk with drawers that make a tremendous BANG sound when slammed shut over and over and over...

The rain really started coming down around noon. After Eddie's nice, long two hour nap the sky opened up and the wind started blowing it sideways. We stopped by the market to buy a few things for Peggy and all the shopping carts were really wet. I decided not to use one because Eddie's butt would have been soaked. So I carted my 23 pound wriggle worm around on my hip...and somehow managed to buy a large tub of yogurt, a half gallon of ice cream, a can of olives, and a pound of bananas (I brought my own bags so I just loaded them up as I shopped). The lines were super long since everyone was stocking up because of the storm and Eddie was NOT cooperating in line. Luckily the Christmas lights strung above the registers kept him entertained so we made it without incident. But next time, he'll just have to sit in a wet cart. (The next day, Peggy's masseuse was at the house and said to me as I walked by, "Julie, you're holding some tension in your upper back, between your shoulder blades." Ya think?)

About five minutes after Dave put Eddie to bed that night we poured ourselves a glass of wine. The phone started ringing off the hook with automated water alarms. And then actual customers started calling the house, too, complaining about not having water. So Dave suited up into a rain slick and muck boots so he and John could go out to find and fix the problem (it sounded like a whole neighborhood was out of water). John left the house in a jean jacket and leather lace-up work boots...he grumbled that he'd be miserable out in the storm anyway so changing his clothes to rainproof stuff wasn't necessary.

Someone finally called and said there was a downed tree near the pumping station. Every five minutes or so the phone rings and Peggy runs down the hall to her room with her Steno pad to jot down notes from whoever is calling her. The more information she can relay to John when he calls on his cell, the better (assuming, of course, that he can get reception...up in the woods here it is very hit-or-miss). Dave left his work truck at the house so at least we had his radio to relay information.

It turns out they found the problem immediately: a mudslide completely wiped out a pumping station north of Anchor Bay. Dave said parts of the building, its electrical panels, and the pump inside were about 60 feet from where they were supposed to be. There was a tree down the middle of the roof, too. The tank at that station had drained down to only about three feet. They turned the appropriate valves on/off to reroute water from another location so folks did have water that same night. But they were put on a boil order (for drinking and cooking), just to be safe, until they could get the water tested.

The company manager, Jana, had to call every single person in that neighborhood to tell them about the boil order. This is the way it works for a small town utility company: real 24 hour customer service because everyone has your home phone number and rapid response, no matter the conditions. And people complain when they request a minor rate hike to cover mandated system upgrades and repairs!

The power went out around 2:30am and the storm kept at it. All night long the phones rang with alarms. There are a handful of folks in the company who receive these alarm calls. Once someone acknowledges the call by picking it up, it doesn't keep ringing at the other houses. At 6am, Jana was knocking on the front door yelling, "Anyone awake???" Our room has a window onto the porch so Dave rolled over and talked to her through the window. She said we weren't getting all the calls...there was no power at the main station. So Dave pulled on some clothes, got his dad, I made them a quick breakfast in the dark (thank goodness for gas stoves!), and off they went. Knowing people would be waking up soon without water, they were sure to hurry so they could get the generators up and running. Next time when you complain about a power, water, or gas outage consider that folks probably ARE working as fast as they can.

Our power came on just as the guys were leaving, apparently three oak trees fell onto the line just down the street from my in laws' house. We had coffee already ground and Coleman lanterns in the kitchen, just in case it went out again. Lucky for us our day continued on as normal (making 7 quarts of spiced caramel apples and playing on the heavy equipment in the shop)...Dave and John, however, had to spend a lot of time outside surveying the damage and then coordinating with the county, other utilities, and contractors to get the building rebuilt. My day was definitely better than his. =)

That storm dumped 4.55" of water in only 36 hours...that is a crazy amount of water, no wonder there was a mudslide!


steph.kelley said...

What a great story! Sorry it was such a rough coupla days for the boys, but it is a thrilling tale. Thank goodness for metal desks with loud drawers for entertainment... :D xoxo

Kait said...

oh gosh. sooooooooo glad i didnt live through that. good thing your man and father-in-law are such hard workers!

Kelly said...

Crazy! Is there some way you can post that story in a town newsletter so that the people in Gualala can appreciate all the hard work Dave and his dad did? Then they might not complain about the rate hikes :D

The Bowers! said...

The facts of the water issue ran in the local paper called the Independent Coast Observer--just the stuff that affected water customers, not the behind-the-scenes details about who did what to correct the problem. My point here was to make EVERYONE aware of how hard utility folks work, no matter where it is. Whether in Davis, NY, or Gualala, people will ALWAYS complain about rate hikes! People always seem to want the same or better service for the same or less cost. But it doesn't work that way!