Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Four Snowmen of the Apocalypse

Friday began with my cell ringing, at freakin' 4:45 AM. I thought, I'm not the on call guy, but I got my tired butt up and went to see the call display and find out who would be calling at this ungodly hour. When a phone rings at those odd times it could be one of three things. It could be some drunkin' idiot thinking he's calling a cab or his girlfriend or some damn thing ( This has happened to me several times over the years) or it could be one of those call we hope we never have to answer, one from back home relaying bad family news. Or finally and it is most often , work. I go down the stairs to check the number as I had left my cell in my coat by accident, my voice mail rings. I check the voice mail in my groggy state, I listen to a familiar voice asking me to saddle up and give him a call back. I must have dosed off for a couple of minutes, but when I came to, about 5 minutes had passed. I called Dave as I was asked and he tells me the situation. I let him know I am on my way.

For three days we had been hearing weather casters of every stripe predicting the third major storm of the season. High winds, rain miserable stuff. Now why those folks in assignment and in the planning department, and I say this with respect, don't take heed of those "beware the ides of March" like predictions and make oh I don't know, perhaps a game plan is well beyond me. I guess it's more of a test when there is no plan.

So off I go into the darkness searching for the destruction I turned on my radio and scanners and just started taking notes. Oh my, I thought, this was a big one.

A few weeks earlier we were hit with another big wind and rain storm. At that time I was assigned to the area to the north side of the Burrard Inlet. The winds were very strong, but in a typical East Coaster's attitude I thought that these people in the west were really weather weenies as it was just a bit of rain and some wind. It wasn't until I got to our assignment area in West Vancouver, that I saw just how big this first storm would be. Trees down, power out, driving rain. Now that's more like it I thought, that's more like a good Bay of Fundy gale. I was with Mike K on that day. We hadn't worked that much together since our return from the Torino Games in February. It was wet and miserable. The winds were blowing down large numbers of trees over roads, into houses, downing power lines. This weather system was as good as I have seen so far in my time on the pacific coast.
There were a few scary moments during that day. One when, I was at the Eagle Ridge exit overpass. I had to cross the overpass on foot to get a shot of the traffic being turned around on the highway. As I crossed the overpass, a gust of wind made me into a rather awkward projectile for a couple of seconds. I'm a pretty hefty fellow, yet for an instant, I was defying everything about aerodynamics and became a "flying cameraman" minus the flying machine. I decided that the rest of the traverse would be made on my hands and knees. I got my shot and headed back. On the return leg I got clipped by a pine cone that nearly knocked me out. I suddenly became an instant admirer of those poor bastards with the power corp trying to restore power.
When I returned the the building later in the day. All the crews had similar war stories to tell. For me that storm was as good as any I had experienced back east.

The second major weather event came just a week later. This time I was on flight duty, so my contribution would be from a warm aircraft cabin. This one would involve SNOW. For those of you not from the northwest, SNOW is a four letter word, especially in Vancouver. In the past I have seen the entire lower mainland shut down with just an inch of the white stuff on the ground. It's partly because, there are allot of drivers that have virtually no experience with the snow and partly because the works people in the GVRD have sold all of the snow plows for some magic beans. All we have left to deal with the snow is a shovel and a bag of sand.
Well this storm, the forecast called for several inches, like 12 or something. Yes we were about to get a visit from the Four Snowmen of the Apocalypse.
Again, power out , schools closed, traffic at a stand still. Crews working very hard to bring the video and stories to air. The way they spoke of it on the all news radio stations, you would have thought we were indeed living in the end times. I am sure the folks in Toronto, whom we generally laugh at during the winter months, with the cold and snow, while out here we golf and tend our spring gardens, were laughing their asses off at us.
Don't get too smug Toronto, we didn't have to call in the army to shovel us out!!!!

That brings us to storm #3. The early morning call out and the destruction of this past Friday. I have never seen as many trees down, and I am not talking about the little weenie trees that can be found to the east of the Rockies. We're talking trees that are 150 feet high and several feet in diameter. There were no shortage of stories to tell. In my suburb, Coquitlam/Port Moody there were over 40 homes damaged. Some will or have been condemned. Imagine sleeping and suddenly you are awakened by the crashing sound of a western cedar tree cutting through your house. You couldn't travel more than a couple of blocks and not see some massive tree or other debris on the roadway or on top of a house. There were wide spread power outages. Some had just got their power back from the last storm and now it's out again. I personally was lucky. We did not loose power nor sustained any damage.

Yes it was a tough few weeks as far as covering weather stories is concerned, not as tough as a year ago in New Orleans, but tough none the less.

We got another one on the way later this week, I guess I better get some fresh lens wipes and a hair dryer.


Widescreen said...

Mate, if you have to crawl on hands and knees to get the shot, is it worth it?

At some point you have to stick you head up. Remember the boys in the trenches that did that! Maybe getting struck by a pine cone is lucky. The next projectile might be less kind.

Weather has to be reported but when everyone is battering down the hatches, we are out there shooting it.

Go figure. Stay safe.

Murman said...

Good point, I was already 2/3 of the way to the shot. The pine cone forced me to don a helmut.
It when you hear the cracking of a 150 foot western cedar tree coming down, that's what will scare the crap out of you.
It is a wonder that nobody was killed in these weather events, especially News Gathering Crews.

Thanks for the comment Wide, hope you and the family have a safe and wonderful Christmas.