A year ago today, a snowstorm buffeted Seattle. Schools closed, work felt a little laxer, and the city, blanketed in a thin layer of snow, shut down in a way that felt novel just a few months before we'd face real shutdowns.
The current remote, yet hyperconnected reality of the ongoing pandemic has made it so we can access work and school everywhere at all times. The Zoom Era is impervious to snow. It's not impervious to wind, though.
Last night, 70 mph gusts of wind swept through Western Washington, uprooting trees, knocking over semi-trucks, and cutting power for 72,000 Seattle City Light customers. After working through the night and morning, utility crews say at least 41,000 people still don't have power in the city. That meant online school was canceled, and for some, work simply had to wait.
According to Tim Robinson, a spokesperson for SPS, around 30% of staff and families in the district experienced power outages this morning. SPS canceled "live remote instruction," but encouraged families to make their students "focus on independent assignments." The district won't need to make up a lost day of school because, technically, kids are still supposed to be working.
Summer Stinson, an education advocate and parent to an SPS middle schooler, said her kid was playing video games.
Power outages are scattered throughout the city. Laura Loe, a housing advocate who runs Share the Cities, said her North Queen Anne building still had power, but her across-the-street neighbors were experiencing a blackout and hanging out outside in the sun with their dogs:
Crosscut reporter David Kroman's Kitsap County home has bad cell service to begin with. When his power cut out from the storm, Kroman scrambled to find a place to log on or at least make a call. Without coffee shops or literally any other public place with wifi, Kroman's only option was his in-law's house up the road from him. He took up shop in their garage with a space heater, Kroman told me.
"If it helps for color," Kroman said, using journalism speak, "my hands are cold enough that it's legit hard to type." After a back and forth where I said I hoped his hands thawed a little, Kroman said he might just take a sick day since "this feels dumb."
Even District 2 City Councilmember Tammy Morales is in the dark:
Power still out in my neck of the woods. Shifting zoom to phone calls. And making dinner early since we may have a dark house by 4:30.— Tammy J. Morales (@CMTammyMorales) January 13, 2021
We'll probably never have a real snow day again now that the world knows remote work and remote school function perfectly fine. But even for those of us who have power, today feels like a little break or a pause, a flaw in a system that's kept us online and on-call during catastrophes and insurrection attempts. Maybe I'm just saying that because it's sunny for the first time in forever. Partly cloudy skies should stick around through Friday. The power will probably be back on later today.
I'd like to leave you on that note, but here's some information from the city about keeping safe in the post-storm, spotty electricity world:
Following last night’s windstorm, we encourage all visitors to use caution in our outdoor spaces and please stay out from under trees and avoid forested park areas. To report a downed tree or maintenance issue, contact 206-684-7250.
Please stay indoors during high winds.
— Seattle Parks (@SeattleParks) January 13, 2021
With many out of power due to last night's wind storm, please remember these tips for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. More info here: https://t.co/X28HsfaiyI pic.twitter.com/niBcSmTdZs
— Seattle Fire Dept. (@SeattleFire) January 13, 2021