Leaving Portland

A lot has happened since my last post!

On Thursday I was home, working, because pandemic. Remember we are still in a pandemic? I was working in our office and around 9am or so it was starting to get a little smoky. I left the office, did some laundry in the basement, went to the third floor to put laundry away, came back down to the office and it was even worse. Decided to take my work laptop upstairs to our bedroom for my 90 minute work meeting.

After my meeting was over, I walked downstairs and our house was so smoky I could barely breathe.

The air quality is so bad in Portland you can’t really breathe, especially if you have issues like asthma. The green on the map is good. The maroon color is hazardous. If you see on the map, 478 and 491 is where my aunt’s farm was. Nearby is 999!!!! Off the charts bad. Portland, near us is in the 300 range.

So anyways, Thursday Michael came home early because our evacuation level was changing. We were at Level (be Ready) and then Level 2 was getting closer and closer to our house (like three blocks or so away, basically on the other side of a river).

Near us, Oregon City/Beavercreek/Estacada/Molalla/Woodburn were Level 3 and so was Lincoln City (at the beach) and they were all evacuating.

Michael and I started packing for real and packing the cars. We waited a bit and then he went to get Logan, gas in the car and dinner. All the fast food restaurants were closed! So we had dinner at home and talked about a plan. We decided that Logan and I and the cats would go to Seattle to my parents house and Michael and Bella would wait a bit and see how it goes and if need be, he’d pack some more stuff. Then he’d come up to Seattle.

My car was mostly packed. We left around 6pm or so. It took over an hour just to get out of Portland. I avoided 205 because it was a complete parking lot with everyone evacuating from down South. I drove the backroads towards downtown and then picked up I-5 North. It was 10-20 mph, lots of traffic. People were nice, though.

Traffic got better once I got past Vancouver.

Then traffic thinned out and we were driving a normal speed. It was clear sailing the rest of the way to Seattle–honestly, traffic was pretty good! Best I’ve had during that drive. LOL

It was dark, smoky, cloudy, a very long drive. Logan would not nap. He was bored. He asked “are we there yet?” Every five minutes. The cats were not happy and kept talking to each other. LOL FUN!

We got to Seattle at 10pm and got settled. It was nice to be somewhere we could breathe. The air was much better!

Friday we got up and had breakfast and I did a little work.

Seattle had some blue skies and fresh air. As the day progressed it got a little more smoky and gross, but nowhere near as bad as home.

And the good part is that the smoke wasn’t in my parents house. So we could hunker down and just chill. I was still getting updates and texts and notifications from home. Still stressful. No idea how long we’ll be in Seattle. It depends on the air quality at home. It looks like it might start raining Monday or Tuesday in Portland.

The World is Burning

This is such a weird post to write. I wasn’t going to write about any of this, but then things changed and shit got kinda real and sometimes this blog is therapeutic so…here goes.

In case you don’t live in the NW, the West Coast is on Fire. California is seemingly always on fire July-September. But in the last 5 or so years, it feels like Oregon is also on fire. There have been some really significant fires here in Oregon. The most notable was the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017.

It’s crazy (I wrote about it here) but Michael and I were out in the Gorge for a day hike without the kiddo when the Eagle Creek Fire happened. We had just missed it. If I remember correctly, we were on the Washington side of The Gorge. That fire devastated Oregon in so many ways. We are still feeling the effects 3 years later and there are many, many hiking trails in the Gorge that are still closed due to that fire.

Anyways, 2020 is just the gift that keeps on giving, man.

Monday (Labor Day) there were reports of “Historic Wind Storms” in Portland and as the winds started picking up in the late evening, I moved stuff inside the garage from the yard. Michael took the canopy down from the deck. I put away anything outside that could blow away. The whole night was the sounds of horrific winds. Our bedroom is upstairs and it sounded like the roof was going to fly off.

There was so much debris outside the next day. Branches, leaves, nothing super significant, thankfully. Lots of power outages all over Portland. The winds were strong all day and the sound of sirens and fire trucks was all I heard ALL DAY while I worked at home Tuesday.

So….Tuesday morning, very very early, I woke up after not sleeping much (because I was taking care of Stevie post-surgery all night and listening to the storm) and saw that my aunt and uncle had evacuated early in the morning due to fires. It was a shocking thing to see and then I saw some news articles and pictures and my breathe caught in my chest. It was absolutely horrifying. Like hellscape, the world is on fire, horrifying.

I spent the morning scouring Facebook updates from family and friends who were giving updates and relaying news. For hours the update was that everything was gone.

These are pictures of the area where my aunt and uncle live that I saw on the news. The picture below of that road? I’ve driven that road a million times.

I broke down when I saw those photos and read the updates about what was burned down–and potentially gone. Late in the afternoon we got news my aunt’s house and barn was ok. The rest of the area was burned. They aren’t out of the woods yet. It’s all so devastating. I just think about what people have lost, the farm animals they lost, the years it will take to recover.

(Picture from the news crew down in Stayton, OR–at NOON!!!!! No filter)

Tuesday night we started getting updates about the fires moving north. Closer to us. Our county was now in Level 1 for evacuation. Level 3 is GO NOW.

I packed bags just in case. I was 85% sure we were fine. But just in case……..I packed a backpack full of documents we’d need. Then a suitcase of photo albums. I got the cat carriers ready and if we got into Level 2 I was going to pack a bag of clothes, meds and last minute stuff just in case.

(Picture from Twitter)

It’s so weird to live your life and then think, “What is absolutely something I need to pack in case I lose EVERYTHING?”

Things I realized too late: too much “essential” stuff was scattered around the house (so not easy to grab in minutes), my car was almost empty of gas, so not ideal in an emergency. I found this on facebook and it’s good info:

Thankfully we were ok Tuesday night. I slept pretty well, despite everything. No updates. When I was taking Logan to school Wednesday morning, the sky was black and gray with thick smoke. I filled up my car with gas. I got more stuff in order.

These pictures were Wednesdays afternoon from my front porch:

I was getting messages from people who were evacuating, updates from family members who said that they were not out of the woods yet and round 2 of the fires was starting. I heard of friends that lost everything. Texts from coworkers checking in. Alerts from news. It was craziness.

And then I looked at our skies and the thick smoke and the maps of how close the fires were to us and it was pretty scary. The next few days are going to be very stressful and heartbreaking for a lot of people. It’s hard to even imagine and words just don’t do it justice. And let me just say this, climate change is real. If you’ve never lived through horrific wildfires, hurricanes, etc, I guess maybe it’s easy to doubt that. But…the crisis is here.