Monday, January 06, 2003

Not in Kansas any more

I have two stories to tell. The first is the story I sat down about 90 minutes ago to write. The second is the story that describes the events that have occured since then.

Let's start with the first story. I love the Santa Anas. For those of you who don't live in Southern California, we basically have no weather. Every day is sunny with partial smog. But once a year in January, we get hit with some magnificent winds from the Santa Ana mountains. I love watching the winds blow leaves off of palm trees. I love hearing the whistling of the winds through tiny window gaps. I love the smell of the fresh air that is so rare in California. I went down to the outdoor recreation level of my building, which is still 9 stories up, and just stood on the deck overlooking the city and feeling the wind race over me. It was wonderful.

I went back to my condo to watch TV. It's too noisy to leave the sliding patio door open, but I wanted to let as much fresh air in as possible so I just opened the kitchen window. I sat on the couch watching Alias, smelling the fresh air coming into my home. Life is good.

Now for story number two.

Oh dear God do I hate the Santa Anas. My satellite dish isn't very secure, but it stayed stable up to shortly after 10:00 before the winds started shaking it enough that I was losing signal. I had already seen all the shows I needed to watch for the night, so I went over to the computer. Since I didn't have to worry about hearing the TV any more, I opened up the sliding door to the balcony and started surfing, enjoying breathing in the fresh clean air.

This is a good time to stop for a quick lesson in aerodynamics and weather. Winds are basically caused by changes in air pressure, as air moves from areas of high pressure, to low pressure. Even though your home is not airtight, during a windstorm the air pressure outside is less than that inside. So if you open a single window, the winds can't blow too far into your home. There is no place for the air already in your house to go, so the pressure keeps the weather neatly outside.

A funny thing happens if you open up a second window, such as an 8 foot sliding glass door 16 stories up. Because now, the air in your home DOES have a place to escape if a gust a wind were to come by. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I do remember that one minute I was checking the yeast status at and the next minute I had an F4 tornado tearing through my living room.

The stack of 30-40 sheets of blank paper sitting next to my printer? They turned into my own personal ticker-tape parade. The outside floor mats on the balcony became indoor floor mats, and they brought one of their previously "outdoor" flower pots with them. The strange thing is that the plant itself stayed outside, but the pot came in. I then heard a huge crash from the kitchen. It seems that I thought it was a good idea to store an extra 36" fluorecent light bulb on top of my kitchen cabinets. Do you have any idea how many pieces of glass you get when one of those bulbs smashes on to your (brand new) hardwood floor? And then do you know how far an indoor F4 tornado will carry those pieces?

I'd say I had the door closed within 10-15 seconds, but spent the next hour-and-a-half cleaning up. I wanted to sweep the kitchen floor, but as soon as I moved the broom I heard SCCRREEEEEECCCCHHH as hundreds of shards of glass scraped against the wood. The floor is 2 weeks old, I'm not ready to do that to it yet. So everything has to be done slowly and gently.

The good news is that I saw 2 explosions as power lines went down and I watched parts of the city go dark, but I never lost electricity. Suckers.

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