Editor's Column: Welcome to Whidbey Island, Dr. King Day Storm

Our congratulations to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who must be smiling up there in heaven, knowing he finally has a storm named after him on Whidbey Island.

Monday morning’s storm wasn’t one for the record books, but it downed branches and trees throughout the rural areas of the island, and knocked over garbage cans in Oak Harbor. Loose hubcaps were flopping down the street and old Garry oak trees were once again proving their resiliency and the marina surrendered a roof to the wind. Best of all, it happened on a holiday.

Islanders can remember the Inauguration Day storm of Bill Clinton, various Valentine’s Day storms, the infamous New Year’s Eve storm of 2000, Christmas and Thanksgiving storms, and the granddaddy of them all, the Columbus Day storm of 1962. Every holiday has had its storm, except for the relatively new Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Now that it’s happened, we can call it the Dr. King Day Storm, for short. Holiday storms are particularly memorable because they mess up planned routines of relaxation. When the lights went out in the wee hours Monday morning, neighborhoods throughout the island were awakened by the sounds of men foraging around in their garages and basements, looking for their generators. There’s a race going on, at least in the minds of men, regarding who can be the first to successfully start generating his own power. There’s no particular need for electricity at 3 a.m., but it’s a matter of principle for these guys. They paid of lot of money for that generator, and dadgum it, they’re going to use it. The gas is poured, engines are cranked, and soon plumes of smoke are enveloping neighborhoods that, for a few precious minutes, were quiet, except for the sounds of the wind and cracking branches.

With electricity once again coursing through the wiring, the thoroughly modern island males go back inside and get to work. Turn on the TV, computer and coffee maker, check the refrigerator and other appliances to see that they’re working, and sit down to enjoy a rerun or Bill O’Reilly or Anderson Cooper reporting on some disaster elsewhere.

With the sounds of nature muffled by the engines generating power, others in the neighborhood awaken, cursing the modern machines that have taken away the blessed silence that power outages used to bring. A day or two without TV was nice, and it was fun to stoke the wood stove or light the kerosene heater, everyone huddled around it for warmth. Many still do this, but it’s not the same with the sound of the neighbor’s generator humming away and Bill O’Reilly’s voice wafting through the window, which was opened to keep the fumes from putting us to sleep permanently.

Even at 7:40 a.m., those who listen to scanners could hear calls for help throughout the island, as more downed trees and power lines were reported. By then, those who prefer the sound of nature could get outside and walk away from the generators, for a few minutes of life without the noise made possible by electricity. It was a nice gift from Martin Luther King, Jr. We’ll remember his storm for a while.

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