Normally, I might be writing about Halloween spookiness, but I think the Valley has been through enough SCARES. As I write, smoke fills the air and people are wearing masks to protect their lungs. Friends lost their homes, some clients were close and had to evacuate, but as of now, haven’t lost their homes.
I thought I might share some of the things Nani and I learned as we went through this experience. I wish I could say we followed the Harvest Financial process, but I never imagined going through this. You better believe we will be better prepared for the future.
It all started Sunday evening. We were watching a bit of TV and scrolling through Facebook when we saw a video from a tearful neighbor. She was talking about having to pack up as she was being evacuated. HUH?! We were now on high alert trying to figure out what’s next. As we gathered news, it seemed like the fire was far enough away. We talked about what would be important to gather but all in all, we went off to bed on a windy night. Windy was an understatement. Taylor woke us up to point out the flames above the ridge about quarter mile from our house. HMMMM! We tried to go back to sleep after realizing our power went out.
Let me stop there for a moment. Our previous experience with power outages had been a few hours of ‘romantic’ candlelight. This outage lasted from roughly 1am Monday through Tuesday afternoon, long enough to make the food in the fridge questionable. Phone service on Monday and Tuesday was spotty at best. Land lines were down, and cell service was disappearing due to an overload of calls and cell towers lost in the fires. Were it not for the fires, we were ready to resort to smoke signals. The office had power, and we invited a number of people to come in and use our resources to get a hold of family. Needless to say, we all were excited when power returned Tuesday afternoon. Maybe add a generator to your Christmas list!
Next, the weather. I regularly get questions about the direction of the stock market. The other less predictable phenomenon is weather. We all kept vigilant watch to see what the wind speed and direction was. As the week progressed, we honestly didn’t know which wind direction to pray for. One direction would blow the fire into our Valley and the opposite would affect neighboring Valleys. We prayed for the fire to stay along the ridge and away from homes.
Monday night was pretty questionable as our neighborhood was under an ADVISORY Evacuation warning, meaning be packed and ready to evacuate. We packed ourselves; we helped neighbors. The common question was, what do you pack? Some who lost their homes barely escaped with their lives – NO time to pack; some had an hour and some longer. What to pack? Photo albums, important papers (one friend went back for his passport), family heirlooms, clothes, water, food, cell phone chargers, lists of passcodes. This is not an exhaustive list, but just a peek into our thought process. As there was more time, we could pack more stuff. As the warnings were lifted, we began to put some stuff away, but other things we DIDN’T. By this I mean, some things are staying in easy-to-grab boxes, clustered together, so we can go to ONE place.
Do you have a list of what you need to take? Can you quickly gather those things into the car? Do you have a video or inventory of what you leave behind? I found myself wandering the house, cell phone in hand and videoing, narrating what I saw on each wall, in each room so that if we lost our home we would better remember what was there. Another side of the coin was the realization of what was not important. As the car filled, we began to prioritize what would go and what would stay. There’s a lot of stuff that matters not a bean.
If you are packed and ready, the next question is where are you going? One friend was relocated three times before going farther into the Bay Area. Our plan was for Nani to drive to the office and wait there. Taylor and I would try to wet things down in the yard and then join her. The office?? I knew there was power and communications and if for just one night, the floor was bearable. If it looked like longer, we had to consider other spots. Roads to the West (one set of relatives) were questionable as Sonoma County had its’ fair share of disaster. We could head south to Christina’s. Bottom line: Create a plan of where to go.
The wind calmed and more firefighters arrived. From 50 trucks to over 500 by Thursday and from as far away as Australia. Local government created constant communication. We have Nixle here. You can text an area code to 888-777 and receive regular updates about the disasters in that area code. Facebook was a great sources of news, unfortunately not all was correct. We learned to check reports’ accuracy BEFORE reacting.
In 61 years of life, I have never experienced anything like this and hope to avoid it in the next 61. Reality check: This is California – earthquakes, floods and now fires are reasons for disaster preparedness. This is not meant to be a complete list of things to do, but hopefully it spurs you into action to be prepared. Have a to-go bag at the ready. Gather your personal treasures and important paperwork. Know where you can go. Have a household inventory. Follow true reports. When you are safe, help those who are still in need.
Learning never seems to stop.
Have a happy Halloween!