Thursday, February 5, 2009

Surviving the Storm

A few days ago, this part of France was battered by an intense storm.

Friday started out like most other days recently, fairly cold with a frost on the ground and a light fog hanging in the air.  As the day progressed, a light wind blew the fog away but by the end of the day the wind was blowing fairly steadily.

tractor_portOvernight, the wind continued to increase in strength until, at one point, they were recorded as being in excess of 180 kph and we were in the midst of a hurricane.  The area around Kitchen Garden In France was one of the worst hit areas in the region, with the storm lashing the country from here, south, into Northern Spain.

We awoke several times in the night to a howling wind, rattling windows and shutters and even the ominous noise of roof tiles lifting slightly before dropping back down.   Eventually morning broke and we discovered the house no longer had any electricity, although, fortunately, it still had an intact roof!

Saturday is market day at Villereal, so we were soon on our way, travelling the few kilometres across benchcountry and starting to realise the extent of the storm that had hit.  ?Fields and whole paddocks were flooded, tree trunks were snapped in half with the trees carelessly thrown into the road, and everywhere, debris demonstrated the force of the storm that had just passed.

Villereal was eerily quiet for a Saturday morning, and we soon discovered the reason.  The traditional morning market had been cancelled.  The car parks, normally packed with cars were lying empty.  The "centre ville" normally closed to all traffic for the market was still open.   The cafes and bars, normally full of bustling marketgoers were all but empty.

We took coffee at our usual bar where the proprietor was delighted to see us.  After breakfast, coffee and a gazebocouple of viennoiseries, we returned to our car, taking the alternate route home but finding just as much devastation.  A small forest was flooded and about half the trees had been toppled, the oots having been loosened by the floodwater.  It was strange the way it seemed to be every other tree which had toppled.

We got home to discover that we were still without power.   A clock showed the that we had lost power about 5 am and as it was now nearly 1pm that was 8 hours previously, a long time for a power outage in this area.

pool_houseThe storm was still blowing hard and we spent the afternoon making up our log fire to keep warm.

We have a couple of kerosene heaters, along with our large wood burning chimney, so keeping warm wasn't going to be much of a problem.  Dusk fell and we lit the house with candles, before enjoying a lovely meal.

Happily, our cooker is "dual fuel", which means the oven, grill and one burner are electric and the other three burners are gas.

Sunday morning came and the house was distinctly cold. There was still no electricity and overnight temperatures had dipped low.

However the wind had died down so we took the opportunity to go out into our own garden and check what damage had been suffered.   My first concern was the fabric of the house but I quickly established that everything was still sound.  I have a couple of old chimney stacks but they were still standing and there was no damage to the roof.    One of our neighbours was less fortunate and lost part of his roof and another had two large trees blown over.

The phones and the power remained out for most of the following week, finally being reinstated on Friday.

I was pleased that we had a cooker which ran on bottled gas, or at least, three burners, which allowed us to prepare hot meals.   It was interesting though, trying to prepare a meal. using only hot plates and candle light.

I enjoyed this dish of mackerel sauteed with red cabbage, kale and mashed potato, prepared during one of the early days of the power outage

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