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December 8, 2007

Stories from Tokeland, a week without power

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:29 PM

I drove about 40 miles south of Aberdeen to the town of Tokeland, a sleepy community in the winter, but a tourist destination in the summer.

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Since Tokeland sits on a narrow peninsula, it would be an obvious location to get hit hard. Tons of trees have fallen, and in the town just north of Tokeland, two houses reportedly slid down a cliff into the ocean. The more residual effects are that it is still without power after a week, making residents among the 4,000 people in Grays Harbor county that are don't have electricity tonight.

Crews are expected to work through the night, and Tokeland hopes to get power tomorrow.

Ask Melody Gerber what will be the first thing she will do?

Take a shower.

That's right, no one has water either because it must be pumped from wells into the house.

I found Gerber at the Shoalwater Bay Casino, the one bright spot in the town, running solely on generators. The casino has become the community center, one ne of the places you can go for heat, lights and a warm meal. Of course, plenty of gambling, too.

Gerber, who has been living full-time in Tokeland for 13 years, said it was the largest storm she'd ever experienced.

Patches of her roof, down to the plywood, blew off, and her wind meter topped out at 75 miles per hour, although she suspects winds were much stronger. The only thing that saved the community, she suspects, is that there was a low tide. The low tide gave them about another 10 feet to store all the rainwater that was falling.

As a fan of impressive natural wonders, she said: "It was awesome."

The not so cool part, though, is losing power for the next week. And, since Tokeland is at the very south end of Grays Harbor county, it seems they are always the last pocket for crews to get to.

Gerber said without water or electricity, her routine changed.

A generator helps her out by running the fridge, freezer, a light and occasional microwave usage, but that means no TV.

"I'm a reader, but for people who are TV-aholics, they are banging their heads against the wall right now," she said.

And since there's no electricity to run the well pump, there's no running water, meaning no flushing toilets, and taking showers is out of the question.

To partially solve that problem, she can go outside to the well, skim water off the top, and bring it inside to manually flush the toilet. Showers are a more delicate matter, using a wash cloth and cold water to clean off.

In general, she feels like without the luxuries of water and power, you get lazy.

"Water rules your life," she said. You don't notice it until it's gone, but she says you stop washing down the counters and crumbs accumulate. It's the little things.

And, she acknowledges, they are little -- many more people have it worse.

"We all made it," she said.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee

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Angel Gonzalez

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Kristi Heim

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Benjamin J. Romano

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