Under Siege By Storms: An Unusual San Franciscan Winter

I am writing this as the wind and rain rattles my windows and shakes the trees outside. The entire hundred and twenty-something year old building creaks and protests. This place stood steadfast throughout historic earthquakes, it survived the great fire of San Francisco, it has been here looking over the Tenderloin, wishing it was on Nob Hill for so many years now. It should continue to stand and survive with little to bother it. We are up on top of a hill, the water runs off downhill sending rivers off to places which do not want them rushing down their streets and into their businesses and buildings. We have been under siege by a parade of storms with little respite since that big storm on New Year’s Eve. For ten days now San Francisco has looked less like herself: the gentle fog has been replaced by constant rain, the breezes and brisk movement of air has turned into a howling wind tunnel that threatens my poor old windows with disaster, and the sky remains petulantly dark.

I can vouch for San Francisco winters, at least the two previous to this historic parade of storms, being usually dry and mild. The sun shines after the morning fog has burnt off the horizon, and the day ends up warm and soft and kind. Right now outside the weather is brutal. The rain will not stop falling. Yes, California needs rain, but hard baked ground, some of it burnt by wildfires and scarred into a hard crust cannot absorb this inundation. The streets are flooded, trees loosened by the deluge are falling. Last night a family had to be cut out of their car in Civic Center after a tree fell on the car, trapping them. They are all reportedly ok, which is almost miraculous. The sky is dark with a cruel atmospheric river that will not let up. There is no respite. The water pours down the back stairs of my tenement building, pouring down with no relief. It is making me nervous.

I don’t function without a headful of caffeine, and have been making endless pots of tea in an effort to warm up. The building’s heating doesn’t work, and so all we have is a tiny space heater that I dare not run too often. Huddled under blankets, watching the rain keep on falling, and the wind blowing the trees, and the cars struggling always and forever downhill, I do not feel so hopeful for our futures. It is this extreme of weather that climate change brings into town, that I fear. Ignorance and greed has won out over prudence and care for the planet we all rely on. The capitalist hate-mongers take any attempts to save the most essential building block on which all prosperity relies – Mother Earth, and turned on her in a vicious, misogynistic orgy of short-term, short-sighted piggish money grubbing and greed. These agents of environmental destruction take any attempt to save the earth as an existential attack on the twisted values they worship. Money is their idol, their G_d, the center of their universe. These dull-brained individuals cannot comprehend there is nothing at all without an Earth to sit upon. Their capitalistic nihilism is going to be the death of the entire world.

The sky outside looks angry and dark grey. The puddles have turned to pools and the pools to rivers. I am glad of that hill outside that makes my legs burn every time I have to climb it to return home. I feel almost safe perched on the ridge here, while the wind throws detritus at my windows and shakes their elderly panes in the frames. The weather is claustrophobic. I love the Bay area’s mild weather, that does not take away part of the year in the extremes of heat and cold that the rest of the country suffers. It is not terrifying like being trapped in a tent or a camper van whilst the storm rages outside thin barriers. I am safe in a dry clean bed, above the mess that is happening outside, instead of literally immersed within it, moisture pouring down the walls and getting past my tarps. I still could not help but be scared last night as the rain came down in great fury, and the wind picked up, gusting dangerously. I shivered in my sweet little apartment in the bad part of town, and hoped that a window wouldn’t break, and the roof would hold.

According to the weather people we are to expect this cutely named yet terrifying ‘Pineapple Express’ series of storms to continue until the third week of January. The mere thought of it makes me anxious. We are trapped inside, with flooding and high winds, and none of it is right. The world feels like a dangerous place. Wars and environmental disasters, rabid husband who won’t divorce me, disasters on the horizon…none of it is safe. None of it feels like I can survive it. I would do almost anything to stay in this house with my son in this period of calm within the storm, forever more but everything changes. Nothing ever stays still. The world blows all of us along, whether we like it or not.

The sky was bright for a second there, but is dark again. A milky greyness has come over the horizon outside my window, yet with no defined puff of clouds, just a general threat of wetness and wind. The trees are moving about alarmingly. There will be more disaster and pain, suffering and rain before all of this dries up and we head back into those calmer days of spring showers and San Francisco summer coolness. I want to see Carl the Fog creep back over the Bay, bringing that marine layer respite to this beautiful city I get to call home. California. My home. Poor battered, sodden, whipped around by winds, and reviled by those who don’t live here, California. California of the golden fields. California of the mountain streams. California of the gold rush. California of the Hollywood Hills. California inviolate and rugged cliffs standing sentry guard against the ocean. California of the sun. California of the mild winters. California! My home, hold on in there. We will weather the future together whether the world likes us or not.

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