Monday, January 7, 2008

Storm News and Recovery

San Francisco is recovering from it's near-hurricane storm.

'It is the worst storm in 40 years,' said an elderly lady whose home faces the Pacific ocean.

With her husband she was out on the pavement this morning tending to a damaged tree on the side of their house. That part of the Pacific Coast had some of the worst of the battering.

Just further along is the Beach Chalet restaurant-cum-museum. Sitting at the end of the Golden Gate Park with panoramic views across the ocean, it reminds me of the 'restaurant at the end of the universe' in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

On the morning of the storm, said my young server, so dense was the rain against the windows it was 'like being in a car wash'.

In the wake of the storm, he continued, the seas continued to swell with waves that were at 'eye height'. And this is a second-floor restaurant.

'It was so weird!' he said.

The effects of the storm on the Golden Gate Park have their own blog.

Another story was at the Golden Gate Bridge. The lady serving coffee in the Bridge Cafe said, 'Forget the rain, it was the wind! It nearly blew me over, and I'm sturdy!'

She added that the wind had only come in gusts so the whole experience had not seemed that bad, even though the 70 mph winds were just 4 mph below a hurricane.

Neither had the bridge been closed, she explained, because the wind had blown directly against the main structures, rather than crossways with the risk of causing the bridge to swing like a hammock.

The most entertaining feature was the fact that tourists had turned up and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Had they come to experience the storm for an adventure? No, she didn't think so. They seemed unaware that this was something San Fran was bracing itself for.

'When you're on holiday, this is what you do,' she said. 'Visit the bridge!'

The 'Man who built the Bridge', Chief Engineer Joseph Struass, whose sculpture stands before the towers, has an apt tribute inscribed on the plinth of his statue:

'Here at the Golden Gate is the
Eternal Rainbow that he conceived
And set to form, a promise indeed
That the race of man shall
Endure unto the Ages.'

He would be pleased to know that his bridge appears to be included in that eternal promise.

But perhaps the last word needs to go to another resident near the ocean. A British emigre of 25 years who has weathered the War and the last big quake, he considered the storm 'of no great shakes!'

Perhaps a storm, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Click for pics. They show a becalmed Pacific Ocean and the view from the Beach Chalet; residents' tree damage; the Golden Gate Bridge with statue of Joseph Strauss; views over the Bay with Alcatraz and Angel Island where winds reached hurricane force.

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