Saturday, March 04, 2006

emergency broadcast

Friday morning I was driving up the Salinas Valley on my way to work... It had rained heavily the night before. I noticed more snow on the mountains than I ever recall -- not only on the Santa Lucias to the west, but the Gabilans and Chalone Peak to the east, which is rare. A camera could have captured the best-ever photograph of the big Kendall-Jackson facility, with a heavily snowcapped ridge behind it, and a sharp ray of morning sun landing on a large, tree-less, snow-covered expanse high up on the ridge. Those parts of the Santa Lucias that weren't blanketed in snow were a vibrant green.

As I approached Soledad, I noticed the sky in front of me was a dark, menacing gray. I was listening to National Public Radio when suddenly the shrill tones of the emergency broadcast system filled my ears. I knew it wasn't a test because it interupted the regular programming. For a few seconds I was gripped with the dreadful knowledge that something terrible happened somewhere. The post 9-11 world has conditioned us to fear the worst.

It was actually the National Weather Service with a severe weather alert. The Bay Area was experiencing lightening and hail storms, and the effects -- which included power outages, flood warnings, falling trees and dangerously large waves -- were being felt as far south as Monterey Bay.

I was far enough south and away from the coast that none of this really interfered with my commute. What the emergency broadcast did do, along with the idiot in the SUV who nearly hit me while crossing the 101, is give me a jolt of adrenaline.


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