A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were driving down Main Street in downtown Napa and noticed the satellite TV trucks parked in front of Veterans Memorial Park. This was during the “Great Storm” of December 2014, which, fortunately, turned out to be “not so great.” We started talking about the media hype surrounding the weather and especially natural “disasters.”

Last August’s earthquake was now an ugly memory but at the time it fed international 24-hour cable network news with constant pictures of the damaged Courthouse, Brian Silver’s building and Alexandria Square.

Fortunately, the Napa River did not flood this year thanks to the Flood Control Project. Cable news was denied shots of water flowing down Soscol Avenue and through the Oxbow. Two natural disasters in six months might have dealt a serious blow to Napa’s image.

We were reminded of the Great Flood of Dec. 31, 2004. That one did cause some damage in Napa but not nearly as bad as portrayed by the news media. It did disrupt some New Year’s Eve party plans, including ours.

We had a house guest coming from Australia. To entertain her, I thought it would be fun to have a New Year’s Eve party. My husband likes to say that New Year’s Eve is for amateurs so I tried to plan a fancy party.

We had met Anita, our Australian friend, many years before at a fishing lodge on the Campbell River in British Columbia. She and her husband were returning from a reunion of his World War II Royal Australian Air Force Spitfire squadron in Ontario. We were returning from a motorcycle trip to Alaska, and as we drove into the lodge, she yelled down from the balcony of her room, “I want to go for a ride on your Harley.” We laughed and motioned for her to come on down. I dressed her in my leathers and helmet and Philip took her for a drive around the block. That chance encounter led to a long friendship and mutual trips back and forth between their “station” outside Melbourne and our home in Napa.

By 2004, Anita was now alone and traveling the world. So in 2004, we invited her to come to Napa for New Year’s Eve and to stay in our little cottage. She loved the idea and plans were made. This is how my fancy little party idea started.

Guests were invited and told to dress up for the evening and to bring loose change for playing games on our roulette tables. I hired a musician. Our son and his wife were coming down from Sacramento to help with food service and bartending. I hired a fortune teller and tarot card reader for our guests. To top it off I asked a single male friend from my husband’s Rotary club if he would come and be Anita’s escort for the night. The evening was going to be perfect.

Then things started unraveling. It had been raining all day but we hadn’t paid much attention to the weather. But it continued to rain, and rain, . . . and rain. Soon the Napa River started to crest and overflow its banks. The TV news crews and their satellite trucks started to gather near Main and Third. We still didn’t worry about the effect of a little water on our party plans but nature had other ideas.

The market where I had ordered three dozen fresh cracked crabs was flooded and the market closed. Happily, I was able to locate frozen crabs at Vallergas. We had to put the frozen buggers in my bathtub to thaw out. But they looked pretty cute in their clear baggies with red bows. And the party ladies didn’t mind seeing them when visiting my girlie facility. In a small bungalow, you sometimes have to use your imagination for emergency storage. Thank goodness I could still pick up the Christmas Logs for dessert.

Guests started calling to tell us they could not get here from there. Silverado Trail was flooded. Soscol Avenue was overrun with water. Our musician could not get here as there was a landslide blocking his road up on Mt. Veeder. Our son and his wife could not get past Suisun and had to drive another 3 hrs back to Sacramento. The freeway was flooded and closed down.

Fortunately most of our guests were able to get to our house and the Tarot Card reader made it, so the party went on as scheduled even if slightly modified here and there. We knew the news crews were busy reporting the flooding but we had no idea how the message was being broadcast until the phone rang in the middle of the party.

It was a frantic call from Australia. Anita’s son had been watching CNN and wondered if the city of Napa was being washed down the river to the bay. He and the rest of Anita’s family were worried for her safety.

Fortunately, we were still high and dry, and the party was a big hit. We were able to convince Anita’s son that except for having to eat frozen crab and having to do without a live musician, we were all well in spite of the exaggerated stories being broadcast around the world on CNN. Anita was safe and happy and wished them all a Happy New Year.

So what was described as a Napa storm disaster on CNN turned out to be a successful and memorable evening. We had weathered the storm and felt like professional party hosts. So much for amateur night.

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