Howling amid the pandemic:  Residents let loose to honor essential workers, vent frustration

POWELL —As haunting sounds of high-pitched yips and howls echoed through the residential neighborhoods of Powell, Becky Coombs waved at her neighbors across Division Street. She’s only known the Kreskys for about a week — shortly after she first stepped out of her house and started howling on a nightly basis.

“They just started howling and I was like, someone else is doing it!” Coombs said.

As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, more people are joining in every night — not just in Powell and Cody, but across the nation. A national Facebook group, “Go Outside and Howl at 8pm” now has about 550,000 members and growing.

The howling starts at 8 p.m. each night and lasts four minutes, Coombs said.

It began in Powell with just a few lone souls — feeling awkward at times — but refusing to stop. 

Now replies fill the air and those persistent few have a citywide pack behind them gaining momentum as a way to honor local health care, first responders and essential workers.

“They’re keeping us all well fed, healthy and safe. And so you go out and you blow off a little steam,” Pam Kresky explained.

Pam said she joined in after hearing others howl.

“It’s crazy, silly fun,” she said. “We have a neighbor down the street that’s in her 80s and she comes out every night now.”

Dennis Kresky is known as quite the howler, making Pam giggle as he lets out his happy howls.

Alexis Lundin has been working to coordinate Powell howlers and has a large pack out on her lawn each night joining in. Her “Howl for Powell (& Cody) 8pm nightly” Facebook group now has more than 200 members, often sharing videos and encouraging fellow members.

“It makes me feel really happy that we’re actually being able to grow it and make it into a huge community thing for health care workers and frontline workers,” Lundin said as her family and friends prepared to howl near Queens Boulevard last week.

Her pack, including several young children, create quite a ruckus as the alarm marking the start time chimes. They simply throw their heads back and let it out.

Coombs said while the nightly activity is to honor the frontline workers, it’s also about community. 

She is in the high risk group and has been quarantined in her home for several weeks now. Getting out to howl is often the only time she leaves the house and hearing the howls helps her feel like she’s not alone, yet still communing at a safe distance.

“There’s been people now starting to say, ‘I’m doing this for my dad. I’m doing this for my sister,’” Coombs said. “I love it.”

The howlers are now coordinating with Rhiannon Morlan, who helped start the Saturday Drag Main crew, to get folks howling from a safe distance at 8 p.m. downtown as area residents cruise Powell streets. The Saturday Drag Main event starts each week at 7 p.m. at the former Shopko parking lot, depending on the weather.