Wednesday, December 7, 2011

October Snow Storm. Or: The Year They Cancelled Halloween

It may be that I needed a bit of distance from this experience in order to write about it. Or it may be that I have just been busy trying to catch up to my life since it happened, but in any case, I think it's about time that I document our freak October snow storm that turned our usual life upside down for a good week or so.

October 29th was a Saturday and the meteorologists were promising a snow storm. I have to admit, I took it with a (large) grain of salt. First of all, it was October -- how bad could it really get? Second, our area has been known to cry wolf and cancel all kinds of things at the threat of a snow storm and then end up with a flurry. It did start to snow around noon and I figured I better head out and do errands in case it did end up getting worse. After stopping at a few stores, I realized it was coming down kind of hard, but I couldn't imagine it would be any worse than a usual Nor'Easter (That's what they call the big snow storms out here..) so I finished up and started towards home.
It is usually a ten minute drive and about five minutes into it, I was seriously questioning my decision as the third alternative street I tried was closed because of fallen branches and downed power lines. I went beyond questioning to seriously fearing for my life when a branch broke ahead of me and what looked like a power line fell onto the road. I stepped on my brakes and could just close my eyes as my brakes locked and my car continued to glide forward in the snow... It turned out to be a line of snow off a power line - thus shaped to look just like it, though I'm pretty sure it aged me right there regardless. I have never been more grateful to make it home than I was that day. E was out shoveling and I went straight to the stove to make hot chocolate for everyone. (Although if I were a drinker, that is not where I would have gone first!)

About half an hour after I arrived home, we lost power, which wasn't really a surprise after seeing the devastation the snow was causing. What was a surprise was when the power didn't come back on after a few hours. Or a few days. The first couple of days we were dealing with it pretty well. We lost power for 48 hours with Hurricane Irene in August and figured we'd be back up again soon this time too. However, the destruction statewide was much greater with Winter Storm Alfred, as our storm was named. The snow was extremely wet and heavy and it landed on branches that still had most of their leaves on them. Snow that would normally have fallen through onto the ground, was being held up by the leaves instead and the combined weight of leaves and snow proved too much for many many trees.

When the 48 hours came and went and there was no end in sight, it got harder to cope. It was cold outside and our (otherwise) awesome plaster walls kept the cold inside the house as well. And it was so bloody dark! I'm not sure what got to me the most - the cold or the dark. At night we were okay. We bundled everyone up in warm clothes and under heavy Scandinavian down comforters, so we were warm enough when we were in bed. As soon as we left bed, we were miserable though. Little S would cry when she got up, she was that cold, and the rest of us just became sluggish. It is amazing how you can actually tell that your brain is slowing down when you are freezing. We made it through the next couple of days mostly by leaving the house as much as possible and visiting friends and family. Even if they didn't have power either, it was much less miserable when it wasn't just me and the kids all by our lonesome. E was at his nice (heated) office and worked till after 10pm...(I may have been suspicious of his motives for staying late but would probably have done the same if the alternative had been reading by candlelight under the covers while your nose was freezing...)
Tuesday night we returned home and as I tucked the kiddos into their cold beds (the boys together at this point) I noticed the thermostat downstairs:






Yes, that reads 48º Fahrenheit. Which is 8.9º Celsius. Inside the house. I had been trying to just stick it out, thinking that power had to return any minute, but seeing the temperature that low, combined with the power company's vague promise of power returning maybe within a week, was enough. Little S was crying, L was coughing and I threw in the towel. The next morning I packed up the kids and drove to VA to stay with E's sister. Even with an 11 hour car drive, it was so very much worth it.

We ended up having a wonderful visit in VA and enjoyed the 60º+ weather tremendously. For weeks afterwards I felt immense gratitude every time I flipped a switch and it worked. I get that we are blessed and our few powerless days are nothing compared to what others go through for years and years. I am so grateful for the blessings of power. And light. And warm feet! And most of all, that in all the devastation that hit our state that week, that we (and our home) were safe. I am so so grateful for that!

A few pictures, mostly from our neighborhood. I wish I had my camera with me as we saw some areas that were worse than this.

Snowfall after 3 hours (the driveway has already been shoveled):  
  
Our yard Sunday - thankfully we didn't have any downed power lines on our property!



Trying to stay warm (I spent one evening literally reading up against the grate and I was still cold...):
 Power lines down:
 Many, many trees looked like this:







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