Monday, December 18th, the roads were clear. There was no snow on the ground, having all long melted away to return us to bare, slightly frozen ground. It was raining as I loaded up the Explorer with Husband’s guitar, computer, “bathroom bag”, washed clothes, food, drink, and miscellany to take him over to his semi-. Snow was coming, though. We’d have it for the Winter Solstice and Christmas, something that seems important to most folks.
Why people love the white stuff — cold, solid water — that, for me, means nothing but expense and hard work, is completely beyond me. But, hey! We live in a nation where the desires of the ‘wanna’s seem to take precedent over the practical and sane. Well, starting Tuesday morning early, probably around 2 A.M., it began coming. And coming. And coming, some more.
We live in a snow belt — a micro-climate — where even a mile south of us, when they get eight inches, we get two and more feet. Our micro-climate is about a mile in diameter, the result of mountains rising west of us within a mile’s walking distance. And, here, in the old growth forest, we have an even more interesting micro-micro-climate. At the end of the drive, there will be a foot on the ground, while at the house, there’s four inches …and that’s in the open spots, where the trees don’t catch the snow on their branches.
It was snow-blower time, and quick, because the stuff was heavy, the temperature hovering right around melting. I’d be lucky if I could get the stuff to blow without constantly having to clear the blades. Neighbor was cussing and fuming — couldn’t blame him — when he called to say, yep, it was deep out there on the county road. He’d meet me out there where we’d tackle it together. And it was still coming down with a vengeance as I headed north in low, low, the only speed that didn’t clog the blades. I felt lucky. At least it would blow.
In North Idaho, when the snow is wet and heavy like this (and, despite what the realtors and the Chamber of Commerce will tell you suckers, dupes, and gulls, it’s like this a lot), all but the highway-sized snow plows get bogged down by it. So do snow blowers, large and small, all the way up to tractor-sized. You want packing snow to build that snow man? Hey, we’ve got it by the ton, easy. You could build a full-sized, working castle with it, it holds together that well …until it rains right after you’ve carved in the last detail, melting it all down to sludge. Then, after the rain, here will come the arctic chill, freezing wheel-rutted slush on driveways and roads into crunchy, unbreakable ridges that slice tire sidewalls. Enjoy that white stuff, city slickers and townies. Meanwhile, we’re out clearing roads and roofs before the next onslaught. And the next onslaught was but an hour away.
Happy to have the driveway, road, and paths cleared, I refilled the fuel tank, cleaned up and checked the machine, then hung soggy, dripping coat, hat, and gloves to dry. I knew there was more coming, but NOAA promised the rest would be but a mere couple of inches.
By the time we were nearing dark — 4PMish — we had another six inches and that was here in the trees. What that boded north at the county road I didn’t want to think about. No sense dealing with it, though, not until daylight. The north wind had picked up, and there wouldn’t be any sense to moving the same snow twice and three times …which is what happens if it’s not an emergency and you’re still set on trying to move snow when it’s blowing sideways.
I laid down with a book for a warm-up snuggle under the afghan, happy that the power hadn’t even flickered — not once. Fell asleep.
Boom — sound woke me with a start and, except for the snow glow coming in the windows, I’m all in the dark.
Grab flashlight, trundle downstairs. Battery operated clock reads 6:20 P.M.
Now, I trudge out to the road. Yep. Not a light on in sight — nowhere. At least, the power lines aren’t down on my drive or on the county road. That’s a good sign, or so I thought. But, of course, the gas furnace was out. (It requires power to run and no amount of argument had ever convinced Dad or Mom to get one that would stay going even when the electricity failed.) Light the wood stove …before the house temperature drops.
Paper, kindling, and a couple of logs later, and I’ve got the barrel stove going, cats snuggling up, enjoying the toasting. A check outside shows that, yep, it’s still snowing. No sense fussing. Time to do the power-down routine …which I actually should have done an hour ago, but…
Back upstairs to kill power to everything electric, hitting off switches on the older computers and pulling plugs on newer ones that, even with the back power button off, still stay “lit”. Soundboards …speakers …keyboards …circulation fans — check. Downstairs, and its turn off the furnace, unplug the mega-coffee pot, the cord to the block warmer on the diesel truck …. We do this because we’re near enough a major dam that when the power comes back on, we get a strong enough surge that it can fry everything from the lowly light bulb to stoves, furnaces, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, engine block heaters, computers…. Kzzt! And that’s WITH surge protection on. (Yes, it blows those big, bulky, super-expensive surge protectors, too, we found out the hard way. Costly lesson, that.)
I finish up night chores, which includes four hours devoted to getting battery-operated aerators going in the fish tanks, then head off to bed after banking the fire so it hopefully lasts until the power comes back on or until morning light, whichever comes first, hopefully the former, thanks. Meanwhile, my cell phone’s message list kept pinging every few minutes — the SO (Sheriff’s Office for those unfamiliar with my shorthand) sending warnings of roads closed due to power lines down.
Morning brought no power, just the daunting task of starting the snow blower by hand. Took me forty-five minutes. Neighbor, who has a smaller one, it only took him twenty, and he’s taller and stronger than me. We met on the road, him telling me that his house was holding at 55°. Mine was holding, with the barrel stove going, at about 68°. We set to blowing the county road and drives, again, both of us worried about what was to come — predicted subarctic temperatures down near the zero mark (…which, by the way, started today). “It’s gonna be a damned cold Christmas if they don’t get those lines fixed. Down all over both counties clear to the Canada border,” he told me.
The roof man showed up as promised. Before the deep freeze. But, instead of the crew, it was just the boss, surprise, surprise. He did the out-building roofs in under two hours. Happy day. Got that load off before the wet stuff froze down. He always blesses the fact that the main house never has to be cleared. Dad built it that way, foot thick log rafters and a roof so steep you can’t stand up on it without a rope, not an A frame, but a good 12/12 pitch.
It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that they finally got the power on here. Others weren’t so lucky. They wouldn’t see a return till long past midnight.
Now, most probably think that when the power comes back on, life returns to normal. It doesn’t. There’s the tidying up and cleanup, re-powering-up the house and appliances, making sure that the heat tapes that protect the water lines are still working, and, please don’t forget to plug in the big diesel’s block heater. Right.
I just barely managed to get online Thursday …for about ten minutes. Friday? Sort of. Spent that mostly checking servers and installations. Oh, yeah, and email. OMG. Sifted and sorted that mess, too. So, now it’s Saturday morning, -1°F and, finally, I have a smidge’s worth of time to whine and be grumpy.
Everyone have a great Christmas. While we don’t celebrate it, we do enjoy your ‘joy and merry’ and, especially, the Christmas music!