Chance of snow accumulation had been the forecast. In my past life, I forecasted weather, so I know how hard it can be. A weather forecast isn’t simply “snow: yes or no.” In reality it’s “snow: yes or no; if yes, when will it start; where will it fall; how long will it fall; when will it end; how much water content in the snow; how much will fall each hour; etcetera.” There is so much potential to get part of it wrong. Our overnight temperatures were forecast to hover on either side of freezing/melting point, so it would have been possible to get mostly rain with some snowflakes only during the coldest part of the night. Instead, we got the biggest snowfall of the year in an area where it almost never snows.
On April 11, last Monday, I measured a foot of snow at the deepest.
Eventually I ran out of things to scroll through on my phone, and I was forced to get out of bed.
When the temperature hovers around the melting point, we can consider that to be “warm” air – warm in comparison to air that typically would hold snow. Warm air has the potential to hold more moisture than cold air. Translation: we received not only a lot of snow, but the snow that fell was wet. Wet snow is beautiful and also heavy and destructive.
In the photo above, you may be able to see the trunk of a tree hanging horizontally, suspended in the air, just beyond my driveway. I saw it, too. I put on boots and grabbed my camera and went to look.
I had not called the power company to report an outage until I saw the tree down. The power had gone out about 3 a.m. I knew because it blinked on and off a couple times and each time it came back on, my printer jumped to life and began a series of alignment tests and kept waking me up. After the third time, I got up and unplugged the darned thing. But anyway, lines down over the road and a tree hanging over the road seemed quite dangerous, so I called and they were super friendly and thanked me for the information.
During the night I had been hearing trees crashing down around me. When I went to investigate the power/phone lines, trees were still crashing down on all sides. I watched one huge branch break off a tree and slam to the earth. I got scared and went back inside the house till the snow stopped.
I heat almost exclusively with wood, and I had plenty of dry wood and soon had the woodstove roaring and me and Racecar and all the small hens (what I’m calling my new chicks that are living in the house with me till they get bigger) stayed quite warm. No power means no Internet. That’s fine, I can live without it for a day. No hot water, but also, no water, because the well uses an electric pump. I am fortunate, in that I don’t like the taste of my well water, so I happen to have water stashed all over the place. My drinking water comes in 5-gallon jugs, and I had one partly full, and a full one. I had a spare 2-gallon jug in a cabinet for just-in-case. I also had 2 gallons of filtered well water that I use for coffee.
Speaking of coffee…now how would I get coffee? I must have it and I could not drive into town. I went to the garage and fetched my camping gear and set up my camp stove on top of my kitchen stove and had boiling water for my press pot in minutes.
After a few hours, I got hungry. I had nothing I could munch on without cooking it. So I used the oven mat you see in the image above, and laid it onto the wood stove, and made chicken and cheese quesadillas. Yummy!
And then the snow stopped. And then, since it’s April, the sun began peeking through the clouds. And the snow began to melt. I felt safe enough to go outside and take another look at the dangling tree.
I made a tour of my property, looking for damage. I was mostly concerned about the henhouse and chicken pen, but all completely untouched despite being surrounded by trees.
My baby orchard, however, is smashed. It’s still smashed today, a week later, because I have no idea how to get the roof off the top of it. I should start with an image of what it looked like without the snow.
I innocently planted a baby orchard (there are only four young trees) with no varmint protection. I managed to keep the deer away and on year three, both the peach and the plum tree had beautiful fruit. I waited patiently for them to ripen. Then, the day I went down to collect the fruit, it was ALL gone, and half the branches in the trees were snapped off from a stinking raccoon who climbed the trees and ate all my fruit. I told my neighbor this story, and for fun, he and his son invented a roof for my little trees, and built this temporary cage for them. My idea was that when the branches were strong enough to hold up an adult raccoon, I’d tear the cage down. It has been two years since the raccoon damage, and this spring both the peach and the plum were again loaded with blossoms. The pear and the cherry are still too young.
But with the heavy, deep snow, the wire mesh caved in, crushing my tiny trees. Since I live where it usually doesn’t snow, none of us thought to build the structure to hold up under the weight of it.
I knocked all the snow off that I could, and tried to use the snow shovel to push the roof back up, but I couldn’t budge it. My trees are all still alive. They will someday return to greatness, but I fear it will be years for them to regrow branches strong enough to bear fruit. Filled with sadness, I went back inside to warm up and check and see if I had power. I did not. I went over to the neighbors to let them know I had plenty of water and ask if they needed any. They, like me, don’t like the taste of the well water (sulphur and iron), and had lots on hand.
By early afternoon, the tree was still dangling over the road and making me nervous because many more people were venturing out and traveling the road. I called the power company once more, and got a different, also very friendly and gracious employee on the line. This time I tried a little harder to explain the situation, to make it seem more urgent for them to come. Again they thanked me for the detailed information, and wrote it all down. I went back to investigate, and took more photos.
In the evening I fried sausage before it would go bad from being in a warming refrigerator, and I heated a can of carrot soup on the woodstove. Hours passed and I wondered if the power company would ever come get that tree before it brought down the power poles and all those wires with it. At 7 in the evening, a tree company showed up! Yay! I went out to watch.
I had been wondering how a crew would lift that tree off of the power lines. The trick is to work smarter, not harder: cut the tree into pieces, and no one has to lift anything. I was watching when the final piece was cut and the power and phone lines went springing into the air. Wow! I still can’t believe the telephone poles didn’t topple and the lines didn’t break.
They were in a hurry and didn’t even move the logs out of the road. When they left, I put my boots back on and went out to the road and pushed the logs as best I could, to clear a wider space.
Many of my neighbors left town. One of them told me he had to stay at a hotel four towns away along the Interstate, because everything closer had no vacancy. The snow was widespread and all the hill communities in my area got clobbered. He also told me that HE was the one who got the tree company to come over here. He knew the lady with the chainsaw because she had done work on his property two years ago. He spotted her out clearing roads nearby and told them about this tree. They said it was not on their work orders and they weren’t even planning to be on our road that day. Maybe the power company called them afterward and sent them over? Maybe she was wrong and it was on the list? Maybe my neighbor really is the person who finally got it taken care of.
And then it was nighttime. I kissed my kitty and all my little peeping girls goodnight, and went to bed with high hopes that I would wake to a powered home with water.
The next morning I did not have power. I needed a shower. I needed to do homework on my computer. I filled the food for my inside girls and for the Hussies outside (the big hens), packed a bag, kissed everyone goodbye (except the Hussies, they run away from me), and left for Pedro’s home in the city. He was happy to host me. I was happy for flushing toilets! Oh, and also for Pedro of course.
On Wednesday I went out with a saw and some podcasts to keep me entertained, and cleared all the fallen trees that had crashed onto the mailboxes and blocked access, after seeing that the mail lady had to park and walk through the branches to get to our mailboxes. Then I did a better job of pushing those huge logs off the road. I spent a couple of hours, sawing and dragging branches off the road. I finally cleared it to two lanes. Then I drove my Jeep through the deep snow a few times to show others that the lane was cleared. In two hours, most of the snow on the road had been beaten into slush by vehicles.
In the days since, the weather only slowly warmed up. I still have snow in places where the sun doesn’t hit. I have power and everything’s working fine at home. But the destruction remains. You should see the neighborhood. What an awful mess that we can’t even clean up yet because melting snow and rain has saturated the ground and it’s muddy and cold out there.
I am so grateful for how well I managed during the storm. I had heat. I had a camp stove. I had a boyfriend with a home in the city. None of those trees came down on my house, or the car that’s parked out front. None of the trees or branches came down on any structure on my property except the orchard. Nobody I know got hurt or had their home ruined. I learned that I’m going to want to keep a spare 5-gallon jug of drinking water as often as I can, and my friend Margaret suggested also storing another 5-gallons of well water for toilets. Next time there’s a catastrophe, hopefully I’ll be in ever better shape.