Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Surviving the Blizzard of 2010

It may look as though this week's record snowfall transformed our house and garden into a winter wonderland. But the blizzard of 2010 created a significant challenge for our family, and reminded us once again that we depend on the goodness of others to survive on earth and make our way toward heaven.By late Friday evening, huge drifts of snow had banked up all around our house, blocking our driveway and burying our cars (my Volvo wagon is the white hump on the right above). Several foolishly intrepid drivers had attempted to made it up the hill approaching our neighborhood, and skidded off the road: Snowploughs from Virginia Department of Transportation could not get past them, and our section of the roadway was demoted to the bottom of the list for clearing. The private service we usually rely on to open our driveway couldn't pass them either. We were snowed in and not likely to get out for days.

Then, our power went off. We jumped into survival mode. Unfortunately, we had not taken the weatherman seriously, and had few emergency supplies on hand. Worse still, we had not tested our generator for more than two years, and guess what? It didn't start.

The view from the porch into our side yard during the white-out, high wind conditions on Day 5.

Under these conditions, a house gets pretty cold pretty fast. And this was before the high winds forecast for the second leg of the storm that was scheduled to move through on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike the pioneers of old, who depended on their fireplaces and manual wells, we had no source of heat whatsoever and no water from our electric-fired pump. The shortness of the daylight was frightening: By 5:30 came the sunset, and by 6:00 it was pitch dark.

We survived for two very cold days by running the gas grill in the living room--against all advice that it might produce harmful fumes. But by Monday evening, the propane canister was almost empty. The power company projected another 48 hours would be needed to restore our electricity.

Then, the rescue squad arrived--literally. The squad consisted of our dear cousin Katie, who commandeered a snazzy new electric-start generator from a friend, loaded it into her four-wheel-drive SUV, and braved impossible road conditions to deliver it to our door, along with water, hot Italian food, and a bouquet of red tulips. Katie also brought a friend named Frank who is an ace at all things electrical. Just as the propane heater sputtered out, the borrowed generator chugged into action, and we were saved. I should mention that the generator belonged to Frank and his wife, and he cheerfully shared this very expensive piece of equipment to bail us out during the worst weather emergency in over a century.
Every shrub on our porch and in our yard is covered in ice. There will be a huge cleanup effort in the spring.

Frank was back the next day in his own gigantic truck, to deliver a new generator and three days supply of gas. He installed and tested it to make sure we were all set before he loaded up his own machine to get it home in case part II of Snowmageddon hit his house.

Mind you, Katie is close and cherished relative with whom we have had a very special relationship. But Frank is a total stranger. At least he was until he kept all of us from freezing in the dark and won a special place on our family prayer list.

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