By February 2, 2010

Thoughts on a suburban three day snow-in

We had another snow storm here in Virginia last weekend. I lived in Utah during my high school years, and while it snows much much less in Virginia, Utah was well-equipped to handle routine and heavy deathflakes. Virginia, especially where I live, doesn’t get enough snow to really justify a fleet of trucks and stockpiles of de-icing goodies like sand and salt.

As such, people start to get nervous whenever the forecast calls for snow. This is our second “heavy” snowfall this year, and normally we escape the winter months without so much as a flake. We got about nine or ten inches of snow at the house, and some of my friends got as much as thirteen inches. The storm took place over an eighteen hour period, and my buddy Stilts was visiting for the weekend.

We wound up staying inside the house for three days, and local roads are still iced over quite a bit. Here’s what we did, and what I might change before the next snow or ice storm.

Perceived / potential issues, and how we addressed them

  • Not being able to leave the house due to snow and ice on my street. My Mazda is tuned for performance and sits very low to the ground. The tires are Z-rated performance tires and are not meant for snow driving. I can get around in the snow if I need to, but I didn’t want to risk getting high-centered or struck by another motorist. This meant I had to have a decent inventory of dog food, medicine for Rosie, and other supplies.
  • Not having enough food. I normally have enough fresh food in the house to feed two people for 72 hours. I have enough dried or instant (just add water) food for two people for two weeks. However, we knew Stilts was coming down, and we decided to slow cook chili all day on Saturday. Sedagive? wanted to make her signature mashed potatoes. We went to the grocery store on Wednesday, well ahead of any panicky grocery buying that happened on Friday night before the storm hit.
  • Loss of power. While snow doesn’t normally cause any power problems here, ice storms have been known to disrupt power for weeks at a time in Virginia. I made sure that I had batteries for my flashlight armada and also checked my hand-crank powered LED lanterns and radios. I didn’t expect the power to go out, but there is always the possibility that something localized would happen to cause an outage. I also made sure my extra propane tank was full in case we had to rely on my Weber gas grill to cook food.
  • Boredom might have been an issue, but the house is well-stocked with games and things to do. We never lost power, so the Xbox 360 got a lot of usage. The wireless network kept us entertained, and also allowed Stilts and I to work from home on Monday. If the power did go out, we have a ton of board games at the house. We wound up playing a lot of Chinatown and Ra.
  • Getting snowed inside the house. Homes entryways here aren’t built with lots of snowfall in mind. I keep the snow shovel by the back door since it is opens right onto the deck. I had to shovel the door during the last snowstorm, and wound up having to do so again last weekend.

    So with the storm sweeping east across Virginia on Friday night I felt pretty good about my situation. We had plenty of food, water, entertainment, and alternatives if the power went out. We went to bed and waited to see what Saturday morning would bring.

    Sure enough, there was a ton of snow on the ground. We weren’t going anywhere. I didn’t expect my street to get plowed, and as of today they still haven’t gotten down here. We started the chili and mashed potatoes and settled down for some games of Chinatown. Aside from the aforementioned shoveling on the back deck we didn’t do a whole lot until the snow stopped.

    The sun came out in force by Saturday afternoon. We got the snow shovel out, but we encountered our first problem: there were three of us, and just one shovel. I grabbed a plastic dustpan and started shoveling out scoopfuls of snow as quickly as I could. As Stilts got tired of the shovel or I got tired of the dustpan we’d switch.

    First lesson learned: get multiple snow shovels.

    Even with the shovel scarcity, it was really nice having Stilts around. He helped out inside and outside of the house, even volunteering to help my neighbor shovel his driveway out when we were done with mine. His good humor and hard work was well worth the extra food he consumed. It helped validate my plan of having extra food and supplies around beyond the government’s recommended 72 hours.

    Second lesson learned: having extra people around in adverse circumstances makes everything go along more easily.

    We were snowed in on Saturday and Sunday, and iced in on Monday. By the time today rolled around work was open regular hours and I was ready to make the forty minute drive into the office. Despite the major roads being clear, two motorists decided to run their cars off of the road. A Nissan Xterra was nearly upended in a ditch near my house.

    The preliminary forecast for this week calls for up to fifteen inches of snow on Friday. We are going to hit the grocery store tomorrow to replenish our fresh food stores, but I am just as confident about comfortably weathering another snow storm as I did last weekend.

Posted in: preparedness

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  1. the Accountant (tm) says: