Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Winter's Week from Hell

 We knew this week would be bad. Sunday I decided I had to get our washing done and ventured out. I drove the six miles north to New Lebanon. The roads were snow-covered and slippery but I drove slowly and made it there without any trouble. Just north of here, a four wheel drive truck lay in a roadside ditch, angled as though it might topple over.

 I did the wash, loaded the car and began the return trip. It also went well ... until I tried to put the car away in the garage. I figured I had backed out OK so why should I have trouble getting back in? I suppose the answer is that the wind distributed the snow even deeper while I was gone.

 So there I sat, mired in ice and snow, the garage door not twenty feet away. I backed up. I drove forward. I rocked the car. I put carpeting under the front wheels. I dug and dug and dug some more. Nothing. The car would not budge. I called Bob. "Could you come and help me get my car put away before the weather gets any worse?" I asked him. Sure he would. You can count on Bob for anything, even when the timing (and weather) isn't convenient.

 This is the drift I faced ... 14" deep. Don't believe it? Here's a close-up of the yardstick.

 Even with the car put away, I considered how I was going to get back out if we needed to. What if we had an emergency? What were we to do once the groceries got low? I mentioned it on Facebook and our neighbor to the south, Pam Erisman, said they could help. Mid-afternoon her husband, Jeff, walked up the road with his snow blower, a heavy duty industrial model, and began digging us out.

 The wind grabbed the plume of snow and blew it everywhere. Jeff was white as a snowman when he finished. He dug a path a little wider than our car and provided us with emergency access. Thank goodness for good neighbors!

Weather models showed a second Arctic cold front - the Polar Vortex actually - dipping well into the mid- and eastern United States on Monday. Sunday evening I watched it drop south by using electronic weather stations in its path. One after the other nosedived as the front whipped through.

Monday night we went to bed prepared. The front did not arrive here in Farmersville till shortly after midnight. It was, in fact, 42° when the front slammed into the back of our house. I heard the wind and got up from my bed on the living room floor (where I planned to be much of the week) and walked to the kitchen window thermometer and saw it already dropped into the upper teens. That was 2:30 a.m.

I lit both kerosene space heaters: one in our first floor bathroom, another on our enclosed porch. I turned them as low as they would safely go (and still burn cleanly and smokeless) and I watched them for half an hour making sure they burnt steadily. Then I went back to "bed" and slept fairly soundly until morning.

Bob did not. He told me that when the wind began he became frightened and abandoned his second floor bed for a recliner in the living room. "I've never heard so much noise," he said. "All night long the wind just screamed."

By morning we were in the upper single figures. I filled both kerosene heaters.

 Here's the heater in our first floor bathroom. Just to the right (off screen) is the plumbing access for the bathtub. I open it so warm air can flow onto the pipes there. Still, it was the hot water that stopped running when the first Polar Vortex came through on 01/06-07. I'm doing my best to prevent a repeat.

 Our enclosed porch gets a heater, too. Mom overwinters many of her plants here and the temperature regularly dips into the mid-40's. Though I keep the basement door open, the furnace is a heat pump and there's little residual heat. In fact, there's little heat at all. I push a few ceiling tiles open because the second floor bathroom is directly overhead and I can warm those pipes from below.

 Last night into this morning we were to have the coldest air atop us. At 7 a.m. we dipped to -12°. That temperature is rare enough in these parts but it is following five sub-zero readings already this month. That's certainly rare for Dayton. Last year I did not see a colder temperature than +4° (01/03/13) and that was interspersed with warmer nights.

 I was up every hour and a half, checking pipes. I run water (both hot and cold) at every faucet. I go upstairs and make sire the second floor bathroom is OK. I flush toilets. When I'm not up, Mom is often taking a turn. I see her rise from her little twin bed in the living room, take her cane and walk towards the kitchen

 This morning this lovely "ice blossom" is on a second floor east-facing window. Other windows have frilly straight lines of ice, crossing at odd angles. Yet others are covered with a coating of solid ice and are completely opaque.

 Looking towards sunrise just before 8 a.m. gives me some hope. The day appears to be sunny and that will help to heat the house. At the very least, it'll boost my mood. And yet it promises to be a brutal day. We will only see a high temperature of +4°. But how nice it is to see that plus sign!

 I plan to spend the next two nights bedded on the living room floor. By Friday we'll rise to freezing ... and that seems absolutely spring-like.

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