Snowtober (or: a near weeklong adventure in patience)

First of all, let me just take a moment to relish in the fact that I finally have power back.

It came back last night around dinner time and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you service workers and road crews and town people and everyone else that worked over-time to get us back on the grid. Please know that I wrote this from the comfort of my couch, with the thermostat at 60, and it felt like paradise – as in: warm, toasty, and wonderful.

Anyway, let me tell you all the fun details. Because as hellish as this last week was, it really does make one heck of a story.

I went home to Connecticut this weekend for some family things. The Engineer stayed in New Hampshire. We’d actually gotten a dusting Friday morning, but when I arrived in CT that afternoon, it was sunny and crisp; a beautiful fall day. These silly people on the news were hyping this gigantic snow storm and I, like most of New England, wrinkled my nose and said, phhh. A nor’easter in October? Yeah right!

Saturday morning, I went on a lovely hike. I took this photo of a quaint stream in the woods around 11am:

A little after noon, as we were making our way down the mountain, it started to flurry. We got home, and I ran off to Barnes & Noble with my sister because 1) it was only flurrying and 2) I can only go so long without setting foot in a bookstore.

An hour later, the roads looked like this as we drove home:

And that was the end of things, people. Everything went downhill from here. It snowed non-stop all day and night. We lost power after dinner, went to bed in the dark, and woke up to this:

That’s easily a foot and a half of snow. And trees down everywhere. Like this one in my parents’ front yard:

And this one that just missed the corner of their house:

We pulled out a radio and checked the news. Pretty much all of CT (800k+ people) was without power. The northwest corner of the state that my parents live in was nearly 100% without. We headed outside to clear the driveway. Here’s my car, buried:

The mountain road my parents live on is steep, but wide enough. Trees had fallen everywhere though, and in order to make sure cars and emergency vehicles could get by, the plows weaved around the debris to clear a wiggly one-lane path up the hill. It’s hard to really tell in this picture, but you can at least get a glimpse of the trees just hanging out in the road:

And this is what it looked like everywhere in town. I went out with my dad late Sunday to try to get gas. Roads were blocked by trees every three feet (slight exaggeration, but they really were down left and right). Power lines were strewn about the pavement. All the traffic lights were out. Not a single business was open. I called the Engineer and things in New Hampshire weren’t much better. We were without power up there too, and a bunch of those roads were blocked as well. Big storms are a common occurrence in the north east, but the weight of snow accumulating on trees that still had all their leaves was too much this time around. It created a mess that was going to take days to clean up. I decided to call out of work on Monday, spend the night in CT, and drive back in time for work on Tuesday.

When I drove home Monday (at 2pm) – so that’s nearly 48 hours after the storm – roads were still down to one lane in places. I had to drive over power lines in others. I got home without too much trouble, but my mom called to tell me my father waited on line for gas for THREE HOURS. There were only so many gas stations with electricity and they were in high demand.

The Engineer and I spent the next several nights in our cold, cold house, bundled to the max and sleeping in flannel-lined sleeping bags. My parents’ place had a wood stove, but we were without that luxury. To give you and idea of how chilly it was: our cooler sat outside in the snow with our food in it and stayed perfectly edible. Oh, and we could see our breath in the air inside the house. I spent the evenings wearing the following without a single ounce of shame:

  • furry socks
  • ugg-like boots
  • long johns
  • sweatpants
  • tank/tee/long-sleeve shirt combos
  • fleece zip up
  • down jacket
  • earmuffs
  • gloves
  • and a headlamp (these things are super convenient)

We heated water for tea on a propane camping stove, used baby wipes as a replacement for water/washcloths, and navigated the house by candlelight and flashlight. Thank goodness I could shower at my gym in Boston (which I go to every day before work at the day job). Similarly, the Engineer had a shower at his work. We charged our cell phones during these times as well. If our offices weren’t up and running, I really think we would have ended up at a shelter.

It’s interesting; sometimes people scoff at post-apocalyptic literature and think, No way would it come to this! It would take ages for society to fall apart. I really don’t think so. My mom told me she heard reports in CT of people steeling portable generators out of driveways and ripping copper wiring from the downed lines. Tensions ran super high in line at the gas stations. When in an emergency situation, certain resources become priceless, and order can fall apart quickly.

Obviously this snowstorm didn’t get nearly that out of control, but it makes you wonder what could happen with a more wide-spread, hard-hitting disaster. The whole event reminded me to not take certain things for granted (heat, lights, flush-able toilets), and to always be prepared, even if I think the news is over-hyping something (we certainly could have had more canned food, batteries, and candles on hand, or at the very least, had the foresight to fill the tub).

My parents, along with several hundred thousand others, are still without power in CT. There’s a large handful of people in Mass and NH still without as well. I hope they are staying warm.

A lot of people have voiced frustrations with how long it’s taken for the power to return, which is understandable, but I think we all need to remember that this happens sometimes. It’s New England. Snow can get ugly. And also – this is the most important thing of all – it can always be worse. I heard a man call into the radio station saying he needed to know where his nearest shelter was. He had just gotten knee surgery and couldn’t get around well, his wife had recently woken from a coma, and a tree went through their house during the storm. Someone always has it worse.

Be patient. Be polite. Be safe. Be smart. And thank your lucky stars that we live in a world were electricity is a commonplace commodity. After six days without power, I have immense respect for people not as fortunate. I have no clue how they do it.

And now, I really need to go work on my revision. It is due very soon and I lost a decent chunk of time to this pesky little storm. Man, what a way to start the winter season. I’m sort of scared for whatever else lies ahead.

How’s everyone else doing? Enjoying the rest of fall? It is still fall, right? This storm has me all sorts of confused.

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