Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In the Dark

Western Washington has been hit with a series of rain and snow storms this year.  Last week my area on the Hood Canal was hit with a surprise snow storm that wasn't forecast.  
Two feet of snow at my place in less that 24 hours.  It was heavy snow and took down branches and trees and power lines.  The ground was already saturated from the earlier rains so some trees just fell over at the roots.  Chunks of earth broke off of bluffs and hillsides.

I live at a higher elevation on more level ground, so no worries of slides around me.  The tall pines here have also been more exposed to heavier snow and the ground has good drainage.

Trees and power lines came down across our only access road in and out of the development and we were basically trapped for two days.  However the highway was closed as well from Hoodsport to Mount Walker.
The world as we knew it had just stopped.  As I sat alone in my house I did what I always do in a power outage;  put water on the wood stove, set out the camp cook stove and find a good book.

By the evening of the first day I knew there must be major trouble along the main road.  So I prepared some more.  I put the fridge food in a crate on the front porch mud-room where the temperature was a perfect 34 with an outside temp of 32.
I put the freezer foods in an ice chest with the ice I keep made up for just such an occasion.  

I got my exercise by shoveling the steps, walkways and driveway.  Since there was no warning that this storm was coming I hadn't been able to get my car down the 50 foot driveway, so all I could do was keep it dug out of the snow so it might be a little easier later.  (It wasn't though).

Day two was about finding new things to eat that were nutritional.  Egg omelets somehow just taste better in a cast iron skillet on the camp stove.  The aroma of beans simmering on the wood stove is also delightful, and comforting in a storm.

Now I never claimed to be a survivalist on this blog, it's not in my tags.  I'm not homesteading in Alaska and I'm not off the grid.
I am more of a minimalist, with a modest lifestyle and income.  I don't mind living alone as long as I have the freedom to leave once in a while.  I do have neighbors so I'm not completely isolated, although there are fewer of them in winter since this is more of a summer recreational area.
Surprisingly, there are even some year round residents who do not have back up heating, but there are others who are fully equipped with big generators.
So a storm with this much snow and a prolonged power outage are not common place here. 

(By the way, the photos I've included here were mostly shot early on.  It just got depressing to shoot after a while.)

By day 3 I was a little surprised that no one had come to the house, although I did check on my next door neighbors while I was shoveling the driveway.  They had gotten out in their 4x4 truck and discovered the road block on our entrance.

About 1pm a friend did arrive but he lives ten miles south.  I got the full report of how much damage had been done along highway 101, which was now open after two days.  He said the power company trucks were working on the lines on our entrance road and it was being plowed.
I was so grateful to see a familiar face!  Thank goodness for caring people.
When the power and phones were working again, I had two other messages from friends in the next town.

I have been through some major storms here and some pretty deep snow, but two and a half days is the longest I've gone without power in a snow storm.
I'm grateful to our development to have installed generators on our two community wells in recent years, or we would have been without water as well.

So my food was saved, but in another day I'd have been cooking up the thawing items.
I count my blessings on one hand though, and have decided to make a list of improvements I would make when this happens again, which could be as soon as March with the prediction of solar storms knocking out entire grids.  Then where would I put the fridge food??
I could get a generator, but I would have to lift it in and out of my car, find a place to store it and keep gas on hand to run it.  Not to mention running the extension cords outside.

 I think I will start with a more practical and long term solution approach.  A pantry of dried and canned goods.  This may be a time to learn to can, or just add to my shopping list each week.  There are a lot of websites where you can buy things in bulk, or emergency essentials.

Communication is high on my list also.  I will be upgrading my cell phone in hopes of having service at my house - which I don't currently get.
I've contacted our community's office and volunteered to head up a phone tree with a back up plan for checking on people when the phones are out.

This was a challenging time for me.  I don't usually blog about my limited income or resources, but it became pretty apparent to me that I need to make some changes in my lifestyle if I want to continue living remotely.
I usually try to keep it more upbeat here, but I just felt the need to reach out to others who may be in similar situations or even temporary challenges.  
Us fringe-dwellers like our solitude and independence, but it often comes with a price.

As we near the end of 2012 and look to a new year, I vow to improve my circumstances as well as reaching out to my community so no one feels alone or stranded in rough weather.
I encourage you to do the same.


  1. Really nice read, Jeni! Even with your longer post, you really kept my attention. When you really think about it, we're fragile and vulnerable physical beings. Anything could happen--like a snowstorm, an earthquake, or just a fall on slippery pavement. It behooves us to prepare for the things we can and to appreciate the time we have. Sounds like you're going to do some more preparing, and knowing you, you'll take full advantage of the time you have. As someone once said to me, "Life isn't for suffering, it's for joy!" Thanks for a beautiful post. xo Jennifer

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Jennifer. I was hoping not to come across too vulnerable, but to express the need for community thinking in hard times.
      Thanks for your dedication to this blog!! :)

  2. Well written blog entry Jeni. I read it to Jerry, too. We do feel vulnerable ourselves after this big snowstorm! We never lost power so we did not have to use our generator. I like your idea of putting the food outside and/or in your mudroom to maintain a cold temperature. Our car and truck are still buried out in our snow covered driveway. Jerry was able to get his Land Cruiser out, but it is difficult still for him to get it in and out of the icy driveway. I am afraid of falling so I have only ventured out 3 times to get into the Land Cruiser to leave in the last 2 weeks. And that travel by foot to the vehicle was with alot of slipping and sliding and a couple of falls. Jerry has always had essential items here in case of a situation like this so we are OK with food, water and wood. The snow just piled up so fast in that 24 hour period it was just too much for Jerry to remove it. He has spent hours out there trying to make a path but still not able to. I am coping by reading lots of books and keeping busy with indoor activities. I admire your ability to handle it on your own! By the way we have Verizon cell service and sometimes reception is spotty, but at least we can make and receive calls from here. I wonder if it would work for you there so you could at least find out what is happening in a prolonged power outage.

    1. And thank you Ida for a well written response! I'm sorry you had to deal with it too, guess we all did. I am looking into upgrading my cell phone.
      Yep, I'm my own Jerry and I will do this as long I'm still able.
      I could have tolerated it better with a shorter outage - that just got a little too roughin' it for me even!
      Thanks so much for participating here. :)


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