Saturday, April 20, 2019

Surviving "Oregon Snowpocalypse 2019”

3/27/19 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The snow may have melted, and the power restored to everyone but everywhere I go, people are telling their 2019 snow storm stories. Mother Nature really outdid herself last month and when she goes wild, the results are good, bad and ugly.

Let’s start with the good. It snowed! In the beginning, snow is beautiful. We ooh and ahh as the miracle white stuff coats everything. Snow is beneficial. and Planet Earth needs it to regulate the temperature of its surface. When it melts, the water helps fill our rivers and reservoirs. A couple of years ago it didn’t snow, and we lost dozens of trees on our property. Snow is good.

The bad? It snowed! And it kept snowing. Few of us were prepared for a heavy, wet snow to blanket everything. In taking down our power lines, it shut off our heaters and heated up our refrigeration. The snow plows opened up our main roads but closed off driveway entrances to and from our properties with three-foot-tall berms. We were totally isolated on our property.

Sun. Feb. 25, we were snowbound by late afternoon. No electricity in an all-electric house means no heat, water, refrigeration, flushing toilets, cooking facilities, lights, internet, cell or land phones. Monday, we woke up to crashing trees, 15” of wet snow on rooftops and ground. We turned on the generator intermittently to use the water, stovetop or microwave but we were very low on fuel and using it sparingly. Then the Jeep got stuck in the snow trying to get out of the garage.

The next 10 days I put in the ugly category. Thank goodness for a wood stove, a generator and angels of mercy.

Monday morning, we put on our boots and trudged out to the gate in about ¼ mile of deep snow. It doesn’t sound like much until you walk it several times in freezing weather. The gate was frozen shut. We needed gas for the generator, but no cars were traveling our roads, and neither were pedestrians. Our ATT cell phones neither received nor sent. It’s scary to be out of contact with everyone.

Chuck is still recovering from two heart surgeries and we needed help. But where would it come from? Miraculously, prayers were answered and miracles happened. Tuesday, our next-door neighbor, Aaron, jumped the fence and forged a path across the acres of deep snow. (He had power lines down across his driveway.) He daily stacked our firewood, shoveled snow, and was our contact with the outside world. His wife, Tanya (home with a toddler and baby) was able to contact our worried out-of-state family. Amazing!

Originally, we only had enough gas to minimally work our generator for one day. It consumes about 5 gallons a day. Every day someone supplied the basics we needed. Many thanks to Steve who lives nearby, neighbors Clint and Donna, friends Sella and Morrie in C.G. for bringing us gas, groceries and more. All were answers to prayer.

 Still, we couldn’t leave the property. And then the Marines landed! Clint and his monster truck knocked down an opening to the road and flattened our icy driveway. We were finally able to leave our property on Friday, March 1, but didn’t have power until 6 p.m. Wed. Mar. 6.

You can be sure that the busy EPUD and Tillamook Electric crews were a welcome sight as they strung wire and installed new poles for three days. I don’t know who was happiest to have heat again—us or our dogs Sweetie and Sammy. Thank you!

Now, a word about on-going electrical problems. This was not our first rodeo. At C.G. Lake, Dorena and other outlying areas, we have frequent power interruptions. We understand that we live in heavily wooded, rural areas. Transformers blow up and trees come down on the lines. But in 30 years, as the population has grown, we have seen little progress or changes to stop our long-term electric outages.

We have new meters to calculate usage and dedicated workers when something happens. But we also need communication and preventative action. Oregon’s electric companies tell us that underground lines are too expensive. Isn’t it expensive to keep replacing lines and equipment and pay over-time?

And what about the homeowners? It’s more expensive to NOT have electricity than it is to have it. Most households in our area do not have generators. They huddle in front of fireplaces and cook on camp stoves. Others spend hundreds of dollars on gas for small generators. Some stay in hotels at reduced rates worrying about pets and property. The system needs to be upgraded to the 21st century.

One final good thought. In spite of the inconvenience and frustration, we have much to be grateful for. One only has to read the news about droughts, famines, floods, wars and destruction in other areas of our country and world to know that we get off pretty easy here. So, I’m sure you will join me in counting our blessings and praying that another snowpocalypse doesn’t visit us again any time soon!

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