Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Wrath Of Atlas

Day 1

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the following counties in western South Dakota ... Lawrence, Meade, Pennington ... Expect high winds, snow accumulation up to 30" ... No travel advised ...

It was a little before 5AM when the trouble started.

Scratch that. The trouble started much earlier in the week, when the weathermen couldn't agree on how much snow was going to fall. Depending on who and when you watched -- and where exactly you lived -- the prediction varied from one to thirty inches of snow.

One to thirty.

While the amount was a point of contention, it was universally acknowledged that yes, it WOULD snow on Friday. 100% chance.

So we planned accordingly. Errands that would have been delayed were taken care of on Wednesday or Thursday. Guests were warned. The fact that the plow was in town being repaired was lamented -- but the M-Man had his back-ups ready.

You see, we'd never really been snowed in before. Mother Nature tried (repeatedly) last April, but the guys had always managed to dig us out. And this storm seemed no different, especially with 50+ degree weather to follow on Sunday and Monday. (And Tuesday.) Even the thunder that had come with Thursday night's rain didn't seem particularly foreboding.

But a little before 5:00 on Friday morning, something happened that hadn't really happened before.

At about 4:50, it got very, very quiet. And very, very dark.

Furnaces shut down. Appliance lights went out. The Bossman's wife's alarm clock shut off mid-alarm.

Power outages in our little valley are blessedly rare, and as rare as they are, it's nearly unheard of to have one last more than an hour.

So when we all started moving around and finding each other around 8:30 -- three and a half hours later -- we probably should have been more alarmed about what was to come.

The snow was still less than a foot deep, the bottom couple of inches having melted on our not-yet-frozen ground. It was unpleasant but passable; I made the trek to the main hall to check on things, the Bossman catching me on the way to see if I'd talked to the M-Man and Chef Lady yet. He was suiting up to see what he could push with the ATV.

After a bit, I headed for the Bossman's house -- and there, the electricity popped back on. Not for long, but enough to give us the impression that this wouldn't last. We gathered, albeit slowly, each expecting to head back to our warm homes shortly.

A couple hours later, we changed our tune.

You see, we'd each found the biggest problem with losing power shortly after waking up. We have our own well, and because of where it sits, each building has its own water pumps. No electricity means no pumps ... which means no water. Which means the one comfort during a power outage ("Well, at least we still have water") did not apply to us.

That day, we could make light of it, drinking bottled water (and everything but water) and referring to the buildings by how many flushes they still had. We made ourselves comfortable in the Bossman's house with its two fireplaces, and napped, talked, and strategized as the snow kept falling.

By the second time the M-Man and I made the trek to the duplex, this time after sunset, it was clear that we should get used to the idea of staying right where we were.

Day 2

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.
- Robert H. Schuller

On Saturday morning, I woke to find myself on the couch, the guys getting a fire going again.

The electricity had been out for 27 hours so far.

The snow had stopped, however. The guys were headed downhill to the shop to see if they could get the tractor out to push some snow; I dozed off again.

After awhile, the Chef Lady and I found ourselves hunkered down listening to Bob & Tom and waiting for the guys. When the local DJ made his return (having apparently slept at the station, snowed in himself) we found that travel was banned throughout the county until early Sunday morning. "Travel is NOT allowed. You will be fined. If you get stuck, no one can come to get you. So stay home."

This took some of the sting out of the guys' news that the snow was too heavy for the backup plows to move. It was entirely possible it was too heavy for the regular plow to move as well, even if it had been there.

The easiest path actually went right over a fence...

With that, a change of location was proposed. Allison Hall had fireplaces, a gas stove, and an entire ice machine of potable water, not to mention a fridge of food that needed to be eaten. Moreover, it gave us a bit more room to move around. The five of us had been in close quarters long enough.

At first, it was an adventure. Huge omelets, instant coffee, and cinnamon rolls were the reward for our trek through what had gone from thirty inches of snowfall to 4- to 6-foot drifts. The sun came out; the wind came up. Snow started to slide of the metal roofs all around camp, the mini-glaciers enough to give you pause before you attempted to leave or enter a building.

We were a bit more mobile now, at least able to walk up to the duplex without feeling like we were climbing Everest. Our path got more established, lessening the likelihood of disappearing into a snowbank never to be heard from again. The guys made additional attempts to get vehicles moving. The Chef Lady cooked up what she could salvage, not wanting food to go to waste; I gathered snow to melt so we could still use the bathrooms. Slowly, the hours passed, and with them each of our guesses for when the electricity would return.

The M-Man returned with unwelcome news: there were trees down on the lines coming into camp. The lines were intact, thankfully, but it was going to take some serious work to make power possible.

As the sun vanished, I charged my phone in one of the camp vans and managed to call my mother.

From her, I learned that power was out from Spearfish to Wall, that the interstate was closed for hundreds of miles, that Deadwood had gotten a full four feet of snowfall. I also learned where my relatives had gotten stranded, who could still make phone calls, how long they'd all been without power.

And then, in the five minutes of access I had to the outside world, I learned that they'd named our storm Atlas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ashley, I'm Chef Lady's sister, Jane. Thank you for your wonderful blog! You guys had friends and family across the country worried and waiting for news. I figured if one had to be stuck on the top of a mountain, Storm Mountain would be the place to be!