Saturday, February 21, 2015
An Exercise in Ice.
This has been a very long week. Starting with last Sunday, the weather has been far colder than anything commonly seen here, and we have been inundated with snow, sleet, and freezing rain. There are people in the county who lost power on Monday, and they are still operating without it. Even in the more populous "flat land" counties to the South, the ice hit hard and power companies are still working to restore the grid. It has been particularly difficult since the states which normally send crews and equipment to help us in serious situations were themselves the recipients of ice storms, so they can't send assistance our way til they have their own locations under control. Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and sometimes South Carolina are part of a reciprocal agreement with Georgia whereby we all send emergency services, fire fighters and fire equipment, road crews and equipment, power crews and their gear, and even National Guard troops to neighbors under emergency conditions. However, in a case like this where the damage has been wide spread everybody has to take care of the home front first. No help from out of state for awhile.
On the face of it, the little amount of snow visible does't seem too dire. But snow isn't the problem. Underneath the snow is a layer of ice, half an inch thick in some places. Because we have been having subzero weather at night, and temperatures are not getting anywhere near above freezing during the day, that stuff is just staying there. Then last night along came more snow, and the roads became impassable again, after all the work the state did to salt, cinder and put down brine.
The truck is parked on it's pad, and it will be there awhile. There's no way on God's Green Earth it will make it down the trail until a full melt, because the way out of here is far too steep, and covered in sheet ice. The Jeep is down on the hard surface road, which means we can at least get out but there's no guarantee we can make it into town, and the walk from the house to the Jeep is almost three miles. Consequently we are just staying home. Supplies of everything are adequate and sightseeing is not motivation enough to go out, as it was when we were younger. I've already got a terrible case of bronchitis from being out in the mornings at plus 1 or plus 4 temps, filling the water tanks for the animals with boiling water. You suck air that cold in and it has a negative impact on you sooner or later.
I went up behind the shop and apartment earlier in the week, just as the sun was coming out. There were gargantuan bear tracks coming down out of the woods, across the meadow, and off down towards the stream. I don't know why a bear would be out in the middle of winter, but he must have felt he needed a drink. The stream is not frozen over completely, so that would be the place to go for fresh water.
I have been breaking ice sickles off the roof with a hoe. If you leave them, they get heavy and cause a ripple effect in the metal, which then lets the wind under. That's a great way to have your metal sheets peeled right off in gusty winds, and we have had plenty of those this week.
It's actually quite bleak up here. Tonight we have more freezing rain, then tomorrow a warm, wet air mass is coming up from the gulf. It's supposed to raise temperatures, melt off all the ice. It is also going to cause some minor flooding along the river and the creeks, but that won't effect me as I have way up the mountain.
Our equipment has held up well. In Atlanta there were mob scenes at the big box stores as people tried to buy kerosene heaters, generators, extension cords, and the normal paraphernalia of going without grid power. I watched the evening news on an Atlanta station, and they had a lot of folks from the city and surrounding suburbs calling in raising hell because they were living in houses with indoor temperatures below freezing. No grid, no heat. Most of these people lived in pretty nice neighborhoods, so I know they were not ill prepared due to lack of funds. Just lack of planning and imagination.
Here in my county, plenty are still without power because the power company can't get crews into their areas. The constant snow, sleet and ice has really crippled the network of small paved or graveled roads most live on here. Most of them have alternate heat sources, but if they didn't drain the pipes before the sub zero weather, they will probably have broken pipes once the temperature gets above freezing.
None of my local CB contacts are back on the air yet, but I am keeping abreast of developments by listening to the frequencies for the Sheriff's Department, for Fire and Rescue, and for the county government.
Our power up here has not failed. Ice is like artillery fire. It falls here and not there, and this time we did not get really hammered so that trees fell on our power lines. Yet 15 miles from here, the ice utterly destroyed the power grid and vehicles still can't get into the small town up there. It's all luck.