“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

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.





36 comments:

  1. As always, good to get the update. I know you and the wife aren't as old as my (barely) septuagenarian parents, but I worry about folks of a certain age (and I guess I can include myself) trying to walk on thick ice-good way to fall and break something important. It's icy here also, but at least the main roads are okay to drive-I can get back and forth to work just fine and I'm thankful for that, even if it's a little hard to negotiate the parking lots of businesses I frequent-I have plenty of food and other supplies at home and thus, don't need to frequent them. I know in the past you've mentioned your CB contacts, and it sounds like there's a kind of informal network of folks in your neck of the woods involved in same-I'm curious, what kind of range, realistically, can one transmit and/or receive CB signals with a decent set-up in thick woods like yours? I don't have a CB, but occasionally monitor CB frequencies on my fairly-good-quality Grundig shortwave radio, and in town, maybe four miles south of a major interstate highway, I'm amazed at how little I can pull in. Y'all stay warm and safe! KB

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    1. KB,

      CB radio is tricky. First, it's virtually disappeared as far as I know, with the exception of a few holdouts in rural locations, mostly old guys like me who don't have a lot of contact with people. They can "gossip" on the CB without having to leave their places or do a lot of actual social interaction.
      I don't talk much on the CB, primarily I just listen.

      The regular A.M. CB transmits in line of sight from a practical standpoint. That means, if you are on mountain top A, and you want to talk to a guy on Mountain side B, as long as nothing comes between you, you've got a pretty clear signal path. I can talk to people up to 15 miles away in A.M. mode on a clear, cold day. But those folks are in North Carolina, at higher elevations than me. It just happens that between their mountain top and mine, no higher peaks intervene to cause terrain masking.

      A SSB (single side band ) CB is a different kettle of fish altogether. First off, you can bounce your signal off the ionosphere at night. That's a denser layer of the atmosphere, so your signal goes up, hits it, and is reflected down. People who do this as a hobby usually use illegal 100 watt amplifiers. As long as you have no neighbors, this is not a problem. But if you have neighbors and start keying out, you are going to bleed over on their television and pretty soon the FCC is going to be out with DF (direction finding) gear, looking for your long pole whip antenna mounted on a mast. Unlike hams, who know how to use propagation tables to ensure contacts with people far away, and who have an adequate number of frequencies up and down the spectrum to do that, CB people usually can't talk to the same person two nights in a row off sky wave. It's just hit and miss.

      I listen to a lot of people on the SSB, but as I don't have a linear amplifier I don't talk to them.

      The people I do sometimes talk to here are like me. They are interested in goings on in the county, and in weather, hunting information, and the local scandals and gossip. I have always felt a person needed to keep abreast of events at home but I am not a real big one for the morning meet at McDonalds for coffee ritual.

      By the way, you asked about thick woods. As I walk down the trail to the mail box, I can talk to my wife on a hand held CB for about 3/4 of a mile. After that, the forest attenuates the signal so much it's useless. On the other hand, when I lived on Emerald Island, off the coast of North Carolina, I could routinely talk to a fellow Marine in Jacksonville, N.C. 30 miles away. We were transmitting completely over salt water, the best propagation plane I know of. We also used big pole mounted 20' whips.

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  2. Hey Harry, been watching the weather down your ways and it looked bad a couple of days ago. Got a bit worried about you there. Best stay in, you are safe and its not worth risking going out and getting in a fender bender or worse. Looks like you are all set for the long haul with those big fuel tanks. The lower one looks like a diesel fuel tank for the truck. What the tall cammo one? Should keep you going for a good spell. Here in southern Maine we have been getting slammed every other day with 6 to 12 inches of snow and no warm up in between. Snowbanks in front of the house are over six foot tall. The snow pack most everywhere is at least four feet deep.

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    1. M. Silvius,

      Those are both above ground diesel tanks. I don't know about the rest of the country, but here you deal in basically three types of diesel fuel. They are all exactly the same, but are handled differently in how you can use them.

      First, there is what is called "heating fuel." This is diesel, sold at a lower price than the other two, and limited by law to use in home heating only. Any other use, including farm equipment or vehicles, is prohibited by law. You get this fuel from a heating fuel company and they deliver it to your house. It looks exactly like on road diesel.

      The next time is "off road" diesel. This is the same as the other two, but it has red dye added to it. It is for farm equipment, construction equipment like bulldozers and bobcats. You have to buy it at a gas station and put in in a tank in the bed of your truck, or in a can. It costs more than "heating fuel" but there is no road tax on it. The red dye is so that these state guys in white Crown Victorias can drive around, pull over people with diesel trucks, and hope to catch you with red dye in your tank in which case you go to jail.

      Then there's plain old diesel you pay gas and road tax on (about 86 cents a gallon here right now) and you can use it anyway you want. The state does all this to make people pay tax money.

      In a dire emergency, you could use any of the three for any purpose. Diesel will keep a long time with the proper additives and the proper storage tanks, but it won't keep forever. So if you don't use your generator a lot, it takes some juggling with how much you store to keep from losing any of it.

      I saw the terrible wreck on the freeway up there on the news yesterday. And, as the newscaster said, these people know how to drive in snow. It looked like the retreat from Moscow during WW2. It's a miracle it didn't kill a bunch of people.

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  3. I hope your luck holds. The ice is coming to our place tonight, they tell us, so we'll see what the next 24 hours hold.

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    1. Georges, it is Thursday morning here now. We are deep in snow over a layer of ice. I hope you got by ok, and didn't lose power. I am going to go around here in a bit and visit everybody and see how they made out.

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  4. That ice sounds nasty! I hope it warms up soon, so it can melt, and you can move about.

    I had bronchitis once. It's horrible. I'm hoping you've got something to take to make you better.

    Mica has never read Riki Tiki Tavi. I looked it up, and our library didn't have it, but I saw Riki-Tiki-Tavi. Their system is so sensitive. I'm assuming that's what it is. I put it on hold.

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    1. Alissa, I know I've been sicker but I can't remember when. Hard to breath, high fever, and no energy. Fortunately, when I feel bad and have to get up and go get something done, I can always work up a good rage and use the energy of that to accomplish whatever.

      I am sure Mica will like Riki Tiki Tavi. I always liked Kipling, and when I was a child that was one of my favorite stories. I was horrified when I found out that neither of my own kids had read it not long ago, and I bought the book and sent it to them, even if they are in their late twenties now.

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  5. Glad to hear you & Mrs. are doing fine, was a bit worried. On my side of the state, both storms were a bust as far as ice/snow/sleet goes. 1/4" accumulation yesterday afternoon, gone this morning. Good for us, though and of course I was ready anyway. Stay warm! Jan in NWGA

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    1. Jan, I wonder how you made out in this last episode. I hope you didn't get a lot of snow. We got about six inches here on the mountain, on top of all the other stuff from previous weeks that hasn't even begun to thaw yet.

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  6. I've been wondering how things were going for you and your wife, what with the snow and ice. Glad to hear the power stayed on. Don't know about you, but I'm way too old to go skating about on the stuff. Too easy to slip and fall and break something important! Hope it warms up for you soon and it all melts away.

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    1. Vicki, I still have to get out and take care of the animals, and there are a few other things to check from time to time, but I have survived. The snow is deep outside today, but there is no more predicted and if it will only warm up and melt it off, life can return to normal. This is the second hideous winter in a row though, and this one was worse than the last. I don't know what is causing that but I hope it isn't a trend.

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  7. The rain we had today here in mid-Tn just turned everything into a bigger mess!
    Glad to know you still have electricity and are staying warm. Don't know about you. but some warm sand and palm trees would go mighty good about now!

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    1. You know, there' a fellow who lives up North whose blog I read. He and his wife abandoned trying to stay up there during this winter, took their boat, and went to Florida. He has been having a great time. This is Thursday morning now, and that last blast really clobbered us last night. I would imagine you got more snow there in Tennessee than we did! Maybe this is the last one for this winter, though we often get a big storm during the first two weeks of March. I hope not this time.

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  8. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    You guys are having quite the adventure.

    Its was in the 70's today in South Texas with a strong south wind coming off the gulf with lots of salt in the air.

    We got a big cold front on Monday that will cool things down for awhile.

    There will be lots of surf tomorrow as the wind dies down ahead of front. The surf will be 'cleaning up' as we call it and it would be fun except for the fact the water temp is 61 degree's still and I don't do wetsuits:(

    The last time I saw snow was about ten years ago and the last time I saw real snow with accumulation was out in West Texas back in 90's.

    I'm sure I will have hurricane stories for you Harry in the coming hurricane season.

    By the way, people here go 'coo coo for cocoa puff's' when a hurricane threatens the Texas coast. I really get a kick at how bad they start driving and how people fight over gas at gas pump's.

    I have some fuel stored, generator, etc, etc, so I can ride out hurricanes as long as my roof does not blow off. The real enemy down here is all the heat with no air conditioning.

    I figure Kymber can send me some ice cubes from the 'great white north' if that happens.

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    1. CC, this has been a pretty unpleasant week. Being sick was the worst of it, and we didn't run out of anything or lose power, but it can be frustrating. There really isn't a thing you can do except wait it out once you have your systems all prepared and your supplies stocked. I haven't been out since last Sunday and I'm no where near running out of anything, so we are doing ok in that department. I just hope it warms up and melts off soon. As for hurricanes, it's bad enough when the remnants of one pass over the mountains here, I'd hate to be at the beach when one came ashore. I value my possessions too much to want to lose them.

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  9. The boys were out of school all week. We really got dumped on with no melting due to the cold. And today we got another four inches.

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    1. Lisa, this is Thursday morning and the storm that came through here last night is supposed to hit you hard up there. I hope you and your family are ok. I feel better knowing you have your generator and won't be without power. I am going to check your blog and see if there is an update in just a second here.

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  10. We had ice last night but it warmed up and melted today; however, they had two major highways shut down at some points along the way. More snow expected later next week.

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    1. Kathy, I saw Arkansas on the tv and they were really getting pounded with snow and ice. I didn't see any mention of Missouri but I sure hope you were spared the worst. This is Thursday morning now and I know that the storm that hit us got your area as well. I will stop by soon and see if you have an update posted.

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  11. Harry it still amazes me that folks just don't learn when this bad weather happens each and every year. Remember back in the fall we all said winter was going to be rough, and it has been. While we don't have the snow, we still have the bitter wind chills. from tonight until at lest Monday morning are wind chills are -30 below zero. Grand Forks ND and Northern Mn wind chills of -50 below. While we too are screwed if we lose power, we need to work on that for next winter some how. Stay safe my friend.

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    1. Rob, some people just don't have any imagination. I think you have to be able to visualize what could happen in the future, not just what is happening right now, to be prepared for things like this weather. Our little town was on the Atlanta tv station, and the news crew was at the grocery store where people were buying last minute supplies. Those folks live here, they know what happens when it snows, and they wait til the last minute? Maybe there is a good reason, like shortage of funds. I would prefer to think that than to assume they just aren't very smart. A fellow can only do what he can do, and few of us can do it all.

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  12. I have an Internet friend that lives in Huntsville, AL. He was taking his garbage out about 2 am and slipped on the ice in his driveway. He lay on the driveway yelling for about 10 minutes for help. He managed to break his leg above his ankle. A compound fracture. He had to have surgery to set it. So the ice is no laughing matter.

    You guys stay safe.....

    Wade in NW Florida (where we only have ice in our drinks)

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    1. Wade, you touched on one of my big fears. I broke two ribs a few years ago when my dogs came running down the slope through the meadow, hit me full bore, and I fell on the ice. It was excruciating. I try to be really, really careful and not to do anything rash. Sometimes I have to take risks though. I have animals, several buildings and vehicles, and they all have to be maintained or cared for regardless of the weather.

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  13. Glad you guys are so prepared. It really does pay off once in a while. You would think people would learn from past experiences but they just go ahead & think, that since it happened to them once that it couldn't happen again. Some people don't use the little bit of brains that the good Lord gave them.

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    1. DFW, I have been living up here for more than 30 years now and though I have my systems set up and my procedures in place, I still worry about not having covered all the bases. So it always amazes me to see people who take not precaution one, other than to be sure their cell phone is charged so they can call 911. That doesn't always work though. The Mayor of Atlanta gave a televised news conference yesterday, telling the city people what the plan was for this latest storm. He said flat out if you disobeyed the directions of the city government and got out on the roads when you were supposed to be forted up at home, and got stuck out on the road , that "the city can't fix it." Good for him. I was pretty impressed with his plans and his presentation. I hope he doesn't wind up in prison like the last two mayors of Atlanta.

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  14. Ice is exactly the problem. I'd rather have snow! We were fortunate with only about a quarter inch coating of ice on the trees, although that brought down quite a few trees in our wooded area with the fence getting a ding as well.

    Folks scoff preparedness, but things like this are an important reason for being prepared. No emergency is too small.

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    1. Leigh, I thought about you, with all those animals to care for. I hope everybody got through safely and none of the goats died. I am going by your blog here in just a bit to see how it all worked out.

      I hate ice. There's no redeeming quality about it. It's not pretty, it isn't soothing, and it destroys so much. It brings down the trees to put the roads out of commission, it kills the chickens who are roosting in the trees, it wrecks the power grid.

      I have always believed in preparing for the worst imaginable disaster, my theory being that if you have done all you can to prepare for that one, any lesser event should be covered as well as it can be.

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  15. In my book 2 feet of snow is better than a 1/2 inch of ice. That ice will kill you. We lost power for a week some years back in the same storm that took down Quebec's grid. The solar electric, wood heat and propane hot water kept us going. Lots of folks stopped in a for a hot meal and a hot shower.

    Happy to be in FL right now.

    Stay hunkered down and catch up on your reading. Good thing you still have grid so you can save the generator for another day. .

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    1. You did right to get out of the North and go South for the winter. I thought how you and your wife were enjoying the beautiful Florida waters and I was up here waiting for the next shoe to fall. You know, even with a generator, wood heat and propane heat, which like you I have, it still makes me feel antsy when the grid goes. I hate the noise my diesel generator makes, I feel like it is a big sign saying "here I am" quite aside from the annoyance of the noise. I tried to make a muffler for it, using an oil drum and water, like I used to see the engineers make in the Marines, but my 3KW generator won't run with that system. It sounds like an M60 tank ticking over under the porch.

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  16. Harry,

    It's good to hear your power didn't go out, and you're very prepared to stay up at your cabin. It's strange to see bear prints out this time of year, they're usually hibernating. The weather probably confused the poor thing. Going from warmer temperatures to cold and back.

    Stay warm, safe, and watch out for walking bears!!!

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    1. Sandy, since you wrote this comment we have had another bad storm, mostly snow this time though, at least here. We still didn't lose the grid, which is nothing short of miraculous. I wondered why a bear would be out at this time of year, too. I hope he wasn't sick. They shouldn't start coming out for another week at least.

      I've had lots of bear visitors over the years, and only one frightening incident. That was when a bear came in the winter, and went on the porch to try to eat the dog food. The bear and dogs got into a big fight. I was at work, my wife was home with two toddlers and was so frightened she forgot how to load the shotgun. But the dogs ran off the bear and nobody got hurt.

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  17. hope your both well. Stay warm. Im sending you some warmer weather from over here. We just have rain and light flooding. Never buy a house at the bottom of a valley when you live in England! Doh!

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    1. Sol, we had another big snow storm here last night. The place is like Ice Station Zebra. I can use the warmer weather, believe me. I hope you didn't have any flood damage!

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  18. Good to hear you're alright. I like the look of your fuel storage. How much do you keep and how do you stop it from going bad? Generator is on the cards this year. Every year it moves up the list. At least we'd still have heat with the wood fire. Being prepared is really poo pooed by people but normally only those who aren't prepared!

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    1. Kev, I keep 1000 gallons of diesel. I use additives to keep it from going bad, and I rotate it by using it in my generator, in some other diesel powered equipment I have, and as a last resort, I carry fuel to an elderly lady who has an oil burner for heat, in a 55 gallon drum. I've never lost any yet, and what I've given away was not wasted.

      I have two wood stoves and a Tennessee field stone fireplace, but this year I moved wood to a backup in favor of propane. Propane costs more, but it's totally painless. Wood has to be hauled onto the porch, then the stoves and fireplace have to be kept stoked. Still, having the capability to burn wood makes me feel easier. God knows I have enough to keep us warm for the rest of our lives on my own land.

      I like having a generator, because I can still run the water pump and the lights off mine when the grid goes. Cant' run the dishwasher, washer, dryer, freezer or any of that stuff unless I selectively shut down everything else , but I've gotten pretty good at load management.

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