Monday, February 08, 2010

Snowcalypse Stories (Part II)

Snow at Night - Snowcalypse 2010 Potomac, MDYesterday I described for you my rush home from sunny California in order to be home with my family when the snowstorm arrived to the DC area.

Because I'd been up almost 30 hours, I decided to crash and get some sleep before I went out to the back yard and bring some wood closer to the house.

By the time I woke up, the snow had begun to fall, and it all looked so blissful and beautiful, that I didn't recognize the inherent dangerous beauty of a major snowfall.

The lights flickered several times that night as we went sleep. Outside, it snowed continuously.

Throughout the night we're awakened by falling branches on our roof from the huge pine tree next to the house.

One huge branch barely misses the house - that one would have done a lot of damage - but 2-3 other large ones land on the roof with a lot of crashing noises.

Before the lights went out - Snowcalypse 2010Little Junes wakes up around 5:30AM on Saturday morning because he is cold. He is cold (as are we) because the power has been out and the house is already in the 60s. Outside it is all covered in several inches of snow and it's falling heavily.

By 9AM the temperature inside the house has dropped a few more degrees and I decide to get dressed and trek to the backyard and bring some wood into the house, as we have no idea when the power will return. It is also impossible to escape somewhere else, as there's waist-deep snow outside and a little neighborhood recon reveals that our cul-de-sac is blocked in by a tree that has fallen at the entrance to the cul-de-sac and effectively sealed about nine houses from the rest of the neighborhood. No one can get in or out until the tree is removed and the streets are plowed. And it is still snowing.

There are footprints in the snow from the street to our front door, and I wonder who made them.wood splitting wedge

The adventure of digging wood out of a snow-covered wood pile, and dragging it uphill through waist-deep snow is not an easy one, and it takes me about five hours of this brutal exercise to drag what I estimate is enough wood for a day and a half to my back porch.

Most of the wood needs to be split, and all I have is a iron wedge and a hammer, but I begin to split the wood by hand. After all, this is how people have been doing it for centuries before the modern age, right?

Add another two hours of this really hard work to the task.

Looking out the backyard - Snowcalypse 2010
By the time I get back inside the house, I am soaked in sweat inside my three-layer outfit. I then haul a third of the wood from the back porch downstairs to the fireplace upstairs - no rest for the weary. A lot of newspaper and a lot of kindling later, the wood - most of which is young and not really dry - is burning.

An hour or so later, I hear voices in my backyard and I note tracks in the snow. Curious as to who is in my backyard, I go downstairs and through the sliding glass door of the back porch i discover two neighbors hauling away the wood that I had just dragged uphill and split.

They are embarrassed; they apologize profusely. "We're sorry," says the older man (the other man is a gigantic teenager). "We knocked on the front door, and no one answered."

"We're freezing and we were wondering if we can have some wood."

I understand their desperation. "You can have as much wood as you need," I offer, "Just take it from the wood pile down there." I point to the large wood pile down hill. "I just finished spending most of the morning dragging and splitting this wood for tonight." They drop my newly-split wood and head down the hill. "Take as much as you need," I repeat.

They take some big logs. I advise them that they're going to have to get a lot of kindling and will need to split the wood. I offer them the splitting wedge, but they just thank me for the wood and leave.

I decide to walk around the neighborhood and offer my neighbors wood for their fireplaces as long as they come and carry it back to their houses. To one elderly neighbor I offer to carry it back for him and split it for him. He thanks me but says that he's got a pretty good stash in his back porch. Another neighbor (the one to my left) has already grabbed some of my wood and offers to pay me - I smile and convince him that it is OK. I also advise him that he'll need to split it first.

Since he doesn't know how, I lend him my splitting wedge and hammer and describe how to split the wood.

I go and check on my next door neighbors, who are three women and a couple of kids, and to offer them some wood. They have plenty of wood of their own, but have no idea how to use a fire place. I go inside their minimalist decorated beautiful home and show their kids about the flute and describe how to get a fire going.

By now I am a little puzzled as to how a kid from Brooklyn is the only one in this neighborhood who knows the ages old process to get a fire going. Later, when I run into the female member of the neighbors who came into my back yard looking for wood, she tells me that they had failed to get the fire going and because the flute was closed, had gotten the house full of smoke. I offer to go and start it for them, but obviously she's pissed at her men and declines.

By now my other neighbor (the one to my left) is back and tells me that he can't figure out how to split the wood. I go to his house and see that he's been trying to split green wood. I select some cured wood from his stash and split that for him and tell him that the green ones can't be split.

Snowcalypse of 2010 Sleeping arrangementsBy six PM it is dark and the house is in the low 50s.

But our fire is going good and in front of the fire it feels a little warmer - not much, but a little.

An open fireplace such as ours actually doesn't really heat up a house - in fact it does the opposite - but the psychological value of a roaring flame is quite good.

We set up camp in front of the fireplace with the sleeper sofa, Little Junes and a gazillion blankets.
Anderson Lennox Campello at the Snowcalypse 2010

Anderson Campello at the Snowcalypse 2010

It's 51 degrees in front of the fire when we doze off, and in the 40s in our bedrooms.

The fire is roaring, but there's a lot of green wood in there, and a lot of popping of knots and sparks and I become a little worried about going to sleep with a fire on, so I stay awake watching the fire while the family sleeps. When the fire begins to die, I doze off.

We awake around 5AM and it's in the mid 40s in the fireplace room and 38 in our bedrooms. We bring Little Junes into bed with us to keep him warm. The little dude has some many layers that he's actually quite comfortable, but soon I realize that the little guy is quite a bed hogger.

Little Junes - Snowcalypse 2010

Litte Junes, Master Bedhogger, Snowcalypse 2010

Next: What happened when the snowfall ended