Saturday, December 21, 2013

Just a Day in February 2010 - Helga, 79

On Tuesday, February 2, 2010. the resident groundhog and weather prognosticator, Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, was somewhat urgently pulled from his deep burrow in the ground and held up by his handlers into the bright light of numerous TV cameras.  "Six more weeks of winter!" was announced to the assembled crowd and through the news media.

On Sunday, February 8, 2010, a great snow storm hit the area and dumped 21.7 inches of snow in streets and roads.  Bushes and shrubbery in all the yards were bent deeply to the ground, and tree branches broke off under the load.  Power lines snapped and plunged thousands into darkness....

As I opened my front door that morning, I couldn't believe my eyes were seeing this changed world.  My car in the driveway looked as if it were parked in an igloo, and I was supposed to be at work at 8:30 AM this Sunday morning.

After a frantic cellphone call to my superior, I finally promised her to try to get to my job in the hotel this morning.  I didn't realize what I was getting into and was not able to get out of the house.  I made it through the garage door and pulled my electric snow shovel out.  It was my 2009 Christmas gift from my son, Harold, in South Carolina.  Did he have a special ESP line to our weather forecaster, Phil? I'd thought.

It was hard going. The snow was just too deep, and when a wind came up and blew the ice crystals in my face, I gave up and resorted to my old fashioned shoveling device.

I had just dug a deep, small path when I finally reached my small Chevy Tracker automobile and proceeded to get the mountain of snow off the car.  I pushed all the snow to one side and found out I couldn't get around the car any longer.  The driveway was suddenly so small and even the snow shovel didn't fit between the car and the driveway, so I had to drag a smaller coal shovel from the garage and clear the snow with my arms aching.

Next thing was to warm the car up and melt some of the ice from the windshield!

Well, the car doors wouldn't open.  They were frozen shut!

I finally managed to open the tailgate door and tried to climb into the front seat that way.  It was tough going for a lady of my advanced years.  I and my kids sometimes forget that I'm now a great-grandmother of five and sometimes feel my age.

At last I reached the front of the car and hung onto the steering wheel with my legs bent like a pretzel.  I had visions of being stuck that time for a long time.  My cellphone was upstairs in my purse!

One tremendous pull, and I finally was able to stretch my legs and start the car.  But the front door still wouldn't open, and I had to let the engine for some time before I finally could get out.

When I finally was able to pull out of the driveway, a lot of time had elapsed.  I noticed the tailgate door had flown open wide.  I must not have closed it properly, and I had to get out of the car in the roard with my Yak-Tracker bindings still attached to my shoes.  These devices were another gift from my kids one Christmas when we had reported to them that their father had fallen on an icy patch behind the car when he went out to retrieve the newspaper one cold morning.

There still was a lot of snow on the roads.  The snowplows hadn't made much headway either, and automobiles were spinning on the slippery road surface in front of me and to the side.

I told myself that the main road would probably be better, but they were bumpy and rough, and my driver's side door, which still didn't lock properly, flew open with each bump I encountered.  Creeping along at fifteen miles per hour, my left hand holding my car door shut while steering with my right hand, I finally reached the hotel and parked the car in snow that was still very high.

The power had gone off in the hotel as well, and the generators were in full operation.  We housekeepers had to fend with all of those drawbacks and no electricity in half the rooms presented.

Since the snow didn't let up, I decided it was not safe to drive home that afternoon.  Three of us women stayed in the hotel overnight.  The accommodations were free, and so were the meals!

Still, I didn't sleep well that night.  I was worried about my small dog, Chalupa.  With my family gone now, he is treated like a child, and he acts like a baby as well!

A cellphone call to my son, Michael, assured me that my son would drive to the house the following day, clear the rest of the snow and listen for the dog's bark, a sign that he was okay and not dehydrated without water.

As I heard later, Michael had his own snow emergency on his dead end road with no snowplow making it until all ither roads had been plowed.  A neighbor, who had passed recently, could not be buried; the mourners were unable to get the funeral home.

The snowfalls after the Great Storm continued on and off for days, building up more and more inches of snow on the already frozen gutters and overloaded roofs.  Some animal barns in the rural area collapsed, and so did an ice arena where ice hockey players had been on the ice only minutes before.

After shoveling a path for my little Chalupa in the side yard that looked as if I had dug trenches in a war zone, I made it a point to patrol the backyard every day and knock the long, heavy icicles form the gutters and lighten the snowload then with a long-poled plastic leaf rake.  A hotel mechanic I work with told me that his gutters had been pushed down from a too-heavy ice build-up load.

With a little warmer temperatures coming in, we then had to battle the snow and ice-melt coming onto our kitchen window sills and a floor lower in my home at the basement closet.  I had to empty the whole closet, and the rear of my game room looked like a flea market.

I found an old German flag and a somewhat mildewed leather purse I had come to America with as a young bride in 1955.  I even found the small blue rucksack that my husband, Henry, had worn as he was fleeing from the advancing Russian army in 1945.  The family had made the trip to Northern Germany, the distance of Danzig-Rendsburg, about 400 kilometers in about ten days, partially hanging on in an open cattle car in the coldest winter on record.

What is a little snow to these experiences?

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