Normally, living on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina is a pleasant adventure—we get all four seasons, mostly moderate winters, cool summer evenings and impressionist fall foliage. Spring on the other hand is always a little iffy—it sometimes doesn’t like to let go of winter and what often happens is you wake up one day and its summer—without a lot of what is supposed to be in between.
Sandi and I sort of “homesteaded” in 1978 and have been here since.
This past fall was one of our very best with Indian summer lasting well into mid-November—some of my best bike rides were in October and November.
However, with all that is fantastic about living along the Appalachian Blue Ridge, there are definitely some occasional drawbacks.
Like this past Christmas weekend.
Our local weather wizard Ray (Rays Weather dot com) forecast freezing rain to begin about 9pm Thursday evening and last into Christmas day with temperatures then rising to about 41 degrees. Icy accumulations were supposed to be in the quarter inch range and we stored up some water and went to bed that evening with not a lot happening weather-wise. Forecasting weather in these hills is often very difficult and we have seen the “storm watch” come and go many times with nary a whimper. So, when bad weather is forecast we take solace in the fact that it often doesn’t happen.
Such was not the case this time.
At about 3am we began to hear the snap, crackle and explosive pop of tree limbs breaking off under the weight of the freezing rain which seemed to come pouring all around at an even 32 degrees farenheit. As with strong winds, sleep is almost impossible at that point and after tumbling and turning for a couple of hours, both Sandi and I got up, made coffee, took showers and waited for our daughter Laura to get up for breakfast and Christmas morning.
Branches were breaking and falling out of our trees every few minutes or so and as Sandi and I watched the debris pile up, we wondered how long we had until our electricity went down. We would see a flicker every now and then and I ground a lot of coffee beans during this period, just in case. And I am glad that I did.
At about 9am, the lights flickered one last time and that was it for our power. I went downstairs and got the Aladdin lamps and prepared the Coleman stove and we waited until Laura awoke and had our present opening without electricity.
I did forget to tell you one thing—the previous Thursday and Friday, the high country had been the recipient of 14-20 inches of snow and I had been on a business trip that week leading into the weekend. I was able to fly into Greensboro airport just as the snow began and after visiting my daughter in the hospital in Winston-Salem, got a motel as the roads to my house and beyond had been closed due to heavy snow accumulations. All this to say, my Y2K generator was in the shed (now destroyed) and not where it should have been for it to be super useful when the power went off the following weekend.
Such is life! We had a pleasant Christmas day and got together with our neighbors for dinner they had prepared on their wood stove. Aladdin lamps produce a white light equal to a 60 watt bulb and Sandi and I read for a while after dinner and then went to bed early.
Then next morning, I got up to more broken branches and pulled the generator out of my busted shed and hooked up a couple of extension cords and we were then able to charge our phones. power the fridge and freezer and eventually watch a Netflix video that had come on the 24th. I heated water on the Coleman stove in the basement for coffee and we finally made it into town (the roads were clear except for lots of broken limbs) for more water, gas for the generator and a quick $15 shower at a local hotel.
The electric company told me that it might be Tuesday before we would have power and like it or not, we settled into having a good attitude about the whole thing.
Sunday morning, I got up, started the generator, heated water for coffee and dishes and was prepared to cook scrambled eggs on the Coleman when lo and behold, the lights came on and life slowly returned to what we now call normal. Just in case, we flushed the toilets and proceeded to get the house cleaned up and ready for another day—this day with power.
After breakfast, I fueled up the chainsaw and hit the front and side yards to cut away the tree limbs that littered our landscape.
At one point, the estimate was that 18 thousand people were without power and thanks to Blue Ridge Electric and all the other co-ops helping, that number is significantly smaller today.
It was an adventure and we made it through—and I might add with mostly good attitudes. I thought we had lots of damage but have heard of much more. It will take weeks to move all the debris out and I still have half a tree on part of my roof. I don’t think it did a lot of damage because there was still 12 inches of snow to break the fall. Maybe I will be able to get my son in law to come over latter today and we can cut it up and get it off the roof without doing any damage to to roof. I have taken lots of good pictures for the insurance and hopefully that won’t be a problem.
All in all, we are fortunate—we made it through and are ready for the next round of snow tonight and later in the week.
It has been an interesting ride and I am going to rest for awhile before doing any more.