Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Halloween

Ok, this is a bit belated, but it looks like Halloween will be a bit belated, too - like November 5th.

Why?  Well, we had a bit of snow this weekend.   As I'm writing, there are still about a million people without power still - 4 days later.

Let me take a step back here.  At the end of last week, the weathermen were making dire predictions of a very early season Northeaster.  We never have snow of any substance this early in this neck of the woods.  At any rate, I kept my eye on the news and made sure that we would be prepared for whatever might come.  Having purchased propane for the camp stove and batteries and drinking water in preparation for Hurricane Irene, I felt well prepared.

My canoe-building class was held as usual on Saturday morning and DW and I agreed that I'd clean the garage in the afternoon while she and DS were at a birthday party so we could get a car in the garage.    I got home from class and had a bite of lunch and then started in on the cleaning.  I had a bunch of things I wanted to put in the basement and moved them to the backyard by the hatchway.  I no sooner got ready to head down to the basement to open the hatchway when I noticed some "white" in the air.  I no sooner got the last of the things into the basement when the flakes started to grow in size.  It was just before 2 o'clock.  The flakes were HUGE - like about 2-3" in diameter and falling fast. 

I continued cleaning as the snow fell and put out birdfeeders for our feathered friends.  With the early snow, I figured food would be hard for them to find.  The snow continued to fall like white lead.  By about 4:30 in the afternoon we had several inches of heavy, wet snow that were bending branches severely.  We had been invited to a Halloween party by friends that was supposed to start at 4:00, but we figured it probably wasn't happening.  DW and DS arrived not much later and we started making dinner.  We ate and had cleaned up most of the dishes when the power went out.  Electric camping lanterns were pulled out and everyone went to bed a bit early.  Throughout the night we could hear the sounds of breaking branches.

We awoke to this:

Probably about 10 inches of snow.  We later found out that some areas had as much as 32 inches of snow from this storm.  Fortunately, the street appeared to have been plowed.  The more immediate issue was that the temperature in the house was dropping as we have oil heat which depends on electricity.  It was about 62 degrees Fahrenheit, but it wasn't that bad with the sun streaming through the windows.

I cleared the driveway and loaded up my car with the chainsaw and supplies.  My father, who lives across town, was likely to need some help with downed limbs and trees.  I hadn't even gotten to the main road when I had to pull the chainsaw out of the trunk to clear the road of downed trees with the help of neighbors.

On the drive over, there were branches and trees everywhere and the occasional downed wires along the side of the road.  To say it looked like a war zone would not be an understatement.  (Even four days later, there are still places where roads have only a single lane that is passable.)  There were several cars that had been crushed by fallen limbs or trees and some houses that were obviously damaged by more of the same.  On my way, I noticed that our local hardware store was open and I stopped in for a bit of 2-cycle oil.  They were doing a cash-only business using flashlights to find the stock in the store.  I must say, they were doing a serious community service. 

Arriving at my father's house, my expectations were proven right.  I spent several hours clearing downed branches and trees for my father and another neighbor until I ran out of fuel for the saw.  I could have spent more time, but most of the trees that were left will be fodder for professional arborists in the future.  When dealing with chainsaws and fallen trees it's good to know your limitations. 

On the way home, I saw this guy:

We skipped over Thanksgiving and melded Halloween and Christmas together.  This seemed to be a local theme.  I later saw another snowman with a Jack O'Lantern head that was playing a banjo at the side of the road.  DW pointed out a "snow-witch", too.

At home, we tried to keep a sense of normalcy going.   Halloween cut-outs that we'd made to go into the windows were put in place:

We also worked on our Jack O'Lanterns.  DD and DS drew up their own designs. I cut out DS's pumpkin - I think I'm getting good at carrying out the design intent - as well as my own. DD surprised me this year by not only scooping out the pumpkin seeds, but cut the face on her pumpkin as well.  Results were quite good - don't you think?

 We made a quick dinner and cleaned up before the light faded.  The family curled up under blankets with electric lanterns nearby to read some good books for a few hours before bed-time.  DS continued to complain that we didn't have electricity.  Mostly, he was complaining because he'd gotten a game for the Wii at the library, but couldn't use it!  We headed for bed around 8:00 and doubled up the blankets on the bed as the outdoor temperature was supposed to drop into the 20's. 

Monday - Halloween - the temperature in the house was about 50 degrees.  Bit nippy and still no power.  I made a pot of corn chowder for lunch and to share with neighbors who didn't have a way to cook.   As the only resource we had for information was a battery-powered radio, we hadn't heard much in the way of news about what was going on in our own town.  I went over to check on my father and he wasn't in.  While I shoveled some bits of ice off his driveway he drove in.  He'd been out to a local supermarket - which had power and was open!  Cool!  At lunch-time, DW and I decided to go get a few things we were running low on at the supermarket.  It would also be a change of pace for the kids and let them see the damage.

Back home, we put the Jack O'Lanterns out and had an early dinner to try to beat the darkness again.  The kids were dying to go trick-or-treating, so we lit the candles in the pumpkins to let people know we were home - and I headed out with the kids.  It was cold and very dark.  While we knew that some of our neighbors had left to try to find places where there was heat and power, we had failed to realize that probably 2/3 or the neighborhood had gone away.  At the third house, where we found people, they shared the news that the city had postponed Halloween festivities until the Saturday the 5th of November for safety reasons.  Good call - wish we'd heard the news sooner.

The kids are now looking forward to being able to trick-or-treat with their friends in the neighborhood on Saturday - and I'm looking forward to having truly scary pumpkins by then!  Hopefully by then, everyone will have the electricity to enjoy Halloween in warmth and comfort!

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