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A reminder that we exist at the whim of Mother Nature

Brennan Williams, 8, gets airborne over a jump on a hill near Urbanna on Monday afternoon. His landing made adults wince. Deltaville got about 12 inches of snow. Amounts tapered to 8 inches in the upper parts of Middlesex. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

A soft blanket of snow covered us for a white weekend.

The weatherman predicted all the makings of a blizzard for the Middlesex County area—15 hours of snow, high winds and temperatures in the teens—harbingers of frozen pipes and stranded vehicles.

Winter storm “Helena” was predicted for late Friday. Just before midnight, flurries fell silently. Tiny crystals of snow decorated trees.

Saturday dawned as a scene from a Hitchcock horror movie—snow blowing sideways, tree branches whipping in the wind. All it would take is one tree to fall on a power line, and we would have had a real blizzard “situation.”

Grasshopper and the ant
Huddled inside, many wondered if (or when) the power would go off. Will the well pump freeze, again? Faucets were left dripping.

Maybe I should have test fired the generator and bought some kerosene. Even though there was a 100% chance of snow, I failed to prepare. Just like the grasshopper, I ignored all warnings. “This is the South, it never snows that much. And it melts the next day.”

For backup we have a fireplace, but that doesn’t give off much heat.

I ventured out Saturday, and got overheated from shoveling snow. Thoughts flashed of those who have had a heart attack shoveling snow. That was enough for me; back inside I went. (That night I dreamed I was having a heart attack.)

My fingertips stung as blood flowed back into them. I thought about those who got stranded in snow at “Donner Pass” in 1846-47. I would not have lasted two days.

Yes, Helena was another reminder that we exist at the whim of Mother Nature.

Well, at least we had football on TV. But distracting “blizzard warning” messages streamed across the bottom of the TV screen. One message read, “essen pers report.” I wondered how many “essential personnel” get their “message to report” from TV. How did we ever survive without those messages?

I eventually folded a piece of cardboard to block the bottom of the TV screen.

Cabin fever
But sitting inside is stressful. Cabin fever struck about 3 p.m. on Saturday.

There was a knock at the door. With snow still falling, my neighbors walked over to our house for an old-fashioned visit. It was a nice break.

The mercury fell to 13 degrees on Friday night and on Saturday the high was 32, with a low of 12.

Henny-Penny, our pet chicken, the last survivor of a six-chicken brood, got to come in the house and sleep in a box. She dutifully laid her daily egg.

I asked my neighbor to drive his four-wheel drive vehicle on my driveway to mash down the snow so I could get out. My neighbor made about four passes, enough to pack down the snow drifts. And I escaped.

They tell me that before the machine age, people used to roll the snow. Now, some have snow blowers. Did you know a lawn mower will blow snow as long as its not too deep?

I should have parked close to the road, so I could get out. I usually do, but it’s all part of the new me: “Don’t worry so much. Most of what you worry about never happens.”

This snow was over my boot tops in places. One wrong step and there was snow in your boot.

On Monday afternoon I wondered if email was connected at work. Phones were quiet. There were some “thermostat squabbles.”

It seemed nobody was working on Monday. County schools remained closed through Wednesday. County offices were closed Monday and opened at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The powdery snow, coupled with below freezing temperatures, made for some good sledding just outside of Urbanna.

About 3 p.m. on Monday, Elizabeth Whitaker of Jamaica showed up at the sled riding hill with her two children. “I had to get out of the house,” she said. 

Whitaker took Faith, who is about 2 years old, on her first saucer ride. The little girl didn’t like it, but her brother Austin did, judging by the way he screamed the length of the ride, as if he were riding a roller coaster.

Brennan Williams, 8, of Remlik, got airborne over a jump, but had a rough landing.

Nathan Powell, 9, of Urbanna, tried the jump, and suffered the same wipeout as Brennan.

Barry Powell went down the hill with his daughter Madelynn, 6. The dip in the hill caused his body “to pop” in places it shouldn’t.

Although the temperature was 26 degrees, none of the kids wanted to go home. They were shedding hats to let off the heat built up from repeatedly walking up the hill.

Mark Nugent, chief of Middlesex’s Office of Emergency Service, said there were no major problems associated with the snow. There were a few false alarms, he said. “It was an uneventful weekend.”

And that’s a good thing.

posted 01.11.2017

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