Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In which our sn*w is gone at last, but we don't stop thinking about it

I think my dislike of iconic winter weather isn't so much learned as inherited. 

My parents didn't live in Whatcom County during the "Storm of the Century" in January 1950, but I'm sure they heard about the month-long inundation of freezing temps, broken pipes, disconnected power and phone lines, and cancelled school.  Certainly I heard about the hazards of bad weather when I was growing up there in the 1960's and 1970's....and was dismayed enough to develop my own healthy loathing for winter in the Swamplands.
1950: This milk truck is utterly stuck 
To see more pictures of the 1950 "storm of the century", click the photo.
 Today's issue of my hometown newspaper contains a thrilling account of the blizzard of 1950.   Jan Jursnich was only 15 years old and living in what we locals call "the north county" when the blizzard hit.  Years later, she very wisely moved to Davis, CA where, climate change notwithstanding, she is unlikely to have to cope with extreme winter weather.  She still remembers that winter, though.  I wouldn't be surprised if she still spells sn*w as a cuss word, either.  Here are a few quotes from the article:

The winds blew down telephone lines throughout the county. Half of all phones didn't work. Crews worked around the clock to restore service, their work complicated by the tangled frozen lines. The crews abandoned a phone company truck, one and one half tons, when it became buried in the snow.
and
Using rotary plows, bulldozers and road graders, work crews slowly opened highways and roads to small towns in the county. Grateful folks brought coffee, cocoa and sandwiches to the drivers as the equipment crept slowly past their homes.
In some places the county hired logging trucks to push the snowplows. They chained the two together, old tires tied to the bumpers of the logging trucks to protect both vehicles.
A supply of milk trucks, fuel and baked goods and State Patrol vehicles inched behind two bulldozers from Bellingham, reaching Everson at midnight. The convoy continued to Sumas, passing our house on the way, completing the seven-mile trip in five hours.
One more:
Farmers were particularly hard-hit by the storms. Milk trucks from the Arden plant in Everson, and Darigold in Lynden, couldn't travel the roads to pick up milk from dairy farmers. Milking machines, powered by electricity, were inoperable during periods of power failure, but in those days herds were small and could be milked by hand.

Farmers poured the milk into 10-gallon cans where it froze, popping off the lids; stored it in their bathtubs; or just dumped it. They lost several days of production.

On chicken farms, the brooders couldn't be heated and thousands of chicks perished. The Nielsen family provided water for their chickens, drawing it by hand from their wells, pouring it into 10-gallon milk cans and pulling it on a sled to the chicken coop. Their flock was ready to go into production when the first storm hit, but without light or heat, the chickens were forced into molt.
You can read the entire article online HERE.

This account makes me grateful for:
  • A certified woodstove and R-30 insulation in the roof, which keeps our house at 74 degrees through the cold weather.  The woodstove also gives us a way to cook potatoes (delicious!) and boil water to thaw the livestock water tanks when the power goes out.
  • My kids, who keep the woodbox full!
  • A goodly supply of lamp oil, and a Scrabble board
  • 4-wheel drive...and a tractor...and Jim, who drives the tractor with minimal cussing
  • Polarfleece. 
  • Cell phones, which allow me to call work and say "nope, not coming in" for several days in a row!
  • My horse, who is always willing to haul me through the weather.  (I was pleased that she didn't have to do anything this time except look pretty and eat hay.)
Life is good. 

Especially when the weather doesn't require a shovel.

7 comments:

  1. I remember the storm of 1950. I was 10 years old. In Bremerton we were sent home in the middle of the day as the blizzard began in earnest. We were given a paper towel to put over our mouths and noses so we could breath. From the school I lived three blocks down hill. After the blizzard, school was back in session. This is what I remember best: everyday I would pull my sled up the hill to school. At recess we played on the hill. I sledded home after school. After dinner the whole neighborhood was on the hill. We built a jump, the street lamps lit our way, we sledded until Mom made us come in for bed. For a kid..the best month ever!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, that link is well worth the click, yall. What a month! Sounds like Little House on the Prairie.

    I'm just grateful for a really mild winter.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well written and interesting, but I just can't relate. :0)

    As I ride in a t-shirt, I wonder how the rest of the world survives the winter. I know you adapt to what you have, but I would probably kill someone. Could this be an Angie rationale: I live in California so that I am not incarcerated for winter-motivated murder?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow! That's a pretty impressive snowstorm. Even from my snow-jaded Canadian perspective :-)

    We have had a strange winter here... very little snow. Lots of freezing rain, ice, and mud (frozen and unfrozen). Good for the heating bill, but not such good footing for horses!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm with you, Aarene. I don't like snow. We're having a mild winter here, and like Funder, I'm really grateful for it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We have plenty to be thankful for! our storm was nothing in comparison & I hope to never see one like that! What a relief to think of these next few days of sunshine! Hope the weatherman is right on!
    P.S. Maybe we could split the cost of Funder's air fare for a clip trip? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. My grandparents homesteaded in Brinnon, on the other side of the Sound from you. They moved there in the late 30s, shortly after my father was born. My grandfather used to tell us about the winter when Hood Canal froze over. So, I do know it can get quite cold on rare occasion!

    -OS

    ReplyDelete

To err is human. To be anonymous is not.