“Winter Storm Warning, Haywood County.” That’s what it said on television Thursday night, up in the top right corner of the program we were watching. Winter storm warning. Yeah, we’ve heard that one before.
“Better get to Ingles quick,” I said, rolling my eyes while zipping through sixty-three channels with my remote during the commercial, which is just a thing men have to do.
“Hey, we don’t live in town anymore, smart guy,” Tammy said.
“Oh, I know, I know,” I shot back. “How will we EVER get to town through all the snow flurries? If we get two inches, it’ll be a miracle. When was the last time they got a winter storm called right? 1993? We’re fine.”
The snow had already started before dawn on Friday. School was out, of course, so we slept in and finally managed to rouse ourselves enough for a late breakfast. I was sipping coffee at the kitchen table, watching about 20 birds compete for spots on our big feeder on the deck. The snow was pretty steady outside. Hmmm, maybe we’ll get those two inches, after all, I thought. Kids might even get to try out their new sleds.
I took a long shower, and decided I might as well get a jumpstart on the day’s work. I had another day to meet some deadlines I had — and only three or four hours worth of work to do — but I liked the idea of finishing early, and since we were “snowed in” (haha), I figured I might as well knock it out. So I poured a fresh cup of coffee and sat down with my laptop. Outside, the snow was a little more urgent than before. Well ...
Before I could finish that thought, Tammy opened the door and our dog, a miniature dachshund, burst in, his face a mask of snow.
“Uh, you might want to see this,” Tammy said, stomping her boots.
I went over to the door and opened it, which resulted in the dog darting back out the door and diving back into a layer of snow at least six or seven inches deep. He was there for a second and then he was just gone. All I could see was the top of his back and head. He looked like a dolphin just breaking the surface of the ocean. He tunneled around until he found his way back to the porch steps, emerging with a fresh mask of snow, quite pleased with himself.
The snow poured now, and although it was not yet even mid-afternoon, the sky was dark. I could feel a thought trying to force its way into view, but I couldn’t quite make it out. So I sat down to work for a bit, thinking that if I distracted myself, the thought would finally make itself clear. In about 15 or 20 minutes, it did, speaking to me with great authority and, I thought, a hint of mockery.
“You are going to lose power, you dolt. You are going to be stuck here, probably for days. You don’t live in town anymore, genius.”
Lose power? Lose power! But what about those deadlines? What about that trip to Ingles? What about an alternate heat source?
I began working frantically, trying to cram as much productivity as I could into whatever time we had left before the power went out, which turned out to be about 45 minutes. Tammy was in the middle of a shower, covered with soap, when the whole house went dark and silent all at once. Stereo gone, heater gone, water gone, all gone. There is no silence quite like the silence when the power goes off in your house.
“Now what?” Tammy said, pitifully, nestled down inside her big white bathrobe.
“Blankets, candles, flashlights, sandwiches, ghost stories,” I said, trying to think of other “like” things to go on the list. It was like answering a question on the SAT.
We found that we could light the eye on our gas stove, which meant we could boil enough snow to furnish water for drinking, washing our faces and hands, and flushing the toilets. When darkness asserted itself about an hour later, we were able to make dinner by using the flashlight. We lit candles and huddled around the table, eating some pretty decent chicken fried rice. We discovered that our new house has pretty good insulation — the temperature remained pretty comfortable right up to bedtime, which was around, oh, 8:30 p.m. or so.
Right before bed, the phone rang. A friend who lives in Cullowhee called to check on us. He said that they must have five or six inches over there. Just then, Tammy came back in holding a tape measure, her thumb and forefinger pinched a little over the 15-inch mark.
“Fifteen inches here,” I said. “And it’s still coming down. We won’t have power until next week.”
I got off the phone and went outside, just to absorb it all before bed. I love the quiet of heavy snow, the absolute stillness of it. But all I heard were trees snapping, branches breaking off and thudding heavily as they shook the ground. One tree fell about a foot in front of our minivan, its topmost branches reaching out for the hood like the tentacles of some newly discovered creature.
We won’t have power for a week, I muttered to myself. Winter storm. Yeah, right.