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Sunday, February 7, 2010

SNOWSTORM IN COLESVILLE, MARYLAND, FEBRUARY 5-6, 2010

By JC Leahy
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)

Income Tax Preparation and Consulting
Silver Spring, Maryland

For assistance preparing your income tax returns, email: maxlegalrefund@yahoo.com

Snow began falling Friday, February 5, at around 11AM.  It fell heavily, but the roads were warm so by rush hour Friday evening, there was no problem driving.  I returned home from downtown Washington, DC to Colesville without incident.  An hour later, Dali brushed off her minivan and left for her night-shift assignment.  She took extra clothes and personal supplies.  She would be stranded at work for the weekend.

Dali clears her minivan to go to night-shift at work.

I own a  snow blade for my garden tractor, but I hadn't actually installed it for a couple of years. Installing it is a pain.  It consumes an hour of lying in the driveway. First you have to remove the lawn-cutting deck, slide it out sideways, store it somewhere, and then mount the snow blade -- or "dozer blade," as Sears pompously calls it.   Besides, I have an old snowblower that functions, so who needs a tractor, right?    Dark was already falling when I arrived home  Friday.  After listening to the latest weather forecast, I lay down in the driveway, funbled around by flashlight, and put the blade on that tractor.  Joaquin, my son-in-law drove over and helped me. Then I went out and bought an additional 5 gallons of gasoline.  That gave me about 12 gallons of available gas to work with, 50 lbs. of potassium chloried salt, a small snow blower, a garden tractor with "dozer blade" and  2 snow shovels. I It sounded like a lot of snow, and I didn't want to become snowbound  because -- counting me, my wife, and Lindsey who rents the cottage in the back --  there were 3 nurses at my house who needed to get to and from hospitals.  Plus there was Andrea, our roomer, a public school teacher.  Also I have tax clients who, even at the height of the snowfall, wanted to come and pick up their tax returns so they could get those tax refunds!  All in all,  I had a LOT of people interested in my driveway!  With a 3-acre yard and a house set far back from the road, the driveway was extensive!


Anything not related to snow clearing was crammed to the rear of the tiny "one car" garage.


Tractor, snow blower, shovels, were arranged to move out.

That night, the snow started to accumulate in the driveway.  I started clearing right away.  I began with the snow blower clearing the back parking area.

Then I went to the front parking area and front-door walkway. 


By the time I went to bed later Friday night, I had additionally cleared the entire front and back parking areas and driveway with the tractor three times.  The snow kept falling..

When I woke up Saturday morning and opened the garage door, I couldn't even get the tractor out of the garage.  So much for hard work and having a plan!

The Craftsman garden tractor with "dozer blade" sat uselessly in the garage.  Even with rear-wheel chains installed, it was too light to push that much snow.
The house was buried in snow.


Buried front of house.


Buried driveway circle and rear parking area.

Plan B relied on the little 6-horsepower snowblower.

A big task begins with a single line in the snow.

I worked ALL DAY Saturday digging out.  Eventually, the rear parking area and cottage driveway were cleared.

The driveway loops around to the rear parking area and the cottage.  It's a long way from here to the main road!

Then the front parking area was cleared. 


Front parking area

But the long part of the driveway, leading out to New Hampshire Avenue was still full of snow.

Meanwhile, while I was outside working, Joaquins' mother Alina phoned me on my Palm.  She said that Joaquin, Theresa, and infant Ethan were snowbound without heat or cooking stove.  Alina had a friend with a truck whom she had asked to fetch Joaquin and family, but the friend saw no hope of getting through the snowy neighborhood roads.  I phonedTheresa and Joaquin's house, but only the Verizon cyber-voicemal answered.  I learned something  It turns out that when you lose power to your house, a FIOS landline is useless. Only an old-fashioned analog landline will work.  This is because the analog line carries its own power, but a FIOS line relys on a digital-to-analog converter when the digital signal arrived at your house.  The converter needs electricity from the regular power grid!!  Wow!   So, I reached Joaquin on his mobile phone. He confirmed that the neighborhood was unploughed, power was out, and the household temperature was rapidly dropping.  I advised him that my 4x4 Ford Explorer was pretty good in the snow.  I might be able to dig out in another hour.  I would call again when I had dug out, and we would consult about the situation at that time.  An hour was optimistic.

Ice laden, sagging power lines cut electricity to something on the order of 230,000  households, including that of Theresa and Joaquin!



Pepco Electric crews struggled to make repairs.

So the digging continued.  Around 12:30 AM, Andrea came out to help. 


Andrea shoveling -- look at that snow's depth!!

The 25 horsepower Craftsman snow plow was useful mainly for keeping clear what had already been cleared. 

Trying to get traction. :)


Once the driveway was clear to the street, the next problem was to free the 4x4 Ford Explorer from the snow.



Meanwhile,  the usually bustling New Hampshire Avenue grew silent except for an occasional snow plow.




After we cleared off the Explorer, I phoned Joaquin to check on whether his neighborhood was plowed and whether their power was back on.  Power was off.  A repair wasn't expected until Tuesday -  three days away!  The indoor temperature was falling and they had no way to cook.  Sooo...Andrea and I took the Explorer out for a ride in the snow to make a pickup. 





It was a bumpy, sliding ride.  We followed "snow emergency routes"  -- north on New Hampshire Avenue, then east on Route 198.  The roads were barely plowed - bumpy, slippery, and narrow.  Stranded vehicles littered the roadside.  Actually, it was kind of fun -- as long as we didn't get stuck!


Stranded vehicles littered the roadsides.

The plan was for us to drive to a pickup point and then call Joaquin. Theresa and Joaquin would hike 1/8 of a mile through snowbound fields and a construction site, carrying baby Ethan and supplies, to reach us for pickup.  That's what we did.


Joaquin carrying Ethan and Theresa carrying supplies arrive at the pickup point. They hiked through the terrain shown in the background.  Andrea (left) waits at the vehicle.


And soon, everyone was back at the New Hampshire Avenue house for a 3-day stay with the in-laws (Dali and me).  LOL!  Happy ending!


Joaquin and Ethan


Theresa and Joaquin with Ethan.


:)

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