February 2014 Blizzard

I guess the saving grace for us is that even if we had stayed put in Northern Virginia, this winter would have been just as brutal. The difference is that out here on the mountain we are miles and miles away from everything and anything.

The locals around here have told me on several occasions that February is the month where, if there was going to be any snow, we would get it then. They just didn't tell me it would be all at once.

To be fair the people around here were just as surprised as we were by the amount of snow we received over a 36 hour period of time. Most reckoning by various individuals puts it somewhere around two feet more or less. And that doesn't take into account the strong winds that created very large drifts and quickly filled in already shoveled walks and driveways.

In essence we experienced two back to back snowstorms separated by about twelve hours of relative calm, relative being the operative word here. The temperature warmed up enough to create some rain and sleet in between storms, resulting in the first 12 inches compressing down a bit to 8 or 9 inches before Part Two started up. This helped knock snow and ice off of the trees and power lines, which went a long way towards preventing power outages in our neck of the woods.

The image below was taken from our circular driveway looking down the private gravel road we live at the end of Storm One

First Storm Front Yard


This next picture (below) is of a portion of our home and the two out buildings off to the right after the first storm.

First Storm Front House


Our closest neighbors, about an eight of a mile down the road, are an elderly couple and he had just finished a round of radiation treatment. Needless to say he is in poor shape and needed some help. Before the storm started I spent some time down there helping him prepare his generator, put some stuff away and cover his wood pile with a large tarp. After the initial storm had passed Mrs. Cog and I headed back down there to shovel them out.

Here you see the paths we shoveled leading back to his water wood stove boiler to the left and to his generator shed behind the house to the right.

First Storm Neighbor


Below Mrs. Cog is just finishing our neighbor's front walkway that leads to his car and the water wood stove boiler.

First Storm Neighbor 2


We went back a few hours later after dusk and shoveled out their driveway because we saw that a second storm, or radar "blob" as Mrs. Cog described it, was coming. As it turned out we were glad we did because the second storm dropped a true 12-14 inches on top of what was already there. If we had not taken care of the driveway and pathways then it would have been very difficult to deal with twice the snow later on.

The image at the very top of this page was shot at the height of the storm the next day. 25 to 30 mile an hour winds created near white out conditions for the entire storm. Near the end of the second storm I had to get outside and shovel my way out to the water wood stove boiler to load it back up with wood. I found at least a foot of additional snow and two or more foot deep snow drifts.

Second Out Buildings


And below Mrs. Cog snapped a shot of the front of the homestead after the second storm while she was working on freeing the cars from captivity.

Second Storm Front of House


A great shot (below) by Mrs. Cog of the cars buried in snow after the second storm.

Second Storm Card


The day after the second storm dawned bright and blue, a truly glorious day.  Below is an image taken  of the front yard and the private road leading back down the hill. Compare this one with the one further above after the first storm.

Second Storm Road


The next image is of Mrs. Cog and the child unit hacking a path out to the cars.....again. This was getting real old. Overnight winds had buried much of the path cut yesterday.

Second Storm Cars


While I was opening back up the walkway to the water wood stove boiler and the garage, Mrs. Cog and the child unit worked the front walkway. The sky was such a brilliant blue that morning. Truly magnificent.

Second Storm Side House


We live at the end of a private dirt road off a dirt road off of a back road in the middle of nowhere. Below is an image of the Cul-de-sac just at the end of our property. The three people who live on this private road year round have contracted with a local farmer to plow our private road with his large John Deere farm tractor with a plow attachment.

Twice yesterday during the height of the storm he came chugging up the road clearing the way. Considering what he was dealing with he did a great job making the road passable for four wheel drive vehicles, especially considering the blowing snow all night.

Second Storm Cul de sac


After cleaning up our own walkways and making our way out to the cars, but not clearing them completely, we decided to head back down to the neighbors to dig them out again. Here you can see Mrs. Cog on the left and the child unit on the right heading down the semi plowed private dirt road we live on. Snow drifts filled in the road a bit, but it was still passable with a four wheel drive.

Second Storm Down Road


Halfway to our neighbors I turned around and took a shot of the road leading back to our place. You can see the snow drifts on the right hand side below.

Second Storm Halfway to Toms


I got to work digging out the neighbor's wood that I had covered two days earlier. It was slow going, but the results were so much better than they would have been if the wood had not been covered. Then I widened the pathway from the house to the wood stove boiler so that our elderly neighbor could make his way safely to the stove.

Second Storm Toms BoilerSecond Storm Side Walkway


Mrs. Cog, with help from the child unit, cleared nearly the entire driveway. Amazing.

Second Storm Tom Driveway 2


Nice clean walkway by Mrs. Cog and daughter....with a little help from me.

Second Storm Toms Walkway


Just as we were breaking through the really heavy packed snow at the end of our neighbor's driveway the Calvary showed up in the form of the third resident of our private road. He comes with a Deere backhoe and bucket loader and he made short work of the heavy snow. We were all pretty tired so it was real nice to step back and let the heavy equipment do its job.

Second Storm Tom Calvery


The Calvary then offered to help dig us out as well, so we headed back up the road while he worked at clearing some of the snow drifts between him and our place.

Below is another shot of the road back to our place from our elderly neighbors property line.

Second Storm Road 2


While the backhoe made its way up the road we worked on digging out the backsides of the vehicles, then backing them up 5 feet in order to give the bucket loader room to remove the packed snow in front of the vehicles. The Deere made quick work of removing that heavy snow.

Second Storm Deere Driveway 1


With both vehicles now cleared from the circular driveway the Deere could go to work without worrying about hitting anything important.

Second Storm Deere Driveway 2


Mrs. Cog took this shot (below) from our front porch of the Deere working the circular driveway. I was very grateful that our neighbor showed up when he did. We were all exhausted and he saved us a half day's work. Thank you neighbor.

Second Storm Deere Driveway 3


The final image below shows what a great job he did with his John Deere. Bravo!

Second Storm Driveway Cleared

Cognitive Dissonance



3 thoughts on “February 2014 Blizzard”

  1. We had about the same here, maybe a little more. Good chance to test and improve the preps – confidence-building.
    I found my little backup generator (you don’t need much with a solar system/batteries/inverters – just enough to handle average load or a little more) was *too* efficient. It not only didn’t melt the snow off its outside, it would up full of snow on the inside, sucked in through the air intake! I had to bring it in and melt it out before it would run again. I then built a little roof out of rmax to sit over it (propped up by the snow I’d dug from around it), so it wouldn’t suck in more as it was still snowing. After the first plow-pass on my road, I was getting out fine in my 4wd. But a few hours later – the second pass by the state grader plowed me in with a 5′ tall, 3′ thick wall of blue ice I couldn’t get a shovel into. Luckily, unasked, a neigbor came by and plowed me out. He got stuck himself, but was able to plant his loader bucket in the ground and use the hydraulics to push himself back out of my driveway.
    We had a great laugh when my truck then just drove through the same spot he’d been stuck at.
    Good neighbors are where it’s at. We just help each other – it’s the way to live and live well. Maybe it’s a cop-out to move so far from the crap in the cities and world, but hey, a guy’s gotta live, and I’d prefer to live well where it’s possible.
    Here’s a vid taken in the AM of that snowy day – shows about half what we eventually got.
    Now, the good side of all this is that we got well-watered, and so far, little runoff. My garden will be very rewarding this year I bet.

    1. @DCFusor

      Yes, it does look like you received about six inches to a foot more than we did. But that may be deceiving because the wind howled over here during the entire storm, I assume since we are smack dab on the edge of the Blue Ridge Plateau ridge, so we never saw snow actually falling straight down as you had in your video. We witnessed mostly horizontal snow over here.

      Good neighbors are where it’s at. We just help each other – it’s the way to live and live well. Maybe it’s a cop-out to move so far from the crap in the cities and world, but hey, a guy’s gotta live, and I’d prefer to live well where it’s possible.

      I agree with your assessment about good neighbors. It was the way I was raised and when I tried to extend a helping hand in the Washington DC area people just looked at me like I was an alien. Or they naturally reached for their wallet assuming I was the distraction for a snatch and grab pickpocket operation. Sad really.

      In my opinion it is not a cop out to move away from an area that doesn’t want to help themselves. I am the first to step up and help out. But when others take advantage of my help, but would never dream of returning the favor, I am just being used and abused in the same manner corporations take advantage of us.

      Only a fool would stick around where s/he would be the first to be run over in a panic or stampede. If someone doesn’t even want to learn how to help themselves, nothing I can do will help their situation, only worsen mine.

      As I explained above, the guy with the bucket loader is the third neighbor on our dirt road. He comes from a long line of local natives and, while very pleasant to talk to, I have always sensed in him a careful reservation when it came to us. We were the “city people” who bought the place up the road, who are of unknown moral character or ability to even make do when the going gets tough.

      When he found all of us, Mrs. Cog, our daughter and me, all down at the elderly neighbors place nearly finished shoveling him out I suspect we gained a piece in his eye. A few days after the storm I was traveling down the road to hit the local store and ran into him walking from his car. He was very pleasant and started the conversation, something he never did before.

      When I thanked him again for his help clearing out our driveway he said that it was no problem. He then said that is was great having good neighbors around. I took that as high praise from him. His wife, who NEVER waves at us when we drive by even when we wave first, has even started waving. It is very satisfying slowing winning the trust of the local natives. I wish to be seen as an asset here on the mountain and not as a potential liability.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments.

      Cognitive Dissonance

  2. Thanks, Cog. Yup, it takes awhile to get “normalized” out here and be “adopted” by the natives, because most of the city folk they’ve met are as you describe – I’m a DC native myself, and it took awhile to become “native” here, via pretty much the same route – show your stuff, be good, people realize who you are, it’s good. No, it’s really good.

    I did have a tiny bit of damage. One is I bashed my finger using a log to bang on one of the support poles for the solar stuff, so the snow would avalanche off it (it worked!). The other was the stub antenna on my Volt broke off. I didn’t bother cleaning it off, since I knew I wasn’t going anywhere in it, and after a melt and refreeze, this huge block of snow/ice slid off the roof and took the antenna with it – snapped off a 12-32 (near as I can tell, maybe it’s metric) brass stud in the process. I’m going to see if they’ll give me a new one free of course, but no dealer service is ever really free – at minimum I have to drive there (over 50 miles each way), and my time isn’t value-free.

    Other than that, it was all cool.

Leave a Reply

Thoughts From Cognitive Dissonance Ψ ψ