Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Shenandoah Valley braces for substantial March snow

A foot or more of snow is expected in the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia, and residents have been preparing for heavy, wet precipitation that will be accompanied by 20-30 mph winds and possible power outages. We are under a Winter Storm Warning that was issued by the National Weather Service for many areas on both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

At the Mitchell household we are as ready as we will ever be. In a familiar drill for those who live in rural areas, preparations began a few days out as the possibility of substantial accumulations looked more and more certain. Bottled water, flashlights and fresh batteries, candles and matches are within easy reach. The generator is gassed and ready, propane tank is full, pathways are cleared, car gas tank is full. Snow shovels are on back porch and deck, and everything is secured in anticipation of high winds.

Probably most importantly, we have stocked firewood on the back porch for the wood stove that not only heats the house during the storm but doubles as the primary heat source if the power goes out as well as the kitchen stove. The creative cook comes out in all of us when we gather around the wood stove -- pot of chili, steak teriyaki, roasted chicken, steamed vegetables, and chocolate chip cookies can be cooked on the stove top while baked potatoes and other roasting veggies cook inside in the coals. Reynolds Wrap is a wonderful thing for camp cooking. Coffee can be perked, water heated for hot chocolate, and old-fashioned popcorn cooked around this mainstay in our house.

As back-up to that, we have the Weber charcoal grill, gas grill, and camping equipment where a Coleman stove with extra propane cylinders has helped in past weather emergencies, as well as a Coleman propane lantern (both need well-ventilated areas). We have battery lanterns for inside so the Coleman lantern is reserved for outdoor lighting. 

If the power goes out and cold creeps in, there are sleeping bags as well as stack of blankets and quilts. In 1996 at our house in the Brushy Mountains of northwest North Carolina, a devastating January ice storm destroyed thousands of trees and our electricity was out for almost four days. We stored freezer food on the screen porch in the below-freezing temperatures, filled the cooler with snow and ice for refrigerator items, and cooked on the wood stove. That was the winter I became a believer in wood stoves because our neighbors on the mountain all had to leave after two days since their fireplaces could not heat their entire houses and water pipes froze. Meanwhile, we were snug and safe around our wood stove with our two young children and cat.

Today is overcast and gray as we wait for the storm that is supposed to begin as rain and turn to snow this evening. Right now the prediction is that, once the storm begins, we will have 30 hours of snow. Everything can change so we're watching weather forecasts as we lead up to the beginning of this snow event. As always, my camera is on standby to take photos as the event unfolds.

While I'm probably one of the biggest snow lovers you will ever know, and the ski areas love all this snow, a storm of this magnitude calls on emergency services and hospital essential personnel who must travel and work in dangerous conditions. Power outages put Dominion Power and other electrical workers in the weather to restore the lights, and VDOT will be out clearing roadways throughout the storm. To all of them and others who keep essential services going, thank you. Be safe, stay warm, and know that you are appreciated.

Snow storm 2013 ... we're ready.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
March 5, 2013

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