October 1 & 2, 2022! Meet me at the Panhandle Preparedness Expo in Sandpoint, Idaho!

Snowmageddon 2022: What Went Right, and What Didn’t

Snowmageddon 2022: What Went Right, and What Didn’t

Snowmageddon. It just seemed like the thing to call my recent encounter with back-to-back storms since “Snowpocalypse” has been overused the last few years. And I scribe this here article tongue-in-cheek, because I realize the roughly 24 to 30 inches of heavy wet snow we received that four days just after new year may pale when compared to what some of you routinely deal with. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “Quite a bit of weather we’re having lately…” Overall, I and mine faired well. The most we suffered was a day plus without internet and calories gladly burnt moving snow and downed trees. Still, I’ve collected some lessons learned I thought I’d share.

 

  • The BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): we had five middle sized trees and multiple small ones come down across my two driveways and against one out building.
    1. The one against the building applied down pressure to my power lines where they come onto the property. A close inspection led me to realize that there were branches that had punched through the snow to the roof. Though I was keeping an eye for a possible leak into the attic, this was a relief. If it had been merely the snow holding that tree up, I think it would’ve slowly broken my power lines during the melt-off.
    2. The primary lesson actually came about two months earlier, when my first two rain/wind-related tree drops of the season (yes, “falling trees” is a “season” here) taught me that my 26-year-old chainsaw, on its second carburetor, was toast. For this storm, I had a new Stihl with less than an hour on it to turn these trees into dust.

  • Where’s the stupid ladder?
    1. Every year we get a one-to-two-foot dump of snow. (I’m in a unique part of Western Washington near Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains). And every year I look at my roofs—especially a small “lean-to” type structure over our garbage and recycle area—and think, “Why in Hell did I not get a snow rake this year?!” (A telescoping device to get snow to slide off a roof.) And while I’m no longer young and bullet-proof enough to get on a steep snowy roof, I will get up onto a ladder and broom/shovel as much snow off as I can safely reach. I found the ladder far from its designated storage location and had to unbury it.
  • Uhhh…maybe they shouldn’t stay in the travel trailer…
    1. My daughter and her four-year-old are in a patch of life that requires some “camping assistance” from us. It took an hour of listening to branches snap and fall before it occurred to me to get them into the house. They hi-jacked my office and an air mattress for a couple of weeks. Not the end of the world.
  • Back to that tree leaning on the power lines…
    1. I own no tree-climbing rigs or block and tackle. But—I have a full career in shoring up submarines as they get recycled, while working side-by-side with crane riggers. I know how to disassemble things. My first thought was to bolt legs to the tree below the powerline (and the internet line is about two feet directly below). But I’d used up my supply of lumber on raised beds last summer. However, I do have a collection of heavy nylon straps, ratchet straps, and marine line. Once I’d shoveled and salted myself a path to the tree’s top, I secured it to the far side of the structure around my HAM antenna support that is screwed to the structure. Confident that the top wouldn’t succumb to gravity, I perform a series of relief cuts below and all around that energized power line, removing the tree (maybe 8” diameter in this locale) section that was pressing on the lines. Not gonna lie—the Big Man and I had some discussion about His blessing both before and after this evolution. With tension relieved, the power lines sprang back up almost two feet. I removed the treetop from the building after all the snow had melted off.

  

  • We were one of the lucky ones to not lose power…
    1. Many friends and neighbors out here were without power for close to two days—not devastating, but enough to make grumpy married couples REALLY have to talk to each other. If we had, though, we would’ve been fine. I had the property wired for a generator plug a few years ago. We store both propane and gasoline.
  • Keeping warm…
    1. Had we lost power, Plan A would have been the propane fireplace. (I keep the pilot-light out to save gas.) Then the heat-pump/furnace running off the gennie for Plan B.
  • Cooking and water
    1. Propane stove in the house. We’re on a well. Most well pumps run on 220: make sure your generators can cycle to that voltage when you want to run the water. We also have 500 gallons of stored water.
  • Making potty…
    1. We have an older gravity septic system—no power needed. Anytime the weather acts up, we fill the bathtubs about halfway. When the power goes out, it is typically for 6 to 18 hours. This bathtub supply is simply about flushing with a pitcher when we don’t want to mess with the generator.
  • That damn Craftsman snowblower and its cheap CCP carburetor…
    1. During the first lighter, dryer snow, it worked just fine. But during the wet, heavy deep stuff, it just kept getting bogged down. Plus, despite using Pri-G, my laziness about not draining gas every year finally caught up to me. This is the one piece of power equipment I’ve ever had to stop using and do an emergency cleaning of the carb and jets just to get it running again. Lessons learned: run that gear dry every year; and always know where that 10mm socket is…

  • Those stinkin’ car batteries:
    1. My son’s car has been needing a new battery. Not driving it for over two weeks (the first was while he was off from work for the holidays) was the predictable death blow. He parks in a spot that would be very difficult to get another rig close enough to jump. Enter the “Autowit Supercap 2”. I did a blog post on this a while back and plan on doing a video very soon. This looks like one of those car-jump batteries—but is had NO internal battery. It is a series of capacitors that use the dead battery’s remaining voltage to charge itself and then jump the car. Yes, you literally jump a dead car battery with itself.

  • Things we already had (gladly):
    1. New industrial grade chainsaw
    2. Snow chains for two of our vehicles
    3. Several bags of de-icing salt
    4. Two high quality snow shovels
    5. Heavy rope and nylon gear
    6. Spare unused 20’ x 30’ tarp (didn’t need it, but we had it if we did)
    7. Autowit Supercap 2 car jumper
    8. Snow blower (not so gladly after the last wettest snow)
    9. Generator and fuel
    10. Food and water
  • Things I need to get:
    1. Snow rake with telescoping handle
    2. Better choker chains and actual block/tackle/ropes for securing, rigging, or dragging logs
    3. Tractor with snow chains! (One day, fingers crossed…)

  

In summary, as much as we all worry about a certain state of our nation’s dynamics, preparing for your regional storms—or rather, the likely threats to your normal life from them—is what you should focus on when deciding how to best allocate your money and time (training/experience) resources.

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