Snowbound but blue sky – it lasted for about two hours as the eye passed over us.

We got socked with 14 inches of snow overnight, beginning at 5 PM Tuesday, and have been snowbound since then. NOAA in its infinite wisdom had predicted less than an inch. Having been down this road before, we tend to discount the prediction and assume the worst. We had the generator up in the shop and plenty of gas, as well as diesel for the backhoe. We always have extra supplies and food on hand, so there was no need to worry about basics like food, water or toilet paper. Firewood comes from the ranch and there are nearly always one or more trees down every year to supply us with fuel. Although the wood stove works in a pinch for cooking, our kitchen stove is propane and we had just had the propane tank filled on Monday.

Snow and wind snapped this tree right in half.

While food, power and fuel were no issue for us, the storm – which clobbered the whole far north of the state quite badly and left almost 50,000 people without power and an untold number snowbound – took out our phones and DSL. Cell phones don’t work up here, except for a very few spots on the west-facing cliffs, all on private land. Being incommunicado is a problem when you want to check on oldest granddaughter who was working in town and who doesn’t have four-wheel drive, or my 91-year-old stepmother who lives alone on an isolated ranch 35 miles away. And while we had made plans at work to close the clinic if we had safety concerns for patients and staff, those plans depended on a functioning phone and/or internet. In retrospect (and in planning for next time) we should have contacted everyone while things were working and told them not to come to work unless we called them in. Lesson learned. To add insult to injury, it started raining late Wednesday afternoon; we got four inches in about eight hours. The Sacramento River was at flood stage last night, our creek is roaring nearly out of its banks and we have multiple waterfalls coming down the hill above the orchard. We have at least eight inches of very soggy, heavy, wet snow left on the ground (and it’s still raining). Really makes chore time fun.

The house orchard creek is now a pond.

When we get snow, it’s nearly always wet snow – none of those powdery little flakes. In our little town alone, the storm took out a transformer and trees came down on roads and power lines. The local volunteer firefighters had four calls – one medical and three fires – that they couldn’t get to. Since the whole county was snowed under (even the flatlanders down in the big town 35 miles away got eight to 10 inches), snowplows were not covering us backwoods folks. Hubby chained up the backhoe and spent 15 hours clearing and plowing roads, digging out the fire station so the trucks and ambulance could get out, cutting up and moving trees and heavy branches that had come down, and cleaning out a ditch for snowmelt to prevent it washing the road away. Then he had to deal with a recalcitrant pump in the house well. By the time he staggered in the house last night at dark the only way he could walk was bent over. Meanwhile I was shoveling paths, clearing steps and decks, and melting water to flush toilets since the pump had gone out. We discovered around 3 AM Wednesday morning that OGD got stuck and spent the night in a snowbank.

A pretty nuisance…

The road out – eventually…

We finally managed to get out Thursday afternoon so we could get into cell phone range. The valley looked like a war zone. Since we couldn’t raise my stepmother, we drove to her place. The driveway was littered with debris from eucalyptus, live oaks and an olive tree; it had obviously been impassable right after the storm. A ranch wife from the immediate post-WWII era who lived in a tiny, isolated mountain town, my stepmother has been snowbound before. She had built a fire in her woodstove and stayed huddled in bed under the covers to keep warm. Luckily the guy who runs his cattle on the property had come to check on her and got the county in to clear the road. A friend came in and took her to a house where she could be warm and dry. OGD got out of the snowbank and over to a friend’s. The bad news is that the clinic got over 30 inches of snow. It took out the generator, which means we lost all our vaccines. When the snow slid off the roof it packed up against the walls, and as it melted, it seeped through the walls, so the clinic is saturated with water again (we just did this in October when a pipe burst!). Come on, Ma Nature, give us a break already.

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