Besides, I didn’t need to catch the flu – snow dancing is hard on the body.
On Wednesday, two days before the scheduled event, the grocery stores were full of smiling people with candles and lanterns, batteries and jugs of milk. All the talk was about the coming event … how much, when, what they heard and knew, with the enthusiasm Floridians give approaching hurricanes.
At the checkout counter, people kept grabbing important stuff like chewing gum, tabloid reading, disposable lighters etc. I smiled, knowing I was not alone in my excitement.
I was quiet, and centered, very cool. I knew I had all the right stuff.
The few hardware stores here that sell plastic sleds, carried in stock over several unneeded years, sold out in record time. I always enjoy seeing what people think they need.
My confidence level was really high, knowing I had shopped the stores early, and got every possible item needed. Film for photos, reading material from the library, gas for the four wheeler, extra birdseed, and lights were all gathered before the first flake touched down.
That March night was very special. Since it was Friday, there were no frustrations about getting to work the next day. How perfect could it get?
When my husband, Pete, and I finally saw the first flakes, the phone started ringing as one after the other called to confirm that yes, it really was happening.
We sat in our dimly lit room watching the small white flakes in the lights outside. Every once in a while, one of us giggled involuntarily. It’s funny the stages of excitement.
I think these moments are the best -anticipation paying off, snow just starting, everything ready, and all there is to do is snuggle up and watch it. As we curled up in blankets, we made little bets about how much we’d get.
After an hour of watching, it got bigger and came down harder. We started to get sleepy. We were positive now that tomorrow would be a wonderful day.
By 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, I could hardly contain myself. I woke Pete up to see. We had inches and inches, with more inches happening everywhere. This was getting interesting! Some of our friends pride themselves on being able to drive in it, but most can’t. Our parents didn’t teach us about this, we never even practiced. Not many opportunities in a southern life.
At 3:02 a.m., I was snapped out of my reverence. The lights went out, along with everything else. Did I mention our house is total electric?
Yes, unfortunately, very total!
Suddenly, apprehension was on the uptake, concern was moving around and “what ifs’ were creeping in. Georgia Power had flickered a couple of times, and died. I looked at the clock. The stove clock was frozen at 3:02. Something inside me froze too. The liquid crystals were gone.
A noise from outside snapped my attention through the roof. It was loud, powerful, and familiar. I went out on the porch to listen. I thought it might be a plane in trouble, but it wasn’t. When it happened again, I refused to believe it. Thunder? No way! It’s snowing for crying out loud!
Neither of us woke up till it got light out and we just could not believe what we saw. First, the light in the house was very strange.
For another thing, we couldn’t see out. The windows were covered completely with a grey even glow. We went to the sliding glass door
and eased it open. A smooth pressed wall of snow stood several feet high. Beyond that nothing was familiar in our front yard. Only the banister around the deck showed above an all white surface. All the wrought iron furniture on the deck had become mounds of white on white. It reminded me of a bunch of snowmen, slumped in the chairs, still sleeping at the table.
Optimistically, we rounded up flashlights and a few batteries, gathered up candles and lanterns and prepared a nice dinner. Then we heated a large pan of water for a “sponge bath” in the kitchen. We finished by dark. We were tired and cold, but clean and full. Thanks to my great-grandmother, we had many hand-made quilts and we used all of them. It was 12 degrees outside and about 20 degrees inside.
I found an amazing 80 candles and an ancient portable radio (reminding me of “all the right stuff” in the check out line when I was wondering why people had gallons of water).
My great portable radio was still at work where I forgot it in all the excitement of Friday. When we got it working later, there was only one radio station operating within about 80 miles, so major stereo wasn’t being offered. Then we began to hear the extent of the “storm.” At that time, we had only talked to a few people by phone and been involved in staying ahead of the game. We were amazed to hear the extent of impact in the surrounding towns.
Three or four announcers were stranded at a single station, and stayed on the air non-stop from Friday until Tuesday I think.
For the next two days and nights, they produced and directed and starred in the strangest show you’d ever hear. I was having trouble remembering that it was Sunday! They kept stepping on the “one” who was sleeping in the floor behind the desk! It was getting curiouser and curiouser!
Sunday, they were announcing surgery schedules for the hospitals. The pregnant women were listed, with due dates and status reports.
Arrangements were made with neighbors with medical experience to local and back up critical situations. In other words, if you were in the hospital on Friday, you were staying! And if you needed to get there, you were flat outta luck!
The announcers continued with “personal messages,” hundreds of them.
Since few phones were working, people walked to ones they could use to relay messages to the station, on the air, live and in living color!
I reorganized our living space. I made Pete a cup of coffee using a candle to heat a cup of water in a very creative way. It took an hour,
but by then, I had gotten the house in better shape. I put the coffee grounds in the cup and they cooked into a poor excuse. Pete loves coffee and I never drink it, but I knew it was pretty bad. He’s the cook here, and we chatted about the coffee’s progress. I spilled part of it, straining it, but he was glad to just hold a warm cup, regardless of the taste We laughed with relief. I felt pretty helpless, and was increasingly mad at myself for not being better prepared. I gave myself a hard time, and I still do. I find it hard to believe how downright stupid I had been. I had only planned for fun.
This had been no fun.
By the following Wednesday, the county was moving again. Farmers had cleared the roads with their tractors and scrape blades. Things were slowly getting back to normal for some people in town. Pete got his truck out and went to check on his business. I begin to put our house back together. I sent word to my co-workers that I was staying home until the power was turned on. I was afraid not to be here. I’ve read enough Stephen King stories to know it doesn’t end just because you thought it was over.
On Thursday, the snow started melting, the roads were usable and huge crews of power and phone company experts were working as hard as they could toward us. Since we live far from town, we were among the last areas to get repaired. That day a tree, which had been leaning on our power lines, finally fell and broke the lines.
I smelled the smoke, and walked out in the yard to see my number one fear come alive. Flames were insight and very high. I drove the four-wheeler around to see how bad it was. About two acres was burning across an open field with wind pushing it toward the woods and the
house. I almost laughed at the expectancy of it. At least I had finally done something right. I had stayed and I was there to get the fire out. I used a broom and beat the fire down. It was burning between patches of snow. I was watching our land burn, and I was
strangely amused. I got the fire contained after an hour or so. With three layers of clothes, I was looking embarrassingly bad. But I was feeling great. When we left that evening to get supper and a bath at my sister’s, we were calm as we drove past the still burning trees that were safely contained.
Now, during winter season, when anyone asks me about forecasts, or snow dancing, I still cringe. Now I have created the anti-snow dance.
It tried once, but I stomped out every flake that fell, and it stopped. You gotta’ try!
I lost my love of the snow. I learned about emergency preparations, and we have purchased many items to cover ourselves should this happen again in 50 years! I have stopped being mad, but the impact of helplessness will always be a part of me.
-Beverly White, Rockmart
I was twelve years old when the blizzard hit. I vaguely remember playing outside that Friday afternoon after I got home from school. It
felt like snow if you know what I mean. The air was so cold, the kind that made your lungs burn a little if you took too deep of a breath.
“Please let it snow,” I whispered, and crossed my fingers for extra emphasis. Seems I could have done without the finger-crossing.
When the first flakes started to fall, I got so excited and started hatching up plans to get out my grandfather’s old sled that he had used as a kid growing up in West Virginia. My mom was excited, too.
Every hour or so, we would run over to the door and turn on the flood lights just to make sure it was still coming down. And, it was sticking -- a true southern test of the likelihood of accumulation. A few flakes are exciting; if they start sticking, well then that’s a whole other ballgame.
I remember waking up the next day and looking out my bedroom window. I couldn’t believe how much snow there was on the ground and I realized that, good grief, it was still snowing!
My dreams of coasting down hills on a sled (the old-timey kind with steel runners) quickly vanished as soon as I stepped out onto the snow because I immediately sunk down to my knees.
I remember it was still pouring snow when we – me, my mom and dad – decided to do a little “hiking” in the snow. I mean, we’d done it a
few years ago when we had two inches of snow, what’s eight more? Piece of cake. We started out our front door in so many layers it was a chore to even bend our elbows. Thank heavens none of us fell down, getting up would have been impossible. We walked – slogged is a better term – from the front porch to the top of our driveway (we lived on a hill) and I remember thinking that the whole ordeal was just unreal.
It was like we were on an arctic expedition. The snowflakes stung my face at first, then I guess it got so numb from the cold that I didn’t feel them anymore. I wrapped my knit scarf around my mouth in a futile attempt to warm up the air before I had to breathe it in and I remember my scarf literally freezing to my mouth. I admit I got a little freaked out. The wind was just incredible. Everything was white and the snow was coming down so hard, I could hardly see. I remember yelling out to my mom, “I don’t think I can make it back to the house!
My lungs! We’re going to freeze to death!” I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic.
After our escapade, we all decided that the conditions were a little too harsh to actually enjoy the snow, so we piled back into the house
which was toasty warm thanks to a wood burning stove and my dad’s firewood stockpile.
We ate like champs thanks to mom and her Laura Ingalls Wilder cooking skills that kicked into gear. We were without electricity but had that cast iron wood stove. Fully loaded, that thing would put out enough heat to singe your eyelashes if you weren’t
careful. When we realized the power wasn’t coming back on anytime soon (I think we were without it for a week, maybe longer), we had chunked everything outside that needed to be kept cold. Every night, we would go out onto the back porch and raid our “new” refrigerator which was basically a gigantic mound of snow. I remember digging through the snow to find a pack of bologna. Jackpot. It was special too, because it wasn’t just bologna anymore, it was “blizzard bologna.”
But we had more than that. I remember one night we had baked potatoes and steak – my mom was a whiz on that stove! She even made coffee on it. We would eat dinner all toasty and warm by the light from kerosene lamps and candles. We found an old-as-the-hills battery operated radio and later on in the next week, spent hours, yes hours, listening to the Big Double A. I remember hearing announcements from people that were looking for someone to come and get them because they needed to go to the hospital and I remember stories of people who were going to get medicine for those who needed it. And I also remember my dad yelling, “you idiot!,” when the same guy kept calling in over and over
all in a twist because his cable was out and he needed to “watch his shows."
Our power was out for a week, and maybe a day or two more -- can't quite remember. But I do remember that it was my job to go and scoop snow into our kitchen garbage can and bring it back inside so it would melt. We had to use that water to flush the toilet and to take baths with and I use the term “bath” loosely – Navy showers as my granddad called them. I don’t remember how I washed my hair, though I did (I hope I did anyways) at some point. I probably blocked that memory out because it was too traumatic.
My grandparents, who lived at the bottom of our treacherously steep driveway, had gas appliances, and after the first few days of being holed up in our house together 24-7, mom, dad and I ventured out and went for a visit. I remember my grandmother made us hot, buttery biscuits. She still has an “I survived the Blizzard of ‘93” T-shirt. No lie.
Going back to school after the storm was interesting. That first day back I remember everyone sharing their stories. One guy said he had built a snow tunnel from his house on Blanche Road to WinnDixie.
Pretty sure he was making that up.
I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since nearly a foot of snow, sometimes more in places, blanketed Polk County. It was certainly a unique experience, and one we might not ever see again. But if we do, I’ll be sure to celebrate by making a blizzard bologna sandwich.
-Aimee Harmison Madden, Cedartown