Before the snow started falling, the weather stations gave their normal "winter storm advisory" announcements (which means it might snow) that eventually turned into "winter storm warnings/lake effect snow warnings" (which means it will snow). But they didn't just call it that - there was a mention of some kind of "event" and also saying it's as a result of a "polar vortex."
I kind of rolled my eyes as I listened to the reports, thinking that these guys have to call it something other than a "lake effect snow warning" (which means it's supposed to snow a lot) - now they need to come up with a more dramatic name to get people's attention. I wasn't buying it. I thought sarcastically, "Oooh - It's going to snow! Pu-leeze - Buffalo's turned into a bunch of wimps - they make a big deal out of a little snow these days."
I had no idea, and I don't think anyone else really thought we would get OVER SEVEN FEET of snow - a whole winter's worth of snow in four days. I didn't take them too seriously, so the only provisions I got to prepare for this was a case of Corona and some bananas. Good thing I'm a food hoarder by nature! Food and paper products, actually...
The night it began, we had some crazy "thunder snow" where there's actually lightning and thunder while it's snowing. When Matt was alive and would experience thunder snow, he would look at me all wide-eyed and say, "That's a sign of severe weather!" It was hilarious when he'd do that because he normally didn't get too serious about much, but I could almost see his face as those words sounded in my head.
DAY 1 - I woke up at about 2:30 the morning of Tuesday, November 18th, looked out the window and thought, "Holy crap!! They weren't lying!!" There was already about a foot and a half by then, and it had only just begun. It was coming down very heavy... I knew the kids would have a snow day, so I just turned my alarm off (even though I didn't end up going back to sleep). By the time we all got up that morning, it had already nearly covered my four foot fence! By 8:00 am, the fence completely disappeared.
My local friends on Facebook were cracking me up because their main concern at this point was if we had enough beer stocked in our fridges to hold us over while we're stuck! Fortunately, I had just gotten that case of Corona (and I had a bunch of other canned beer left over from a previous party), so I wasn't too worried. =P
However, by three that afternoon, I was getting nervous and feeling a bit claustrophobic... Snow had completely engulfed everything outside and was piling up over the windows of the house and up against the doors - especially the back sliding glass door. I remembered seeing a video (taken on May 11, 2013) a while back that took place at Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota.
"The footage is of snow getting pushed ashore in the spring - it's called an ice shove or shoreline ice pile up. It's a surge of ice from an ocean or large lake onto the shore. They are caused by ocean currents, strong winds, or temperature changes. It damaged homes within fifteen minutes..." (Thanks to Sharon Honning who gave that very clear description of the video.) It went up onto the shore and when it was stopped by homes, it went up and in, breaking down doors and going through windows.
With that image in my mind, I decided I had better start digging out the doors (especially the back door) before it got pushed in from the weight of the snow.
The next day, my neighbor had that very thing happen (see "DAY 2").
The Erie County Executive had announced that they called the National Guard to come and help everyone.
The kids got out to play a little at least... (looking out from the front door to the driveway)
By about 6:30 that evening, I remembered about not running the dryer unless the vent was clear, but it didn't occur to me about the vent for the fireplace on the side of the house, so I had to go out there to dig it out. Getting to the side of the house was a trick in itself, since the snow was pretty fluffy and already up to my chest... When I came back in, I realized the heat stopped working, and as I was thinking how grateful I am for our new gas fireplace, I realized that stopped working, too! Even the pilot was out. I called the guy who installed it and was fortunate to be able to reach him - he talked me through the process of getting it lit again, and it still wasn't working. I really didn't think it could have been the vent being clogged again since I was just out there to shovel it clear, but it turns out that's why the flame kept going out. After I dug it out again, I came back in and then finally got it going. I had to set my alarm for every hour and a half to two hours to go back outside to dig it out. The second wave of the lake effect band had begun, and by 11pm that night, we already had over 70". We were officially in a State of Emergency.
Just as I thought I had things relatively in control (even with the shoveling every two hours), I heard rushing water in the basement, like through a pipe... I asked Jacob if he had the water running upstairs and he said no. I said, "If I didn't know better, I'd say the front spicket was on!" I don't know that would have been possible seeing as how it was a ghost town at this point with everyone holed up in their homes and seven feet of snow piled up outside, but I had to investigate. I went out there and dug into that untouched pile of snow on the front of the house (I had removed the hose and made sure it was turned off a couple of weeks ago), and sure enough, the thing was running full force!! How in the world that thing got turned on, I will never know - I can only assume the pressure of the snow pushed the knob and made it turn, but even that doesn't seem to make too much sense. No matter, I was just glad I found the problem and it was very easy to solve - I was picturing the knob broken right off.
DAY 2 - My neighbor Mark who lives five houses away from me had his back sliding glass door completely pushed in by the snow (this picture went viral on the internet and made the news).
In fact, they ended up doing several news interviews as a result! Our houses are all pretty much set up the same on this street, and face the same direction. Anyone who didn't shovel their back door would have very likely had the same result. At this point, there are no such things as roads, driveways, sidewalks...
Looking across the street from my front door...
Yet somehow, I easily convinced two of my great friends and neighbors who only live a few doors down (one on the left side of me, and the other on the right) to come over for a party that I ended up naming "Blizzard Bash 2014" - I had about five adults and seven kids over, and prepared a huge batch of oven fried chicken, seasoned potato wedges and steamed broccoli for everyone, and plenty of beer. It was so much fun!! I much preferred hosting this party than to have had to walk a few houses away to get here! Especially since I had to keep clearing the fireplace vent to make sure it didn't get covered again...
During the party, we realized the little gazebo in my back yard gave way from the snow... I just kept reminding myself that it wasn't the house, and that's what homeowner's insurance is for.
DAY 3 - I thought for SURE we would lose power because the drifts of snow on the overhang of the roof were so big and heavy, that they were visibly pushing on the power lines that are attached to the back of the house, to the right of the upstairs bathroom window. I called the power company and they came to inspect (I was surprised they did!) and said that it looked really bad but there was nothing they could do. I felt better just knowing they were aware of the problem. Turns out, pretty much everyone on our street had the same concern.
Seeing a high lift going down the street was like seeing a knight in shining armor!
By now, snow totals reached nearly 80" and Buffalo pride is high. We're not called the City of Good Neighbors for nothing...
I got a call from my mother who said she became very sick, and I was really worried because I couldn't have done anything to help her. Even though she only lives only about five miles away, she was outside of that band of snow and only ended up with less than a foot, so if she needed help, someone could have gotten to her at least.
At this point, I packed suitcase just in case we had to bail... Having had the heat fail, I figured if the power went out, too, we were outta here and would just go to a neighbor's.
DAY 4 - (November 21) The sun was shining brightly and gave me some renewed energy. Somehow we still have power, still have heat from the fireplace, and my mother is feeling better. I gave shoveling the driveway another shot, but it was literally over my head so I gave up. There were some people using bobcats on my street, so I chased one down and hired him. He made a path in my driveway so I could at least get the van out of the garage if I needed to, and I was even able to get someone to come over to get my heat back up and running! That night, the kids and I headed to one of our awesome neighbors' house for a visit. It was nice to have a change of scenery for a bit! Things were definitely looking up today.
DAY 5 - So many scary stories of casualties and close calls... I'm SO thankful we were home when this all happened, and that our roof held up. My next door neighbor is a volunteer fire fighter and found one of the men who became buried alive in his vehicle... Devastating. The two men buried alive in their cars both had called AAA for help, and help didn't come. Guess who is the head of Human Resources for AAA of Western New York? The same poor lady that was head of HR for Cameron's Buffalo plant when Matt was killed. I feel bad that this poor lady has to deal with more fatalities associated with her job... I know I gave her a hell of a time (that was her first experience dealing with a fatality)- I'm sure this is no picnic for her this time around, either.
The temperature was warming up drastically, and rain is in the forecast, so there are imminent threats of flooding. I decided to rearrange the basement just in case - getting things up and out of the way, preparing for the worst. I've only been living here less than two years, so I had no idea how this house would handle this sort of thing.
View of the back of my house...
Boarded up my window in case those icicles aiming for it from the roof above decided to fall through it.
We spent a whole lot of time in this room (where the fireplace is).
Huge pile of snow and ice fell off the roof, and somehow didn't take the power lines with it!
DAY 6 - Found out schools are closed until December 1st, major thaw and flooding. Sleeping at night has been impossible this entire week, and then tonight the shower curtain rod somehow fell in the middle of the night scaring the shit out of me and I thought the ceiling caved in. Scared Sydney, too - poor girl... High lifts and dump trucks removing snow on our street tonight, and high winds and warm temps pushed a giant hunk of snow and ice off the roof, making the whole house shake. I'm tired.
View from my bedroom window...
DAY 7 - Life is beginning to resume normality - grocery store for Thanksgiving Day provisions, dehumidifier for the basement, and a new shower curtain rod. We have even more to be thankful for - the house held up with all these challenges (except for the gutters, landscaping, front porch overhang, and gazebo in the back), but that's minimal compared to what could have happened.
Check out this spectacular sunset from that evening - looking out from my front door...
After all the drama from that week and being on an adrenaline high prepared for the worst, I crashed. I was worthless for about two days, and then pulled myself back together in time to get everything back in order and prepare for hosting Thanksgiving. That post will be up soon!