Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Valentine Blizzard: Hearts of Ice and Darkness

Oh, what a night!  What a Valentine's Day!  Our day started out with us putting the finishing touches on my daughter's science project, which is due next Wednesday.  We made good progress on it, and once it was completed, our reward would be a quick getaway on Sunday into Monday.  However, as we finished it up, we realized that our printer completely ran out of ink, so we were unable to print out the necessary papers and graphics for the project.  We planned to stop at the store following our church service that evening.

Since we had gone without TV and Internet all day, we didn't know exactly what was being forecast for the evening.  I knew it was going to get bitterly cold overnight and all day Sunday and Monday, but aside from a few snowflakes, we figured we could have a typical Saturday evening.  When we left our house at 5:15 and headed over to Grace Community Church, it had begun to snow.  It was also getting fairly cold.  Pastor Mark, who gave the message during the service, let us know that there were folks monitoring the weather and the parking lot, and we would be alerted should things get really bad outside and the service would end promptly.  Indeed, at the end of the service, Mark received word that the parking lots were very slippery, with ice under the snow, which was accumulating very quickly.

I picked up Melody from her Kid Zone class, and we headed out into the Arctic blast that had enveloped the area.  It was really cold, and the snow was coming down fast and furiously.  There was enough snow that I had to clean off our Jeep.  I threw it into 4-wheel drive and we headed out.  We had to decide fairly quickly whether to just head home, or grab dinner first.  We decided to get dinner.  We went to one of our favorites, La Palapa Too, and had a very nice time.  The restaurant wasn't very crowded, and most of the patrons were couples likely out for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner out...all except for the large table in the middle with two couples and about 8 rambunctious kids.  I'm sure they were excited about the snow falling outside.

My Valentine Date

After a delicious meal, we headed back out.  The heavy snow had stopped, for the most part.  But the thick, soft snow had been transformed into a hard, crusty mess due to the quickly dropping temperatures.  I again cleaned off the Jeep, and we debated whether we should just head home, or if we should chance going to Staples for the needed printer cartridges.  We started for home, and headed down Johns Hopkins Road to Gorman Road and continued on to Murray Hill Road.  I decided to turn left and make the trek to Staples.  Though the roads were bad, I trusted my Jeep to handle them with ease, and it did.

About halfway down Murray Hill, there were several cars stopped in our lane.  It was just in front of the steep hill down to the Middle Patuxent River, and into the Kings Contrivance community.  There were a few people running around, and the cars coming up the hill from the opposite direction were going very slow.  I guessed that the road must be icy, and thought about turning around and bagging it, but the driver in front of us jumped back into his vehicle and started to drive forward.  As the line of cars began to head towards the hill, I could see the tracks through the snow to the right that a car had run off the road.  The car was gone, though, so they must've been able to move on.  We were listening to WTOP and it sounded like conditions were poor everywhere.  I noted that there were power outages everywhere, too, including  over a thousand in Howard County.  We had only lost our power three times in the 15 years we have lived in our house, so I wasn't worried.

We finally made it to Staples at the Snowden Square Shopping Center.  The store was empty, and I asked the three employees within sight if they thought about closing early, and warned them about the dangerous roads.  They said they were anxious to get home.  We got our printer cartridges ($67!!!), then decided to make one more stop.  Wegman's was just across the street, and I decided to grab a few necessities just in case we were stuck at home for the next few days.  Following that, we headed for home.

It was a slow trip, but we made it without incident.  There were many cars on the roads that were having a lot of difficulty with the conditions, and they were treacherous.  The new threat was blowing snow due to the severe winds.  We had a few whiteout situations, where the winds whipped up the snow and we couldn't see anything.  I had to bring our Jeep to a stop because I just couldn't see.  Fortunately, we stayed on the back roads, which were snow covered, but had no other cars on them.  We got to our street, and it was clear we had a new problem.  It was dark.  It was really bizarre because I don't remember ever seeing it so dark on our street.  All of the street lamps were out.  This meant our POWER WAS OUT!

Sure enough, as I backed into our parking space, we had another decision to make.  For our power to be out, something must be seriously amiss.  This just doesn't happen to us.  But given how bitterly cold it was going to be overnight and through the next few days, we could be in big trouble with no power, which means no heat, plus the threat of frozen water pipes.  We checked in with my parents, who invited us over to their house for the night, if we thought the power might be out for a significant amount of time.  They live in Bowie, a 30 minute drive in good weather.  I called BGE, and their automated system said we would have power by 11:30 p.m.  That was good news, so we decided to wait it out.  It was approaching 9:45, and the house was more than comfortable, which told me our power hadn't been out for very long.  We lit a few candles, and I suggested we get ready for bed.  Melody kept her coat on, though.  She said she was getting cold.  I said she was letting the cold outside get to her.

Ben & Jerry's by iPhonelight

At about 10:15 p.m., the power came back on!!!  We were very relieved, and I said a quick prayer of thanks.  BGE came through, and quickly.  All told, the power was out for less than an hour.  Then we went to bed.  We still don't know if we should take a trip or not, but at least we'll finish Melody's science project.  Small victories.

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!

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