Friday, March 12, 1993 - Reports on TV warned of a big snow storm coming. We didn't take it too serious, but by nightfall, the snow had started to fall, and 2 to 3 inches were on the deck, enough for a snowball or two. Put one in the freezer for a keepsake, but it was not to last long. Power went off at 2am as the winds picked up. Learned later that power had gone off all over north Georgia, cutting service to some 300,000 homes.
Saturday, March 13, 1993 - The storm is huge. Radio announcement claimed that the leading edge of the storm was over New York while the center was over Georgia. Snow accumulation on our deck was at 11 inches by dawn. Stuck a yard stick in the pile just outside our window so we could watch the level. Without electricity, we had to rely on the woodstove in our fireplace for heat, and it did a good job. Phone rang all day. Family, friends and neighbors checking on us. TV was telling the world that the Georgia mountains had been hit with the storm of the century.
Started a jigsaw puzzle to have something to do. Neighbors on the mountain began a daily phone check on each other. Some were without water as well as electricity, and a few had no heat with the power off. That was biggest concern as temperatures were plunging into the teens. Found batteries for flashlights and radio, and dug out a Coleman lantern and one burner cookstove. Checking the pantry, it looked like we had enough canned food to last a week or more.
Yardstick measured 15 inches by nightfall, and it was still coming down. Wind howled all night.
Sunday, March 14, 1993 - This is the day that the prospective pastor for McConnell Baptist Church was to preach trial sermons, but no one could get there. We were snowed in solid. There was 23 inches on the deck and more down on the ground. At dawn, it was still snowing lightly, but the wind had abated. By noon, the sun was showing through the clouds, and we were able to get out and try to walk in it. What a chore! Every step meant sinking in knee high. Took some pictures of the winter wonderland. Skies cleared and were a deep blue. Snow evens out the terrain, covering rocks, stumps, and undergrowth, and is blindingly bright in the sunlight. With below freezing temperatures, the snow was still powdery, swirling in the wind.
Discovered that while our phone was still working for local calls, long distance service was not there. Buried things from freezer in the snow on the deck. Couldn't get the refrigerator in the trailer to start. Too cold I guess. Packed more snow in trays and put them in the refrigerator to keep it as cool as possible.
Called Mackie's and walked to their house with 3 1/2 gallons of water. Invited them over to our house since they had no heat, but they refused. The walk up to their house, while no more than 300 yards, was more exertion than the 5 1/2 mile hike to Brasstown a few weeks ago.
Tried to call Jake Templeton several times with no answer. Called Jean Shook, his nearest neighbor. She walked over and got no answer at the door. Finding it unlocked, she opened it and was hit in the face with heavy fumes. She called to report that, and I called Lewis Bailey to see if he could get out in his Jeep. We made it down the hill and I went in the house only to discover that Jake had died during the night, apparently asphyxiated by exhaust fumes from a generator he had been running in the basement. Suddenly, the snow from the storm did not look so pretty any more. I hated to come out and tell Lewis what I had found. Jake was a good friend to us all. We called the Sheriff and Fire Department, and they were there within fifteen minutes, even though they had to walk from the bottom of the hill. They confirmed the death and arranged to get the body out. In my last conversation with Jake, he talked of his generator, boasting of being prepared for such storms as this. Little did we know then that his preparation would be his undoing. I thought he was more knowledgable than to run the engine inside the house.
By Monday afternoon our water ran out. We gathered all our containers and put them under the eaves to catch the snow melt. Learned that without pumps we get no water. Until then, we were just emptying the pipes with gravity. Need to learn more about this water system. I thought it was a gravity system, only boosted by the pumps.
Reports on radio indicated massive destruction throughout Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Bradleys reported near 30 inches of snow over in Franklin. Some 3 1/2 million people estimated without power in the four states. Barometric pressure had fallen lower than in severe hurricanes. Fortunately, there were no trees down around us. Most of the downed trees were conifers (pines, cedars, firs, etc.). The evergreen foliage caught the snow and gave the wind a good target. Our trees are all hardwoods with bare branches at this time of year.
Doing without made us more appreciative of electricity. No lights, no TV, no microwave oven, no easy cooking, no refrigerator, no heat, no water, no way to wash clothes..... Couldn't even charge the batteries in my camcorder or use the computer. It took extra effort to collect enough water to flush the toilet and keep our bodies halfway clean.
Tuesday, March 16, 1993 - Still no lights or water, and no indication as to when they might come back on. Trees reported down by the hundreds of thousands.
Neighbors are all improvising ways to catch water, cook, and stay warm, and are sharing ideas. Having the telephone helps avoid the feeling of isolation. Long distance service was restored on Monday afternoon, but we had no idea how long before we could actually get to the outside world again. Our wood stove proved a jewel, really justifying itself. Some neighbors had fireplaces with fake gas logs that didn't cut it.
Skies are overcast again, taking away some of the beauty. With warmer temperatures, the snow began to melt and get messy. We're now getting a little tired of the inconveniences. Lewis Bailey called. He was going to try to get down the mountain in his jeep and wondered if we needed anything. He wound up taking the Mackies with him, and they made it down and back with little trouble. Once out, he really went to work with that little jeep helping people all over the community.
Started shoveling some of the snow off the deck and steps to clear a way to walk. We couldn't open the front door to start with.
Wednesday, March 17, 1993 - Called Lewis Bailey to ask for a ride to the post office if he was going out again. Rode with him to pull a friend's car out to the road, then found that the mail was out on the truck for an attempted delivery. So trip was for nought except to see some of the outside world for a change and get a little better acquainted with Lewis. Trackrock Road was littered with downed trees. Everything looked different with the snow and destruction. It was difficult to get bearings.
Upon return, found that Larry Lamb had made it up to our house in his 4x4 pickup truck. He almost slid off the first rise, but made it in. He attached a chain and pulled our Suburban out to the pavement. Just as all of that was going on, the National Guard showed up with one of their Humvees. They were checking on all the remote areas, carrying food and blankets to distribute where needed. We learned later that some 70 Humvees were working out of a command post at Blairsville. Helicopters were flying overhead surveying the damage.
The Mahlers (Frank and Dottie) arrived from Florida in the afternoon. They parked their van at the gate and walked to their house, pulling their provisions in on a sled. This was our first meeting with them. They were excited about the snow, but had missed the best part.
With another freeze predicted for the night, I decided to walk up the mountain to check on the pump. Advice was to pull the switch so pressure could be eased on after power was restored. I pulled the switch and started to walk away when I realized that there was a buzzing that had ceased. I put the fuses back in and the buzzing started again. Still puzzled how electricity could be there, I heard Bailey turn his generator off and then realized that the power had come back on. Since nothing bad had happened to the water system, I left the pump running and hustled back down the mountain. Sure enough, the lights were back on at the house, and the water was running. We had been without electricity for five days.
Thursday, March 18, 1993 - Freezing temperature during the night put an ice glaze over everything. Water containers under the eaves froze again. But the sun was out, and things looked much brighter. Snow was packed down and melted somewhat by mid morning. We walked out to the gate and made our first trip into town on our own. Snow was banked all along the roads where it had been plowed aside. It was a mess, dirty and sloppy, but we felt good. The feeling of being trapped was over.
In late afternoon the county sent in a road scraper to clear all the roads inside our subdivision. I was surprised that they would come into a private development. It was Ricky Rich doing the work. The roads are taking a lot of punishment with the heavy vehicles (NG Humvees, etc.) running over them while they are wet and soft, but they are at least drivable now. Some driveways are blocked with dirty snow piled high from the scraping.
Along with the storm came breathtaking beauty and violence. There was sadness over the loss of a friend, yet we had gotten better acquainted with our neighbors and had a new respect for each other. And, there was always a bit of humor in the situation. Martha Smith is a bundle of laughs. It will be a while before we take electricity for granted again.