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#8: Snowed In
Had a valuable learning experience this week, as the Commonwealth of Virginia received 4 inches of snow & returned to a Hobbesian state of nature.
Many of you noticed that we were caught with our pants down, & fair enough — but it was valuable to have a mini-crisis with relatively low stakes, and see what breaks down.
Our most immediate problem was water - we neglected to fill our WaterBOBs in the bathtub before the snow, so we were using a single case of bottled water to wash hands, brush teeth, etc. No laundry, no dishwashing, no flushing, and no bathing - it got gross pretty quick. On night two, three kids wet the bed (I guess because they were too cold to get out of bed), so there was a pile of wet sheets festering in the corner for a while - if we hadn’t had extra blankets it could have been a real problem.
Second, it was freezing in the house overnight. Fortunately we have a wood stove in the basement, so we were able to bring the interior back up to about 60 degrees, even without the electric blower. I think with enough firewood and the blower running, we should be able to heat the house entirely on wood heat next winter. We were also able to melt enough snow to flush the toilets, which was a huge morale boost for the ladies.
Third, trees had fallen across our driveway, and none of our cars could make it down the hill anyway. I had intended to buy a 4WD for this reason earlier this year, but, well, life happened, and anyway prices have been outrageous. I gambled we could make it through one winter without needing it, and I lost. I also cheaped out on an off-brand chainsaw which broke down immediately, so I had to hike to the neighbors for their Husqvarna.
Overall, though, we didn’t lose any big bets. Nobody got hurt, we had hot food and enough water to drink, the pipes didn’t burst; we packed the fridge and freezer with snow, and didn’t lose any food. The closest we came to disaster was when my laptop ran out of batteries as I was finalizing my Passage Prize submission on the night of the deadline, but a friend drove down to hand off a battery pack, and we did okay there, too.
That was probably the biggest lesson: our physical preparation had some holes in it, but there were defensible financial reasons for most of that — and anyway we made up for it with a little social engineering, and it worked out fine. Next time a storm blows through, we’ll be able to invite the neighbors over to warm up and enjoy it.
(Side note — it looked like there might be a second wave to the storm, so I inflated one of our WaterBOBs once the power came back on, & I was not impressed. They are clearly intended for single use, leaky, and inconvenient to fill and drain. A 100-gallon food-grade water barrel is only twice the price, reusable, and way less of pain. I would only buy a WaterBOB if you live in an apartment or otherwise don’t have room for permanent storage.)