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Snowstorm Catches Most North Staters Unprepared

Last night, it was a fun novelty as the snow began to fall. I chimed in on FB with my snow photos, sure that by morning, all the snow would be gone, and we’d back to life as usual.

Snowfall began Tuesday night in Redding.

Instead, it snowed steadily all night. I know because I kept getting up every few hours to look out the window.

Wednesday, as I type from my dining room table, I can keep an eye on the snow through my windows. Power in my house is spotty, but enough for one floor lamp, and the outlet for my computer, router and modem. But lights keep flickering, and the computer is dial-up slow, so I’m going to post this quickly while I can. I have a lot more snow photos, but don’t want to risk taking precious time to post them. I’ll upload more as I can later.

From my front and back porches I can already see there’s damage. A large limb from my neighbor’s oak tree is down, and I have a number of small trees that have snapped in my front yard. I’m keeping fingers crossed that the only living thing in my back yard – my huge mulberry tree – makes it. Right now its bowed in prayer, and its limbs are touching the ground. Would I be a horrible person if I hope that the alley oak tree falls on the back of my ratty old garage and destroys it, so insurance will pay for a new one?

My TV, perched on top of my mantle, is off, but nevertheless it’s making an annoying metronome sound that is driving me a little crazy – tick, pause, tick, pause – tick, pause – but it’s an ordeal to get on a stool fish behind the TV and unplug it, so I’m ignoring it.

I’ve been in contact with some north state family and friends and it’s a mix of snow reports. Sister Shelly, who lives north of the Sacramento River, has no power, no coffee, no heat. The last we spoke she was venturing out to check on her chickens. (Update, the chickens are fine.)

A little snow won’t slow down Shelly’s chickens.

Friend Matt Grigsby, who lives just a few blocks from me, has power at his house, but most of his family doesn’t. I wish, when I’d read Matt’s FB post last night about wisely moving his car down the driveway, that I’d done the same. Right now, my car is up high in my steep, skinny driveway, and I wouldn’t trust myself to back it out without sliding into one of the rock walls. That’s OK. I have no place I have to be anyway.

Son Josh and his family and Cottonwood have no power, and they’re on a well, which means no water. Of course, there’s no school, and the kids are excited. They do have a wood-burning fireplace for heat, but their biggest concern at the moment is keeping Spike, my grandson’s beloved bearded dragon, warm enough to stay alive. Bearded dragons aren’t used to snow. And neither are most of us here in the Redding area.

I realize that for people – like son Joe in the Czech Republic – who live with major winter snow events, our northern California reactions to the snow seem silly. But because we’re not equipped for snow, it’s a big deal. I saw a FB post this a.m. from a woman asking if someone with a 4-wheel drive vehicle could give them a ride from Country Heights to Vibra rehab hospital. The snow might close down most schools and businesses, but places like hospitals must remain open no matter what.

My thoughts turn to various Redding snowstorms over the years: Wasn’t there one in February of 1996? And I remember one in the late ’80s, when I was still married to Husband No. 1, and my daughter and her grandfather made an igloo in our Balaton Avenue yard, and my sons earned money shoveling snow from neighbors’ driveways.

But, of course, one of the most memorable Redding snowstorms was the one of 1968 that brought everything to a blizzardy stop. The roof of Wonder World department store caved in, and many other buildings were suffered throughout town.

I would make a terrible pioneer woman. Do I have snowshoes or cross country skies? No. Do I have proper snow boots? No. Because my home seems to be experiencing a brown-out, I do have an electric fireplace, but there’s only enough power to make the little decorative flame, but no heat. I do have a little gas burner that I use for cooking demonstrations … in the detached garage. The furnace isn’t working, so the temperature’s dropping inside the house. But I  have it better than many. I still have enough electricity to power up my electric kettle for hot water for tea and coffee, and one little lamp where I can sit and knit later. And the temperatures are still in the double digits. So I won’t freeze. And the snow has stopped falling, so now the wet, heavy snow is working its magic on tree limbs, and icing sidewalks and streets. It’s been more than an hour since I saw a truck creep slowly down my street.

All is quiet. All is calm. All is white. For now, I’ll stay bundled up inside. Later, I’ll venture outside to assess the damage. Until then, I’ll put on another sweater, make some more coffee, and knit. But first, I’m going to unplug that damn TV.

Meanwhile, if you’ve had snow where you are, let us know how it’s going. And if you have access to a 4-wheel drive vehicle and don’t mind playing snow-day driver for some folks who need a ride to something important, we can play matchmaker here.

Stay safe. Stay warm. And unless it’s an emergency, or you absolutely have to be somewhere, stay inside.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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