We Are Hot People. We Are Not Cold People

Every year, especially around the holidays, I wish for snow.

All those years of wishes came true Tuesday night and on into Wednesday morning. When the first flakes fell Tuesday evening, I joked about it, and posted a photo on FB and kidded that it was the great Redding snowstorm of 2019. “Be strong, Redding,” I wrote. I joked because snow rarely sticks around in Redding. It’s a novelty.

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At bedtime, I cranked up my electric blanket and opened my bedroom blinds a bit so I could see the sky during the night. But the prospect of snow had me so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I was like a little kid, and got up every few hours to peer through the blinds to check the snow status. Each time, I was not disappointed. Yes, snow was still coming down. I was elated.

On it snowed through the night. Those big, fat flakes multiplied and piled high. By morning Redding and the surrounding areas had received between 10 to 16 inches of snow, more in  higher elevations.

I woke up to this outside. Oh  happy day!

Unfortunately, inside was a brownout, my first. I quickly learned what electrical things would work, and which would not. On the would-not-work list were the furnace, toaster, microwave, all LED lights, the electric fireplace/heater, the washing machine, the stove, the television, the outdoor dusk-to-dawn lights, the electric blanket and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting or didn’t notice.

The would-work list included incandescent lights (I have one lamp with one incandescent bulb), the gas range if I used a match to light it manually, and most amazing of all, my computer, my wifi, my dryer and my Kitchen Aid mixer.

I, unlike my son and his family in Cottonwood, and many others, was lucky enough to have running water, and I had hot water, thanks to a gas hot water heater.

Wednesday morning 30,000 homes were without power in Redding alone.

Let me clarify, all those times I wished for snow, I was wishing for “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” snow, not Donner Party snow.

Being the optimistic person I am, I decided to make the best of it. I planned to spend the day writing, knitting and working on a little cake order for a couple’s Valentine’s Day anniversary. But without heat, the temperature in my 80-year-old stucco house quickly dropped. I piled on the clothes: Long underwear, jeans, a turtleneck sweater, a sweatshirt and a down jacket. Wool socks, two neck scarves and a knitted wool hat. I looked like the Abominable Snow Doni.

I made coffee, and felt somewhat guilty for it, since my twin was in her home a few miles away without any electricity, so she was making coffee outside on her barbecue.

That’s what impressed me about this snow storm: we’re a resourceful people who make do, and make the best of inconvenient situations. Many people “camped” inside their houses, and those lucky enough to have wood-burning fireplaces, or better still, wood-burning stoves, were rich indeed.

On Facebook, friends and friends of friends shared how they were coping. Between the heavy snowfall and the power outages, our entire region pretty much came to a stop. All schools were closed. Many businesses were closed.  The result was many people looked at Wednesday as a potentially fun and relaxing snow day. Kids played in the snow and made snowmen.

Photo credit: Kat Domke

No doubt some frisky couples used the snow day as a romantic opportunity to stay indoors and do whatever came naturally to keep warm.

Early in the snow storm, people hadn’t lost their sense of humor, evidenced in one FB post, where a man replied to a woman who explained she and her husband were fine because although their home’s power was out, they had a wood stove, and tequila.

The man replied: “I was without tequila for our snow storm. It was difficult. Fortunately, I had chocolate. A friend with all-wheel drive took me grocery shopping today. I would have gone to the liquor store but she’s a 12-stepper and I didn’t think I should.”

People offered driving tips, such as this tweet that was shared on Facebook:

More helpful FB information.

Being the pessimistic person I am, Doni’s Fun Snow Adventure took a turn for the un-fun when the power in my house went out completely, right in the middle of my Kitchen Aid working on some very important Italian buttercream frosting. How rude. As of this writing, there remained more than 13,000 REU customers without power. That’s not counting residents outside Redding city limits, where power is still not functioning.

From the silence inside my frigid house, I could hear the snap and crack of limbs and small trees falling outside. Oh, those poor, poor trees.

Periodically a hunk of heavy snow would slide from the roof and when it landed, sounded like a body thudding to the ground.

When I ventured outside to removed snow from my porch swing and front steps, the young husband/father next door was using a long pole to dislodge a large limb that had fallen over his chimney. A neighbor across the street yelled over to say that he’d lost a beautiful orange tree in his back yard.

My neighbor to the north, who’d just invested in a new roof last summer, said some large oak branches had crashed onto her new roof, but she wouldn’t know the extent of the damage until after the storm. I tried to knock as much snow as possible off the grand mulberry tree in my back yard, one of only two backyard trees I have, but I just couldn’t reach the most crucial branches. Nearby, near the alley, the second back-yard tree, a crepe myrtle, had been decapitated by snow. It will be a miracle if it survives.

I heard stories of people whose driveways were blocked so there was no way out and no way for anyone to get in, either. I heard stories of patios, garages, vehicles, and parts of homes that were destroyed by falling tress and branches. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that everyone who had snowfall in their yard had some kind of damage. I know I did.

On my sister’s street, one side had power, and one side didn’t. On my street, one side had power most of the day, while my side was in the middle of a brownout that alternated with a full power outage.

I saw FB posts about little kids who’d worked so hard on their Valentines to take to school today, and were crushed with disappointment that their school would not be open for Valentine’s Day.  (Surely teachers will reschedule the Valentine’s Day activities.)

Suddenly, I took back all my snow wishes.  And on Facebook, it was apparent that most everyone else was over the snow, too. Suddenly, the snow was not fun anymore. It was a disaster with a sense of Deja Vu … like, what does this remind us of? Power outages, displaced people, damage caused by a disaster, businesses closed, people in discomfort?

A Facebook friend expressed what many of us were feeling.

Oh yeah. That.

We’re not whiners. Here in the north state’s valley, we’re sturdy people, and we carry on and pretty much handle with grit whatever Mother Nature throws our way. Neighbors check on each other, and we try to make the most of the worst situations. We’ve survived fires, and we routinely endure some of the hottest temperatures in the world.

We’re used to hot. We’re hot people. We’re not cold people. We own lawn chairs and air mattresses, not snow shovels. We own misting systems and swamp coolers, not generators. We wear flip flops, not snowshoes. We plant citrus trees and all kinds of fruit trees, because, after all, we live in sunny northern California.

I’m writing this Wednesday night in a house that’s so cold that I can see my breath when I sigh. Yes,  my sister offered to let me stay in her home, because her power had been restored. But to get there I would have had to have found a 4-wheel-drive Uber driver, and I just didn’t want to mess with it. So I’m staying put. I’m fine, all bundled up. As an aside, this experience reminds me that here in this city, people regularly sleep outside in even colder temperatures than are inside my home at the moment. I’m fortunate to have a house and a bed to sleep in.

Speaking of beds, I’ll be heading there soon, dressed in four layers of clothes, inside my sub-zero sleeping bag, under my covers.

I can hear rain pelting the windows, which, with any luck, will melt the snow. Fingers crossed that come tomorrow, we’ll all have full electricity again. And maybe I’ll be able to carefully navigate down my skinny driveway, and take care of some business away from the house. Of course, I have no doubt that with that melting snow will come more bad news: flooding.

But first things first. First, let’s get all the power restored. Next, without blankets of snow, we’ll be able to assess the storm’s damage, face it, and deal with it.  I know I’m not looking forward to that part, and I have lots of company.

But once again, a north state disaster will provide work, such as for tree companies and fence-builders.

And on an even more positive note, I’ll bet that nine months from now, there will be a bumper crop of babies born. We can call them Snow Babies, born to parents who found Mother Nature’s most wonderful way to stay toasty, and share the love, two days before Valentine’s Day, here in northern California.

And for the rest of us, I wish us all a warm, safe, love-filled, snow-less Valentine’s Day.

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Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. 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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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I grew up in Salt Lake City where snow was not an if but how much every year. When I moved to Redding it reminded me of Salt Lake but without the snow. Occasional snowfall in Redding was not a hindrance but a reminder of what I didn’t have to endure as a daily Winter routine anymore. After forty years in Redding I retired to Nebraska and Wyoming where I found I missed the snow every Winter. Power outages were rare, probably because the utilities were more prepared to handle the outages. But normal snowfall is one thing, the Polar Vortex is another. After going through four Polar Vortexes, I had power but was stuck in my house, the move to Phoenix has been welcome where the temp is in the 30s at the lowest. And if I miss the snow I can always drive North two hours where snow is not an if but how much.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Here in Fall River, we can’t get out of our driveway, but we are blessed with power. And on this Valentine’s Day which is also our 50th anniversary, I’ll need to cancel our dinner reservation in Redding and opt for something less elegant at home. I do wonder what damage we’ll find at our Redding house when get there. The six young fruit trees may be lost. Stay safe, everyone, and as warm as possible.

  3. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    I recall twenty-six years ago, re-locating to old Shasta. A work friend said, “…and sometimes Redding gets a dusting of snow, and it’s just beautiful.” In Shasta, I learned what J (the then owner of J’s Market) meant when he told me, “I hate snow.” I had only experienced what I termed, “Norman Rockwell snow.” So, yeah, trees falling on roofs, losing some cherished fruit trees, being without power, not able to exit the long driveway, made me understand his comment during a “good one.”

    After reading Doni’s appropriately titled article, I clicked to Face Book:

    “2nd day no power
    no est time of restoration
    ugh.”

    “Watching GMA and they mention Redding and Marquette, MI in the same segment.” There’s heart symbol after that.

    “Who would you call for a transformer hanging in a tree over homes?”

    “That’s serious, call 911.”

    ” FYI, called non-emergency. They were rude, and what made me think to call them…the woman sent me through to dispatch, they are alerting fire dept.”

    For me, the prize was “PGE says the cause of the outage is probably due to the weather.”

    Happy 5oth Anniversary, Beverly. I hope you let us know what the menu is for your “less elegant dinner!”

    • I love how you share these little nuggets of information from your FB friends. So interesting.
      “Norman Rockwell snow” … THAT’S what I MEANT to wish for.

      • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

        Insert one of those smile faces, dear Doni. Warm wishes continue for you and Shasta County. Just wow. Who would have guessed?

  4. Well this morning I have to take back my status. I woke up zero power in my house this morning. (Writing this on my phone. ) My neighbors to the left and right of me are without power, as are my alley neighbors, and some neighbors on North Street. However, directly across the street they have full power. It’s crazy! I shoveled snow this a.m., something I’ve never done before because, you know, I was married, and the guys did it. 🙂 It’s hard work!
    Stay warm, and happy Valentine’s Day.

  5. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Fall River update: I tried to cancel our dinner reservation but received a message that the phone had been disconnected. I knew that wasn’t the case and that the incorrect message is probably given whenever there is a power outage. I also knew that Karline’s was owned by the lady who owns Deja Vu; so I called there. The girl who answered said that Karline’s was without power and that they were calling everyone who had reservations for tonight. Now they don’t have to notify us! I just backed the car out (all-wheel drive Subaru), and after a couple of slips and slides, no problem. The roads are clear and nearly dry; it’s just the driveways that are sloppy. We may have our less elegant dinner in Redding after all, just not at Karline’s. Maybe a cheeseburger at The Habit with an eye to enjoying Karline’s at a later date.

    Yep, shoveling snow is very hard work. I thought I was through with that after 15 years in Alaska, but Fall River changed my mind. We had a rather long driveway in Alaska, and after the first snow, I was out shoveling when the neighbor across the street yelled, “Bev, God put it there; let God take it away!” I heeded his advice most of the time after that.

    Thank you for the Valenversary wish, Doni. Perhaps we can meet up on the weekend for a baby cake hand-off.

  6. Still no power on our street in west Redding. As I wrote the City Manager, “We are old, cold, tired and weary of excuses…”. There is an untouched utility pole blocking our street. Access to the neighborhood is dangerous as a large live oak still holds a blind uphill curve. I fully apprehend that a few people have no priority and Carr Fire taking homes was worse. But this present situation is enough to make a preacher swear. Those who think snow is beautiful in what it can destroy need medication. In a hundred days it will be 100 degrees and the amount of unrecovered slash in our open spaces will make 27 July 18 seem like a golf course in comparison. If you walk, you need to be working on this very serious problem before Carr Fire seems like a weenie roast!

    • I hear you, Randy. There’s a u-shaped area in my neighborhood that’s still without power. I know crews are working as hard as they can, but it’s so frustrating!

      And you speak words of wisdom about removing unrecovered slash now, before summer.

      Stay warm, my friend. xo doin’

  7. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I realize this is a tiny problem compared to those without power, but I came down on Tuesday to meet with the Spectrum installer. He was finished in an hour, the television worked, and I headed back to Fall River. We came back down yesterday and couldn’t make the television work. Since it was all brand new to us and completely different from DISH, we assumed the problem was our doing. After much fiddling, I finally called a number and got a recording blaming the television problem on the outage. We have Internet and telephone service but no television. Does anyone else have this problem?

  8. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    Our electricity went out at 1:00 AM the night the snow started falling. Seeing almost a foot of snow on the ground by the middle of the night, I ventured outside for some of that glorious quiet that only a layer of fresh powder snow provides. Instead, every minute or so: CRAAACK! WUMPPP! We lost half of a huge live oak, half of a big plum tree, our largest gray pine, and scores of large branches off of fruit trees and in the pecan orchard. My office in our outbuilding took a hit to the roof from a valley oak branch, causing some roof damage. Plenty of clean-up in my future.

    PG&E said our electricity would be restored by 8:00 last night, so Elise and I made a wager at our Valentine’s Day dinner. She bet that they’d come through; I bet on failure. As we drove home from dinner last night most of our neighbors’ lights were on, and it looked like I was going to lose the bet. By the time we hit North Cow Creek School……no lights. Our house is still dark and cold, and PG&E is now saying we’ll have electricity by tomorrow at 8:00.

    I’ve felt envious these past couple of days of our many neighbors who’ve invested heavily in solar panels. But I was told last night that they’re equally s*** out of luck. Unless you’re completely off-grid, when PG&E goes out your solar panels are still capable of generating electricity, but just like the rest of us, you’ll have no power.

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Steven Towers. You got slammed. I recall that “CRAAACK! WUMPPP!” sound. I’m so sorry. However, I do feel your update will be appreciated by many. In times like this, it can feel like Shasta County doesn’t exist with the news or the authorities.

  9. I feel your pain, Steve. Still without power for me and some of my neighbors. Weirdly, the house two doors south of mine has power, and across the street the homes have full power. It’s crazy-making.

    I’m thinking we’ll all be having barbecues fired up soon to cook all the meat that’s thawing in the freezer now.

    I’m sorry about your trees and the damage to your property, Steve. And sorry you lost the bet. That stings.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Well, on the bright side (I guess), I actually *won* the bet since I (the pessimist) bet on PG&E failing. But I’d have happily lost. In fact, we were both almost giddy driving into the ‘hood and seeing all the lit houses. We were 100 yards from home before we hit the area still blacked out.

      It’s like everything else out in the sticks—they fix what effects the most people first. The farther out you are on the branching limbs of civilization, the longer you wait. I should probably invest in a generator.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        We had a 10K generator for 18 years and used it for perhaps ten hours over all that time. Last year, I donated it to the Ag Department at Cuesta College where a young friend is the instructor. We still had power in Fall River when we left yesterday and power here in the Parkview Neighborhood. But, oh my! the shock of seeing all the downed limbs on the drive in and in the canyon coming down. We lost most of a young crape myrtle tree, and due to its location on the strip between our back fence and the street, we’re not going to replace it. It’s the third tree in that location, and between the vandals and the weather, it’s the last. All of our young fruit trees survived; so we hope to have peaches, apricots, figs, and persimmons come Spring and summer.

        Sorry you won/lost the bet. I assume that individuals on their own proptery and the city on public areas are responsible for limb removal. Another huge project that should take priority because of prospective fires come summer.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        There are probably no more in stock at the moment, but when things calm down you can buy a generic generator from Harbor Freight for $100-500. They probably won’t put out enough juice to run air conditioning in the summer, but they’ll keep the refrigerator and lights on. Add up how much you’ve spent on food in your fridge & freezer and it probably is cheap insurance…

        The farther out in the sticks you are, the more you might want to consider a larger & nicer Honda unit ($1000-3000) for extended use. Plan on using up to 5 gallons of gasoline per day. However much gas you decide to store, you’ll want to rotate it out every ~3 months or so before it goes bad…

        If you have solar and want to be able to have it work when the power goes out, you’ll need batteries. If you are a tinkerer you can cobble together a bunch of automotive batteries, but you’ll probably always be messing with it. Tesla makes a battery pack that goes on your walls, but last I checked it was not meant for high electric loads (you need 2 of them to run a microwave and 3 of them to run A/C). They’re also expensive: $15-20k and expected to last 10 years.

        This kooky prepper-type always feels a strange mix of pride, schadenfreude, and guilt whenever I see city folk panicking over something as minor as a 24 hour power outage during bad weather. It is not hard for me to imagine it being much worse: a bankrupt utility unable to make repairs, a disfunctional shutdown government unable to step in, hordes of unprepared people who feel entitled to a living wage (let alone basic necessities) even when they are *unwilling* to work. Kooky I tell ya…

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          Our 10K generator ran our whole house when we would lose power. Since we have a well, without power, we can’t flush toilets. I can bundle up and sleep next to the wood stove, but being withot toilets for any extended time isn’t my idea of fun. I really wanted a generator large enough just to run the well — 5K — but our electrician suggested going with a 10K so that we’d hardly know we were “camping.”

  10. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Saturday afternoon . . .. FINALLY POWER!! And then when I write that I feel so spoiled. It wouldn’t have been quite so dire if I had any kind of heat other than electric. Wed. night I got so cold and my iPad and cell were out of juice so I sat in my car for three hours and drank very bad cowboy coffee and listened to NPR while the devices charged and my seat warmer did it’s thing.

    And no, I couldn’t open my garage door because . . . wait for it . . . . it has an electric opener. I know, I know, there’s a manual by-pass but I can’t lift the dang thing without the motor . . . I know, I tried.

    When I was wakened Wed. morning at 4:00 a,m, because my breathing had stopped working (THAT’LL get your attention!), I was up the rest of the morning. Between 4 – 6:00 I could hear trees and limbs going down every few minutes. POP!!! . . . . then crackle, crackle,whoosh!! Eeerie!!

    So Thursday morning a friend who lives on the northeast side of Redding and had not lost power called and, brooking no questions, stated that she and her husband and their 4-wheel drive were going to rescue me for the duration. SCORE!!! One of the best bed and breakfast-lunch-dinner inns I’ve ever encountered.

    Today, Saturday afternoon, we finally have electricity. I returned home with a package of 30 gallon garbage bags ready to clean out my two refrigerators and freezers . . . . Alas and alack..what did I see? The ice cubes in my ice maker weren’t even melted. SCORE . . . AGAIN!!!

    So now I REALLY feel spoiled!! And I still love the California snow (as opposed to central Illinois snow with which I did battle for a number of years!) Credit to Shakespeare: All’s well that ends well! . . . . and I really must get some new flashlights!!

  11. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    Congratulations on having power again! I was hoping to start reading some of these “Finally Power,” stories, and was delighted. Yay! I’ve been rooting for y’all from Chico.

  12. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Ahem . . . Joe, I left out the word MACHINE in “breathing machine” 3rd paragraph, first sentence.

  13. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    Thank you, Doni, for once again expressing sonwell what we have been experiencing. Yes, yes, yes! That was it exactly.
    I realized I only love the Norman Rockwell dusting of snow, too. Snow that breaks trees, etc. – no more, please.
    If I were ever asked to be a ‘hardy pioneer’, I would only do it in the tropics. This dressing in six layers, gloves, scarves, and a coat to stay warm is very rough. I do have power now. Hurray!
    And am frantically doing laundry just in case another snow knocks our power out again.
    I have Charter Spectrum, and with no power, had no internet. And with the storm, phone service was iffy. Talk about feeling cut off!
    Hears hoping everyone gets power back soon.

  14. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I visited with Doni this morning, and she’s still without power even though her neighbors across the street and others a couple of doors away have been blessed by REU. Tonight’s news said 550 were still without power, and Doni and some of her neighbors are among them. Shelly and Josh are on Doni duty.