Winter drifts in early, in Garrett, stays a while Heavy snow slows life to a crawl

November 16, 1995|By Cindy Stacy | Cindy Stacy,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SWANTON, Garrett County -- It's not that life comes to a screeching halt when it snows in Garrett County. After all, we're used to plenty of it, including yesterday's 30 inches that arrived here on top of last weekend's six inches.

Trouble is, this time the sudden burst of wintry weather arrived earlier than usual. It has only been a couple weeks since I retrieved my wool coat, gloves and boots from in-house storage.

By late Tuesday night we knew that life on our 200-acre Christmas-tree farm atop Fort Hill, which is 2,654 feet high and overlooks the Savage River state forest, was not going to be the same. Howling 25-mph winds, gusting to 40 mph, whipped the snow into 7-foot drifts, blocking roadways on and off the farm.

And when we awoke yesterday, my husband, Marshall, my 17-year-old daughter Krysta and I knew the situation immediately -- we were snowbound.

"Forget it today," my husband told farm workers who called in at 7 a.m., hoping somehow there might be work, even though the local radio station began announcing at 6 a.m. that practically everything had closed for the day. We are in the middle of our harvest season for the trees.

You can pretty much gauge how severe weather conditions are by what's open and closed (schools, state and county offices were closed) and what highway officials are saying about the roads. Maryland Route 495, one of Garrett County's two major thoroughfares, is a two-lane road a mile from our farm. Reports were that only one lane was passable and that only four-wheel-drive vehicles should try to use it.

The weather system dumped not only piles of slippery, wet snow but generated high winds that blew snow across the glades and hills, and created terrifying "whiteouts" nearly everywhere. Road crews busily plowed roads that quickly narrowed to one lane or none at all.

Imagine a fierce sandstorm but substitute snow and that's what it looked and sounded like all day long.

Heading home from work Tuesday night, my four-wheel-drive wagon slipped off our farm lane, sinking deep enough into the snow to require a tow from the farm tractor. It was snowing hard and visibility was nil. And the last stretch -- a 1,000-foot farm lane from the county road to our house -- is the most difficult to negotiate. We've lined the road with three-foot high wooden snow stakes to mark the road's boundary when it is covered, yet some were nearly submerged by snow.

By morning, we knew no one would venture out by car. Just reaching our barn, 200 feet from the house, was an adventure. But Marshall and Krysta bundled up and stomped through the waist-high snow, creating a pathway that was refilled with snow within minutes.

In place of livestock inside our barn was a stash of Christmas trees that needed to be hand-tied and readied for shipment. That chore consumed most of the day.

For me, especially when the electricity isn't knocked out (and it wasn't this time), it's a delight being snowed in with a roaring fire and plenty to read. Without power, though, the water pump can't run, and then essentials like toilets, the furnace and everything in the kitchen are out of commission.

Then there's little charm to the winter wonderland outside without some amenities inside.

Yesterday, for example, I used the blender to grind up corn and nuts for birdseed and switched on the computer to do some work.

At nightfall yesterday, snow was still falling and winds were high. The forecasts gave no sign of an end anytime soon.

But the snow was clean and white and, if it doesn't go on too long, we have no complaint.

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