The polar vortex that held much of the country in its grips this week clamped down upon us as well, ultimately forcing us to seek refuge at a Holiday Inn about half an hour away. It was truly a series of unfortunate events (apologies to Lemony Snicket).
On Christmas Day, I noticed smoke billowing from the upper section of stove pipe, leading us to cease using our beloved wood stove. It was unnerving to have smoke pouring into the house and unpleasant having the smell linger, but after a few days and some fresh air, it cleared out. Luckily, it was not terribly cold at that point, and we managed just fine with out heat pump/furnace back-up system. When our local wood stove expert returned from holiday, he scheduled and appointment to come out to diagnose and fix the stove on January 10th. We were disappointed at having to wait but resolved to be patient until he could get here.
However, in the meantime, the polar vortex was descending from the arctic. Once the freezing rain and snow that preceded the sub-zero temps hit our area, things took a turn for the worse. I awoke on Monday morning to a very cold house. Our heat pump/furnace had gone out in the night. We attempted to use the wood stove again to get some heat into the frigid place, but there was intense wind and down drafting occurred, filling the house with smoke and setting off the alarm. Not long after that failed attempt, we discovered the pipes had frozen.
At this point, I was becoming afraid. It was -6 degrees outside. We had no heat and no running water. We live half an hour from town on curvy, hilly roads, which were covered with a sheet of ice and layers of snow. When we later called repair people to come out and look at our heat pump, they were afraid to drive out to our house due to the possibility of getting stuck or running off the road. Luckily, we still had electricity and a couple of space heaters to create some warmth, which we began using in the office and guest room, setting up a warming zone for our cats, with plenty of food, clean litter, and water.
Reluctantly leaving the cats behind, we loaded up our Prius and taking Sadie, our dog, we headed into town for a couple of days until heat was restored in the house. With a front-wheel drive car and slow, careful driving, we were able to make it 5 miles to the main road, which was in decent shape. A day later, the heat pump was repaired, and luckily, the pipes thawed overnight simply from heat running through the duct work. Yesterday, the person who installed the wood stove came out to clean the stove and figure out why we experienced poor drafting. He is still unsure what happened exactly, but it seems to be back in proper working order.
I have never been scared before when an intense weather event arose. I love thunder storms and snow storms. I do not fear tornadoes, and was not afraid the one time when we had a derecho (inland hurricane) a few years ago. This feeling was something new for me. I think it was the fact that this cold was truly dangerous. Unexposed skin would freeze in just a few seconds. And our back-up systems had failed. We thought we'd been prepared and were in control. Even with proper planning, things can go awry, and we realize how vulnerable we are to forces beyond our control.
Now we are safely back at home. We all survived our week's adventures, and while I love waking to sweeping views of forested hillsides, I will be a little less cavalier about the potential dangers of country living.
Today it feels like spring outside, with temperatures in the low fifties. The snow and cold are completely gone. I awoke with gratitude for being back at home with everything working properly.
I hope your adventures have been safer and a little more calm, and I hope the new year is getting off to a good start.
Until next time...