Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sometimes, I'm just a warning for others.

Yesterday started out as another peaceful, snowbound day. We were well in to 3 feet of pristine snow, with more falling, and winds picking up that would whip it into drifts taller than I am. Provisions were holding up well, power on... a good day to get things done, or read a book, or whatever crossed my mind.
Unfortunately, what crossed my mind was a warning that our local tv station has been talking about for a week now. Newer houses are often built with J-shaped furnace exhaust pipes going out the wall behind the unit. They talked about how snow can block the pipes, shutting down the furnaces - or worse, causing a build up of carbon monoxide. I'd checked it before yesterday's storm, but the howling winds and immense snowfall had me concerned. There is no window or door on that side of the house that would allow me to look.

Eventually, I remembered that the downstairs door to the daylight basement was only 8 or 10 feet from the pipe. It's a door I've rarely used, and for the past 2 years was the door to my brother's apartment - so again, I haven't used it in a great while. This was great! It would take only a minute to check it, and then go about my day with my mind set at ease.

I slipped on a tshirt and jeans, reconsidered and grabbed some socks before sliding on some loafers, and threw on a jacket. Yanking the shovel from the drift on the front porch, I was soon to be free from the nagging worry.

Out I went, pulling the door shut behind me, into the roaring wind and biting white-out. Digging along, within minutes I could see that the pipe was a good foot above the snow. Eureka!

As I grabbed the doorknob with my bare hand, I realized with deep horror that the door had locked behind me. Ok. Maybe I left the front door open when I got the shovel. So off to the front of the house. This was no easy feat. The piles from where the snow was plowed from last week's storm had created drifts that were over

my head! The only way up to the door was way out around the snow drifts, shoveling as I went. Alas, that door was locked too.

From my house to my sister's house is only about 2 city blocks. It is downhill. It was my only real choice, other than breaking a window - which in retrospect doesn't seem like such a bad idea. The roadway was too dangerous, only as wide as a snowplow, with 6 foot sheer sides and maniac snowmobilers careening around on them. Across the fields seemed like a better choice.

I abandoned the shovel on the porch and set out. Nothing had been touched since the last storm, so there was at least three feet of snow, and lots of blowing, drifting snow. It was up to my waist. Each step took considerable arm waving while I pulled my legs up as high as I could to lessen the drag of the snow. Less than halfway down, I was falling and hyperventilating from fear and effort. Each time I fell, it was harder to get up with nothing to grab, my feet far ahead of my center of gravity. Nobody knew where I was, and I was keenly aware of the fact that stopping to rest could easily result in death. Occasionally, a tree acted as a lever to propel me forward, but the space between the Christmas trees was even deeper, holding the snow that had fallen from the branches.

The three or five minute walk that I take many times a week turned into a half hour of sheer terror. Slogging through snow that is deeper than the height of your legs is really hard work.
I got to the shop, which is approximately 50 yards from the house, and couldn't have been more grateful to turn the doorknob, throwing myself into the warm, dry workshop.

From the shop, I called my sister's cell phone and sobbed into the phone that I was there. Her husband trudged out and I followed his steps back to the house.

It took hours for my knees to stop shaking, and to stop coughing from the workout my lungs had gotten. Just around nightfall, they got their driveway plowed and I got to come home.

So here's the warning, folks...

Even if you are just stepping outside for a moment, take your keys. Wear a hat and gloves. Be prepared for anything, because in this kind of weather, the smallest mistake can turn deadly. Although a cell phone wouldn't have helped too much (except it would have alerted someone as to my location), slip that into your pocket too.

Stay safe.


Anonymous said...

Now that is scary. I am so glad you are ok!!

Shelley said...

Thanks for the safety reminders! You must have felt sheer panic realizing you were locked outside in those extreme conditions. What a blessing your sister was nearby and you made it safely to her place.

Comfrey Cottages said...

i am so glad you are okay tina! what a story and a very good warning for others! i swear, we must be related as i do the same sort of "oh oh" things! on our very coldest day i stepped out back to throw a dirty diaper in the outside trash, and bam, less than two year old dylan locked the storm door on me! no gloves, no coat, no phone, no way it. dumb, dumb dumb. i eventually was able to pry the glass insert back (after what seemed like 100 attempts and hours) and managed to get back in. my whole body hurt for days from the exposure! it was like -35 below windchill that day! right on sista, even if you are just "stepping out" for a moment, phone, proper clothing and keys are mandatory!! big hugs

TMCPhoto said...

So glad you are OK, This is exactly the kind of thing I'd get myself into so I can relate.

Anonymous said...

Wow, hell of a story and a real scary experience. Good job you came through to write about it!

Healthy Herbal Living

Laura said...

Oh, sweetie! My goodness! PLEASE be careful! I swear! The odd adventures that can happen at home! Safety always!

Marge said...

We are ALL lucky that you survived it, Tina...please take better care of you! This is one of the scariest stories I've read in years!

JoyceAnn said...

Glad to hear all is well with you !

~ Many Blessings ~

Beth said...

Wow, Tina, that's scary! I'm so glad you're all right.

Brittan said...

Oh, I am so glad it all turned out well!

Bridgett said...

Cripes! How scary.

SOOO glad everything had a happy ending. Very good words of advice.