Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons from Seven Years Ago



On December 29th, 2006 it started to snow. It snowed on the 30th and the 31st. On January 2007 we had six feet of snow in parts of the Moreno Valley and all of the four routes in and out of the valley were closed. They were closed for five days. My neighbor's husband was in crisis because of his just diagnosed cancer and could not be gotten to the hospital in Taos until January 2nd. The continual snow made even life flight impossible. It started to snow again, a friend reminded me, on January 3rd. Some areas of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico received a total of nine feet of snow over a week long period.

When the weather was clear the National Guard dropped hay to stranded herds of cattle on the eastern plains of New Mexico. That made the national news. But the plight of our valley did not. It was the height of holiday season tourist and the visitors were trapped in the valley with us locals. That means 10,000 more people than normally live here in the towns of Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Black Lake. We depend on a constant flow of supplies over Taos Pass or through Cimarron Canyon from Raton Pass. My Trinidad, Colorado friend tells me nobody came to help them either. Nobody believed they were snowed in. Or that we were snowed in.

Albuquerque received 16 inches of snow from the same storm and their weather station had forecast just 20" for us. All their "local news" focused on the plight of their city and not us. Or did until the snow sliding off my roof knocked off the satellite dish for DirecTV. I never had it re-installed. Broadcast news does not apply to me.

Most of us locals are survivors but nobody had seen that level of snow in such a short time in 70 years. Everyone did what they could but plows could not keep up with it. Those with plows on their trucks were overwhelmed with the depth of the snow. The Hawaiian down the street had a tractor and he kept our road and driveways semi-passable until he ran out of fuel and the local gas stations refused to sell him more because they were saving it for the tourists who could go nowhere. Note: if you are snowed in that means the next person on the reservation list is snowed out. 

It took a few days for business owners to realize us locals had to be able to get to our jobs to take care of the visitors snowed in here. And it took days for the overworked road crews to get the roads just a bit passable. Many of us, out of gas because the visitors filled their cars, snowshoed to the highway and thumbed it into work. Even some of us were caught unprepared. This had not happened here before. It is not happening to me again. When fall comes I start subconsciously stockpiling food in my pantry and freezer.

I built my snowshed that summer so I could find my firewood. I had lost three cords under the snow. I installed a lock on it to keep the visitors in the vacation homes in the neighborhood from stealing wood again. The two gas cans for the riding mower are never empty even if it is winter. My friend in Trinidad still believes snow is evil. I admit to a bit of panic when it starts piling up. And I have never again believed a weather forecast even when I go on line to get it from NOAA.


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