Living

Coast Chronicles: Snow vs. wind

Kat Bergeron

KAT BERGERON/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDA young Virginia whitetail doe must be as prepared for copious amounts of snow as the humans.
KAT BERGERON/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDA young Virginia whitetail doe must be as prepared for copious amounts of snow as the humans.

Preparing for a snow storm is amazingly similar to preparing for a hurricane. That observation comes from having one foot planted on the Mississippi Coast and another in the Virginia Piedmont.

As I write this, snow is coming to Virginia. Some forecasters use the word blizzard. The Coast, on the other hand, was braced for thick fog, high winds, possible hale and freezing temperatures could have thinned crowds at early Mardi Gras parades and damaged camellias and homegrown citrus.

The biggest difference in snow vs. hurricane is that the mass evacuations that accompany large Gulf storms don't happen with snow. Instead, snow anticipators pile up firewood in case the electricity goes out. My back aches from hauling wood onto the porch, as I write this on a self-imposed early deadline because my electricity may soon be nonexistent.

One thing I learned from weathering so many Coast storms is to be prepared, indeed over-prepared -- no matter what kind of storm is forecast.

I have extra jugs of water handy and the bathtub filled, plus buckets of water by toilets for flushing. A rural Virginia life dictates well water, and the cold-from-the-tap, non-chemicaled water tastes fabulous. The payback is no water when the electricity is out. I have an electric pump that must bring the water from the well at the bottom of the hill to the house at the top of the hill.

Generators are an answer for both kinds of storms, but that's an expense I've never paid out.

Instead, I follow the majority of storm preparers, stocking up on candles, batteries and assorted kinds of lights and a radio. The batteries are charged for my reciprocating saw in case I need it, and once again I admonish myself for owning an electric chain saw instead of gas-powered. I really do need to do something about that, but thankfully chain-saw toting neighbors are helpful.

That brings up another point, neighbors helping neighbors, a wonderful side of humanity I experience every time there is adverse weather. Makes no difference if it is snow storm or a hurricane.

My cell phone and computer laptop are charged up, something we didn't do in my early days of storm prep, because they didn't exist.

In Virginia I can keep an emergency kit in the basement, in case I have to flee there, something we can't do on the basement-less Coast.

I still laugh when thinking about my Hurricane Katrina storm emergency kit, a large sealed plastic container with ax, toilet paper, medicine, batteries, matches, candles, flashlights, disinfectant, etc. I found the emptied container in a neighbor's yard, where it had floated. That experience did not destroy my belief that everyone everywhere should have a filled emergency kit year-round.

Oh, and the storm food. There really is no difference be it a Gulf windstorm or a mountain blizzard. Grocery and hardware store shelves are emptied out.

Non-perishable foods are definite storm-prep essentials. In hurricane aftermaths, perishable foods become a loss (or a quick meal on outdoor grills for the entire neighborhood) if the electricity is off very long. Not so in snow country.

A little light bulb went off on my head in the aftermath of my first blizzard three years ago when I was without electricity for five days. Accustomed to the warm-Gulf effect, I wrote off the perishable foods until I realized I could put them in ice chests outside and fashion snow igloos around them. Mother Nature's refrigeration at work.

Truthfully, I hope I don't have to do that again, but I am prepared. No one can live on the Gulf Coast as long as I have and not be, even if snow and ice replace wind and water.

By the time you read this, the Piedmont snow and the Coast freeze I now write about will be old news, as will be the unusually mild winter. I feel obliged to remind you that the most severe winter weather in both regions historically happens in February, and the first day of Fickle February arrives tomorrow.

Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or c/o Sun Herald Newsroom, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-45667.

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