A Deadwood Tour of the October Blizzard

Before I begin my tour, I want to say thank you to all the amazing people who dug people out, kept neighbors warm, and brought back the power. It was cold, wet, occasionally dangerous work, and I am grateful for all you did.

Now then. If you weren’t paying attention last weekend, there was a bit of a snow squall across the West. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, we got particularly walloped. While I am always in favor of a good blizzard, it’s hard to be a fan of four feet on top of trees that haven’t even begun changing colors, much less lost their leaves.

I don’t have any pictures from Thursday, which is a pity because they would have been nice for contrast. It started raining late afternoon on Thursday, and by about 10:00 the rain turned to snow. Because of the rain, the snow immediately stuck to everything: streets, cars, trees. I went outside at 11:30 and shook off all my little trees in hopes of saving them from being crushed. By that time, the snow was already about six inches deep.

We went to bed around midnight. I was contemplating getting up and setting an alarm for 2:00 so I could go out and shake my trees again when the first branch from the Huge Terrifying Cottonwood of Doom fell on our roof.

Huge Terrifying Tree
This photo is from Sunday, so this is what was left of the tree after it finished trying to destroy our roof. Stupid tree.

I sprang out of bed and ran downstairs. A branch the size of an entire 10-year-old tree was laying in the side yard. Not big enough to have crushed the roof, but I wasn’t happy. Dustin dragged me back to bed and tried to reassure me that our roof was not going to collapse, but the branched just kept falling, and I could not get the image of the entire tree coming down on us out of my mind, so I got up and went outside.

The scenery was incredibly beautiful. After getting a long-distance view and satisfying myself that the tree probably wasn’t going to come down in its entirety, I went around and shook my little trees again, along with all the lilacs I could reach. A fire truck was parked father up the hill (because someone had reported a house fire that did not exist, I later learned). As the truck rolled past me down the street, the sky filled with a flash of blue and the street lights flickered. Five seconds later, another flash of blue and all the lights went out.

By the time I got back inside, Dustin had raided the attic and pulled out our propane camp stove and lantern. He’d also lit a handful of candles, though I wasn’t sure what we’d do with them at 1:30 in the morning.

Sleep did not come back easily. The tree continued to lose limbs, at least one of which fell and crushed our patio furniture. We were up by seven, and it was very clear there would be no going anywhere that day (Friday). Dustin warmed up the stove and we made ourselves bacon and eggs. Bellies full, I headed outside to get some photos.

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Friday Morning, full-frontal house. The snow was still coming down with conviction. Let’s do some side-by-sides (top-by-bottoms?) with Saturday morning to see the difference, shall we?
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Saturday afternoon house, pre-dig-out.
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The view back toward the house behind us, Friday morning. Note the branches back there? A closer view of those shortly.
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Same view, Saturday morning.
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Patio Furniture-eating branch, somewhat covered by snow on Friday morning.
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Well… there’s some broken furniture and bigger branches under that snow somewhere, on Saturday.
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A couple more chomped furniture shots, for fun.
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Same spot, but photoed from the other side on Saturday.
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It’s a bit hard to tell, but there’s a log going in one side and out the other side of the chair on the right.
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Working our way around the house on Friday, here we have a view down the driveway to where the car is parked. Tragically. (For me, not the car.)
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Saturday morning. Now do you see my tragedy?
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Time to save some lilacs. Fools we, we thought shaking them off on Friday would help.
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Trees growing out of my roof! I had so many branch-drifts up there, I gave up taking pictures of them.
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Though I did take this gem for the insurance company. :p
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Things behind the house weren’t looking too great already on Friday. I don’t know what kind of lines these were, but power had been out for a good long time when this was taken. On Friday.
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Yikes, man. Friday line madness. (Or maybe Saturday? I didn’t take two of these.)
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Look! Dustin shoveled us a nice path to get out! Let’s go take a look around town.
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This tree down the hill didn’t fare so well.
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Oh look, that tree ate a car! Hey… don’t I recognize that car?
Oh man. That’s Mikaela’s car. (For the record, after standing back and laughing and taking photos of her misfortune, we helped her dig out. That’s good news because…)
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… this would have not have been a nice dig-out on Saturday.
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It’s a good thing no one actually needed directions to Mt. Moriah this weekend.
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Looking down Van Buren/Cemetery on Friday.
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Same view on Saturday.
The courthouse, Friday morning.
Tree sculpture in front of the Rec Center. (For the record, we’re the ones who shook off the other baby trees out there. We’ll be naming them after ourselves if they survive until Spring.)

Break for narrative. Our mission on Friday morning took us down to the office so I could get photos and Dustin could get his spare phone battery. That got him a bit of internet access, but only enough to let folks know we were alive. At 11:30 Friday morning, my fear for the contents of my fridge/freezer overwhelmed my theory that as soon as I moved their contents outside, the power would come back on. “It’s not like you have anything else to do,” was Dustin’s winning argument. On the up side, we discovered lots of things that we never knew we had…

On our morning foray, we had learned that much of Main Street was open and serving food, so we made some plans to get down there for a hot dinner. We landed at the Saloon #10 and got some very delicious cheeseburgers.

They’d been doing some plowing on Main Street. Just little piles, of course.
The icicles were really happening.

On the way back to the house, we realized the power was on in our neighborhood. I waylayed some poor worker on his way down from our neighborhood and asked him how long it had been on, sincerely hoping to come back to a toasty house. Twelve minutes was the consensus, just as the lights went off again.

Behind our office, we found the utility companies diligently working to get cleared up. Unfortunately, it was also about this time that we got a phone message saying that power would not be back until the next day, at least.
And so we returned to the house, and our only source of light, heat, and entertainment (a sentiment first expressed by Amanda at the office). This candle did not survive me being entertained by it…

Now, I’d just like to take a moment to extol the virtues of being well-prepared for a storm like this. Sensible people that we are, we had an emergency supply kit put together. (It was lacking a few things, which are now on our shopping list, but in general it was pretty great.) We had light, lots of candles, a camp stove, the good sense to fill lots of pots with water before we had to turn off the water to prevent frozen plumbing, and plenty of food. But the very, very best thing in our emergency kit:

handwarmers

Dang man, these things are awesome. We had them stuffed in our socks, pockets, and hats. When your house has dipped below 60 degrees, it’s really wonderful. Layers of clothing only go so far, and you can only cuddle so many hours of the day. (Which, truly, could be a lot of hours.) The funny thing is, when Dustin busted them out my very first thought was “Noooo! Those are for emergencies!” I then had to spend a fair portion of time contemplating the nature of “emergency.” I mean, what if the power went off forever, and instead of having to survive for two 32-degree days, we had to survive a whole winter full of negative-20-degree days?! We’d be really sorry we used our handwarmers already.)

Saturday morning dawned cold and bright. The snow was no longer coming down, but that’s because it had ALL already come down.

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The view from our second-floor bedroom window on Saturday morning around 8:00.
So THAT’s why I could see my breath when I woke up.

I was anxious to get outside and take photos because there were signs that the sun was coming out, and I wanted to get the goods at their deepest possible point. It’s also possible I was more interested in Lee Street Station for breakfast than I was in staying in my freezing house and finding my own.

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Somewhere, along the rails and under all that snow, are the contents of my refrigerator. :p
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So all I have to do is get to the street. The street is plowed. From there, I can go anywhere. How hard can that be, right?
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I mean, my tree isn’t totally buried, so it can’t be that deep, right? (For the record, there is a car parked RIGHT behind that tree.)
Things were fine down the steps. It’s when I got to the bottom that things took a nose-dive. Well, a foot-dive. You can see the leg that did not plunge into the 4 feet of snow, but my other foot was lost, lost, lost.

Walking through the snow would not be an option. We’d had enough trouble with less than two feet on Friday evening. This had turned into a very solid four feet, where it wasn’t drifted higher. I gave some thought to jumping over the porch rail to the side of the house (making sure the vents were uncovered was Mission A), but realized that would not do me any good if I was, once again, stuck in four feet of snow off the side.

Finally, taking a cue from the belly-flop maneuver I used to get out of the pickle pictured above, I took a flying leap off the front steps and landed on the snow on my belly. I did not sink. Tentatively, I began something between a baby-style and swimmer-style crawl across the snow. Guess what? This totally works! It’s like using your shins as snow shoes (which, by the way, are on our list of things to add to our emergency supplies). Look, Dustin got some video:

It’s a pity he stopped recording when he did. Right after this, I fell into an air pocket between the car and the window (that lump to my left is the car) and had a moment of serious panic that I would die in my own personal mini-avalanche. I got out somehow, cleared the vents, and crawled around the back of the house to get some more photos.

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The trees on the side of the house didn’t fair so well. They’re unloved box elders, so it’s not the end of the world, but I hate to lose any living tree.
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The back-door house, and our downed lines.
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My poor baby tree.
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Dustin wasn’t convinced by my snow travel theory. He was trying to shovel himself out when I finally busted out onto the street. It wasn’t going very well.
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So he ditched the shovel and just tried to power through (while carrying his laptop in a bag).
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Eventually it became clear that crawling was the only option. Hilarity ensued (but not in video format, this time).
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Looking down Lincoln Ave. (Have I mentioned how awesome our plow service is?)
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Looking up Lincoln Ave, toward the cemetery.
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These are my lilac bushes. Or rather, here lie my lilac bushes, may they rest in peace.
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Okay now! Off we go to find me some breakfast, heat, and maybe a little internet access.
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The neighbors were starting to pop out of their houses. I don’t think many of them go very far on Saturday.
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The tree at the Adams House fared especially badly. Poor tree. I’ve shouted at so many kids not to climb you…
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Kevin had the Smith Apartments all cleared up and ready to go.
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Gordon Park had a rough go of it, but someone had actually cleared a path through the parking lot.
I took advantage to be King of the Mountain. (I didn’t have any competition.)
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Aww, playground closed.
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Looking down Sherman Street. It was still one-lane at this point, and the only vehicles out were emergency and utility vehicles. They were very kind about sharing the street with the handful of desperate pedestrians who were out and about.
Look! The office didn’t collapse!
City Hall. Half-buried.
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Some poor man was shoveling these stairs when we passed the post office on Friday. I guess that didn’t last very long.
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Movin’ on down Sherman Street. Breakfast is in sight!
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Oh no! My breakfast is buried under a hundred feet of snow!
Hooray! They tunneled in for us!
Hooray! They tunneled in for us!

Everyone else in town (local and stranded travelers) had the same idea. Thankfully, Lee Street was warm, dry, and had internet for about half an hour before the communication lines all over town went down.

Hey! Some other people I know have been through here too!

We had a nice breakfast, charged up our devices, then headed out to see what the rest of town looked like.

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By the time we headed over to Main Street around noon, things were starting to get very slushy. I believe it was almost 50 degrees out.
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Herds of bewildered tourists wandered up and down Main Street, wondering what had happened to their nice, Fall vacation.
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I think most of them found the whole mess pretty funny. I mean, at least the streets are plowed and they can get out of their hotel rooms now!
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The lower Silverado parking lot. Those marshmallows are cars. 🙂
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Once again, on our way up Sherman Street back toward home, we get word that the power has come on. Huzzah! It doesn’t seem to be going off again this time. 36 total hours without power (and we were the lucky ones).
We stopped off at the office to shovel, because… well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles when you sleep with the boss.
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Dustin’s River.
Dustin’s River, after he cut a drain through the snow dam.
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Coming back up Lincoln toward the house. Do you SEE that terrifying tree looming ominously above my house?!
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A one-lane (semi-dry) path up the hill.

I headed inside to put on the pot of chili I’d been dreaming of for two days, and Dustin began the epic task of shoveling out.

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Even the cat had cabin fever, so I let her out to help Dustin shovel.
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And then the sun came out!! (Over the terrifying mess of lines in my back yard…)
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Dang, Dustin did a good job.
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Dustin, Victorious!
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Here he is, talking to neighbor Ed. Ed is kind of a neighborhood hero. He spent all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday helping other people dig out, move tree branches, and uncover cars. Thank you Ed!!
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So. Much. Snow.
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The great and glorious snow tunnels. Makes a body feel a bit like a hamster. This is the Saturday photo…
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… and this is the same photo on Sunday. It was 70 degrees on Sunday. Dang.
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The rest of the hamster tunnels.

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We have egress! This path exits out onto the street, so we no longer have to exit our house like snow crabs. Also, please note the location of the car, a billion miles down that driveway…
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Gratuitous cat shot.
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Tada! A house well shoveled! Really…

 

There’s a car under here somewhere. I’m sure there is.
Look, I found it!
Somehow, I haven’t found the top of the car yet.

This is about the point when I once again fell into a hole created by pockets of air around the car. I was stuck, stuck, stuck. Dustin took lots of pictures, then a nice video of me hauling myself out of the hole. It didn’t end well for him when he was more concerned about my boot and his car than my about-to-be-avalanched state:

Haha, Dustin’s camera made a funny animated GIF. Also: VICTORY!
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And Dustin did his part too. I uncovered the car, but he tunneled down the driveway to reach it.

That’s where we gave up on Sunday. Monday we went back to work, but spent a very generous lunch “hour” digging a proper driveway so I could leave on Tuesday.

We had to set the lilac free to make the driveway passable. It was a challenge.

Free at last!

 

 

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2 thoughts on “A Deadwood Tour of the October Blizzard

  1. Great story, great pics, Laura! I’m actually just a little bit sorry we missed it all, since we couldn’t get home. We spent Friday night in Chicago, and Saturday and Sunday in Denver. By the time we got home Monday morning, the storm was last week’s news. Until we got to our street and saw our poor maples, and apple tree, and a peach tree (RIP). I just want to say, I’m glad I don’t live in Deadwood, though!

  2. I was always disappointed to miss these storms too. I love big weather, even if I don’t love the problems it causes. And welcome back!

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