Hurricane Sandy first caught my attention barreling up from Florida towards our second home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The original plan was to travel the 7 ½ hours southeast and ride out the storm protecting our beloved beach home. It wasn’t long before predictions were hailing it as a super storm that could possibly devour the entire east coast with wind and storm surges and threaten the mountains of western Maryland with a heck of a lot of snow. As Garrett Countyis our primary residence we chose to stay here and weather the storm and take care of our dogs, family and friends. I prepared over the weekend as the storm was supposed to hit early in the week. Although we are on public water, I filled all the tubs with water in case something was to go awry and we called our gas supplier to make sure we had a full tank. We also bought 6- one gallon containers of water to put in our main freezer to help keep it cold when the power went out. There was no doubt in our minds that we would lose power for days, maybe even weeks as the forecast got bleaker with every new report on the news channels.
On Monday afternoon, the snow started light and beautiful in our peripheral vision as we kept up the pace in preparation for the worst storm of the century. The days seemed short as we ran around the county collecting supplies to make sure there was nothing we would leave out in our preparations. As night cooled down the air, we sat in front of the TV waiting for the inevitable. The trees already weighted heavy from the wet snow that seemed to continue to stretch the limbs toward the ground inch by inch as the sky dumped at a steady pace. Without notice, the lights pulsed off, then back on which dropped our spirits and picked them up in an instinct. It was only a few seconds later that the lights went off and the last light of the TV constricted smaller and smaller until it was gone like a candle being extinguished by a winter wind.
The candles and flashlights were already in place to be lit and the gas fireplace’s steady hiss took over the ambience of the room replacing the lively TV. Our two dogs walked around for the next few hours confused as to what was really going on and we unwillingly hunkered down for a long, cool night.
There is something always very magical about the first snow of the season and this one lived up to every first snow from the past with beauty extending across all of GarrettCounty. First thoughts are…can we drive up to the top of the driveway to get out and about? I worked my way digging about half way up the 100+ foot driveway when I realized that the main road had not been plowed yet, which made my attempts to dig us out useless. It was then when I noticed the very heavy, clingy snow pulling down some trees and limbs with a fair, variable gusty breeze swirling across the mountain. I started to focus in on the damage around us caused by the heavy snow that had still not let up, and that were continuing to weight heavier on the trees as time clicked forward.
Word was out through Facebook that power would not be restored for over a week or more. The photos started to surface of huge trees falling over by the thousands, draping over power lines all around the county. It became very apparent that this ordeal had not peaked and that we still had more destruction possible to come. There was still no official word as to how this was going to be handled and who was going to do the work. County officials and volunteers were manned with chainsaws trying to open basic roadways with hopes of professional tree workers and power workers to take over soon. Betsy’s brother came over on Tuesday afternoon with his tractor to open up our driveway and with perfect timing the county plow truck followed suit and opened up the main roads. Another cool night with steady snowfall took us into Wednesday morning where the snowfall total was getting close to 30”. I decided I would venture out to see what was actually going on and started down the mountain on Shingle Camp Road. As I passed the Lodestone Golf Course I realized that I had probably made a mistake getting out and about so soon. The problem…I could not turn around and the road was only plowed as wide as my car. I had no choice but to continue down the road weaving through small openings that the plow was lucky enough to punch through, many times going under trees pulled over the road like mini caves. As I turned up Oakland Sang Run, I started to fear a bit for my personal safety as power lines were everywhere as the result of tree after tree falling. I turned up Mayhew Inn Road hoping to get back to the main highway quickly and out of harm’s way. I caught a county front end loader immediately and spend a good 45minutes following it watching as the heavy trees were pushed out of the way. I felt like I was going through a war zone, an apocalypse at times, and the power lines/downed trees were littered everywhere.
Maryland’s Governor came on Thursday to assess the damage, and it seemed like a switch was turned on with relief efforts. The main highway, Route 219, coming into McHenry was filled with tractor trailers, National Guard vehicles, tree cutting specialists, and power workers. By around 4pm we had our power back up and running. We were the fortunate ones because 65% of the county was still without. The County had a lot of shining moments with the help of many people – strangers to the area, neighbors, family and friends. The crews spent the next 5 days busting their tails to helpGarrettCountyresidents re-gain power and some normalcy throughout this disaster.
As of today we still have a lot of people powerless, but we seem to be getting closer to getting all of this resolved. The strength of our community, volunteers, friends and neighbors have taken a tragic situation and injected it with good ‘ole American perseverance to bring us all together as one to tackle unfamiliar obstacles confidently and compassionately. God Bless America and Garrett County!