It was around this time–20 years ago–that the lights came back on. That is, things were just starting to get back to normal in northwest Georgia after the blizzard of 1993.
I remember it well. Out on the farm in East Armuchee, we were without power for a week. We were lucky to have a wood-burning stove that helped us keep warm. We used a camping stove to cook food that was stored in the freezer. We didn’t even have running water since there was no electricity to pump the well so we melted snow and did the best we could. It was “roughing it” for sure and made us realize just how much we took for granted in everyday life. I live in New York City today, and during Hurricane Sandy last year, it was a similar situation–no power or water for a week where I live. Of course, there was no snow outside. If there had been things would have been a lot worse.
As an adult, I often think about how our ancestors lived. It wasn’t that long ago that they didn’t have running water or heat at all. Electricity didn’t come to the Armuchee Valley area of Walker County until the 1930s–less than 100 years ago! My Grannie was already married and beginning her adult life by then. When you imagine having to deal with such a blizzard in those days, it makes you stop and wonder. For our ancestors there might not have been so much difference between a normal winter storm and a blizzard. They were prepared to survive for months with just firewood and faith. But the disparity between riding out a blizzard and dealing with everyday winter is shocking for us.
My most vivid memory of the blizzard of 1993 is of helping my grandparents, Earl and Mary [Pope] Jordan. I grew up on the same farm where they lived. While they did have a fireplace in the house, they didn’t have any wood close by and were not able to go out in the cold to get it for themselves. So off I went, all bundled up to protect myself from the bitter cold. With my sled in tow, I marched across the fields that separated our house from theirs. These fields had been plowed by many generations of my ancestors. There was a stack of old firewood on the hill behind Grannie’s house. I loaded up my sled and pulled it through the snow for my Grannie and Papa. Without me, they could not have stayed warm that week. They would not have had a way to cook food. I was proud that I could play my part in keeping them safe and warm.
Of course–as my sled might imply–there was a lot of fun during the blizzard too. My cousins and I slid down the snow-covered hills over and over until we could do it no more. We built snowmen as big as we could manage. That kind of snow was a sight we had never seen, and we aimed to have as much fun with it as we could. When we could take no more of the cold, we played card games and rationed batteries to take turns playing my Nintendo Game Boy.
But all too soon, the snow faded away, and with it, the carefree days of sledding and snowmen. It felt good to have heat in the house again and to sit up at night with the hum of electric bulbs illuminating the room. And though I probably wouldn’t choose to relive it of my own accord, it was a time I will never forget and look upon fondly both for the hardship and the holiday. After all, winter will come again, and you never know when there will be another blizzard. My grandparents may not be around for me to haul their firewood. But if I am ever in their shoes, I hope someone will haul the firewood for me.