Surviving a blizzard/days-long power outage during a pandemic…with teenagers

My two teens were eating the last of our pork loin dinner from Hello Fresh when my youngest lamented that this whole pandemic thing sucked and the fact we were about to get snow was just not fair. We were expecting 5-8 inches. Not nothing, but not a big deal. It would melt in a day. Still, she was annoyed.

Aren’t we going through enough? “

History has always told me that, no. No, sweet child, the universe always has more to give.

As I put the mountain of dishes away into the dishwasher, the power flicked several times, and then we were out. Great. The storm had only just begun and we were out of power already? Someone must have hit a pole, which would mean at least a few hours before we were back up. My phone was at 65%. I grumbled at myself for not keeping it plugged in all day like I had told my kids to do. Naturally, they had ignored my advice as well.

I texted my 7:30 Zoom meeting that I might not be there if power didn’t come back on. 10 min before the meeting was to start, the power came back. Hazzah. There was good in the world!

Quickly, I refilled my water filters in case it went out again and started my dishwasher because somehow all the knives were dirty, and logged into my meeting.

Just as I was giving some instructions in the meeting, out we went again. And stayed out. We lose power a lot here in the boonies, so I got out my box of lanterns. Yes, I have an entire box of lanterns and a million batteries to go with them. Thanks, Mom.

Let there be light!

There is also a make-shift heater that uses tea lights and a terra-cotta pot. It’s not a huge heat source, but if you sit next to it, it takes the chill off. I pulled the curtains in the living room and pulled the second set that sections off the kitchen from the living room. This helps in both winter and summer. During power outages, I can make the livingroom the warm spot by containing airflow, and in summer, the cool air stays on me. Where it should be.

With little else to do, we went to bed at 9, hoping the power would spring to life and all would be well in the morning.

We were not granted that wish.

I woke at 3 am, freezing, and to check the CMP outage updates and saw that it STILL said “assessing.” That meant this was gonna be a BAD outage. The phone was now at 50%. I shut it off and crawled back under the covers.

When I awoke at 7:00, there was still no power, but the sun was up. Time to assess the damage. 5-8 inches of snow was NOT what awaited me.

My poor trees. All of them with major limb damage

14 inches of snow, easy. Downed limbs were everywhere. It looked like a war zone. In my back yard, all the birches had bowed, buried under the weight of the snow. Even worse? Both exit doors were blocked by snow. I couldn’t even open them, there was that much snow. There was NO way the power would be coming back any time soon if this is what my yard looked like with small trees.

I realized all the food in my fridge/freezer was not gonna make it, unless I got it in some snow. FAST. But how to do that when you are shut-in. Literally with snow.

Well, you wake a teen and have them help you get out a window. While grumbly that we still didn’t have power AND that I’d woken her up hours before she wanted to be up, she helped me because once she looked outside and saw how bad it was, she knew the food had to be saved.

I bundled up in my snow gear and she helped shove me out the window. I think she liked that part a bit too much. Once out, I was up to my knees in snow. She closed the window to save heat and babysat the candles I had going in the living room. She had her instructions, find every container we had that could hold snow. We were going to bring the freezer to us.

The snow was super heavy, and it took a good ten minutes just to clear the steps to open my door. Once it was my daughter and I did a bucket brigade. Filling both kitchen sinks and our tubs full of snow. Then, we pulled out all the food worth saving. Rarely used condiments and the leftovers would be tossed. Sorry leftover pork loin. The milk and butter were more precious right now.

Back and forth we walked, packing the food with more and more snow. Probably a good hour of work to pack the snow in as tightly as we could. Once the food was chilling (and not a moment too soon by the temp in the fridge when we pulled the food out) it was onto getting the steam-heat going.

Thankfully, I have a gas stove, which means I can manually light the stovetop burners. The oven was an electric starter so we were out of luck there, but the burners are what I needed. Getting out all my large pots, that I reserve for just this purpose, I filled them with snow and set them on low to melt. This would do two things. Provide steam, which is heat, and two, would provide water to run through our Britta filters if we ran low on our stash, and water to flush toilets with…cause ya, that needs to happen on occasion with three people in a house.


After heat was steaming, I moved onto my own personal needs. Coffee. While brewing a cup was out of the question, I knew I had instant because I make swag bags that have instant coffee packs I use for Must Love Coffee. Sorry swag, my caffeine needs come first. My mom had sent me some mini creamers which I save for days like this. Digging out my old school kettle (again, saved for this purpose) I boiled some water and sipped my instant coffee. While not nearly as good as my regular cup, beggars could not be choosers.

All of this took about an hour and a half. And we made a lot of noise, but still, my son slept through it. Or he pretended to be asleep so he wouldn’t have to help. One of the two.

After the caffeine soaked into my brain, I made a path to my car to clean that off. When we have access to the car, we have access to heat, and a charging station for our phones, which are all basically dead. That is the hardest part truth be told. Not having any contact with family and friends. And not even able to go stay with them even if we COULD get out thanks to the pandemic.

After an email from CMP stating that power might not be back to my area for another day or TWO, I called the kid’s dad and had him come and pick them up. He lives close to a hospital, so he rarely loses power for long. It would be warm for them, they’d have more food options, and they would have their beloved devices. I opted to stay and man the fort. The snow fort, that is. I was determined to save at least some of my food.

Ice, Ice, Baby.

I charged my phone from my laptop, which mercifully still had full power, made connections to those who were worried, and canceled zoom meetings I was supposed to be at. Easter was even on hold…because of course, it was.

We get it Mother Nature. You want us to stay inside. Got the message. Loud and clear.

That night I cooked one of the frozen hamburg patties and ate it without a bun (mostly because I couldn’t find it in the snow…) I had a glass of wine and sat by the ‘fire’ and read for a few hours, bundled up in my ski pants/coat, hat, scarf, gloves.

On Saturday, I drove into town to charge my devices and take a shower at my day job. When I was about ready to head back to refill my tub with snow, I got the text from a neighbor that we were back on. Thank goodness! I grabbed my kids and came home and waited impatiently for my fridge to get cold.

My Herculean efforts to save my food resulted in about a 90% success. Precious butter and milk were saved. Cheese and juice. All made it. A few types of meat that MAY have been okay, I opted to toss for my own sake.

It was a miracle. Being immune-compromised, going to the store during a pandemic is not easy or safe. So the thought of having to brave the stores for essentials was really stressing me out.

Now that the sun has come out and melted away the snow (for the most part) I brace myself for Monday when we will be hit with 55 mph winds that historically have taken down trees and power lines. Restoration, in theory, will be quicker, as they aren’t dealing with 14 inches of snow as well, so my food may survive once more. Or not. I’ve cheated their death once. I may not get away with it twice.

But hey, at least it will be warmer this time?

Danielle Bannister, author, and saver of all the food.


5 thoughts on “Surviving a blizzard/days-long power outage during a pandemic…with teenagers”

  1. Be thankful that your oven didn’t work. Oven venting only works efficiently when the door is closed. If you leave the door open for the heat, it will eventually use up all of the oxygen in the room. This is not true, however, for an electric oven.

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