Two Letters Re: Surviving Snowmageddon

Friday, Mar 8, 2013

Dear JWR:
You don't always need a snow plow to to free up the streets in a snow-bound neighborhood. I found a video that shows a U.S. military surplus M35 2-1/2 Ton ("Deuce and a Half") truck being used to pack down snow. - Solar Guy

 

Mr. Rawles,
We in dry Central Texas are having the opposite problem from your "Snowmageddon" contributors: Dry wind-blizzards. On Monday, February 25th we had dry, sunny weather combined with high winds all day and night.

I stepped outside after lunch to check the mail. Uhh-Ohh. The brush pile fire we had burned almost two weeks before, and foolishly thought to be extinguished, threw wind-driven sparks out to a nearby unburned brush pile. The new fire had been burning for a half-hour, but the smoke was going away from the house. My spouse and I were oblivious that a roof-high, whipping fire was outside, while we ate lunch just two hundred yards away! When juniper (here called “cedar”) burns, it flares up to a scary inferno of flames even in mild, damp weather.

My husband got the tractor and frantically covered the pile with dirt, using the loader. I grabbed chain saws, water hoses, the air tank for the tractor tire. But the trouble wasn't over, cinders had blown into the juniper forest! I ran into the woods and stomped/wetted a few smoldering spots. The cinders had traveled 140 feet and, thankfully, hadn't ignited into flames. The kids stepped off the school bus and searched the woods for any other smoldering spots, none found.

I sat out all night in the truck, with shovel/water buckets, in case there was a flare-up in the cold, whipping wind. My 4G Tablet was entertainment, and served as an alarm for short catnaps. My Jack Russell Terrier, a whip-smart little companion, kept my lap and hands warm.

Lessons: (1) I will never again allow a burn-pile to be covered with dirt and smolder. Buried logs and stumps can smolder for months! One will discover how dangerous this is when you get a dry spell and a wind storm. I will make sure future burned-up piles are promptly knocked down and thoroughly extinguished. (2) Since the burn-pile was very near the county road, I was disappointed that no passers-by stopped to offer help, nor noticed the unattended flames, while we were lunching, and inform us of the problem. As other contributors have noted, get to know your neighbors well, make sure they have your phone numbers.

Postscript: The high winds picked up again, a week later, (March 5) and blew the dirt off the pile, exposing embers from last week's accidental fire. After piling more dirt on, we are waiting for forecasted rain this weekend so we can tear down this dangerous pile of buried embers, allow the old stumps to burn and extinguish it for good. - Sarah in Central Texas


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