, Corbin, KY

January 30, 2014

Stay prepared and survive winter

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Some of you may be skeptical — but I’ve been stuck in Tennessee a couple days this week.

While I heard the Tri-County only suffered with brutal cold, the northeast Tennessee region was socked with both the cold and a round of snow.

I returned to the homeplace this week because I have about 30 chickens to maintain, and the continuously freezing temperatures keep them with buckets of ice instead of water.

I woke up Tuesday morning to a phone call from a friend — asking what the weather was doing outside.

It was around 7 a.m., so I could see outside — and nothing was going on.

“Well, they called school off for the girls today,” I heard through the phone.

That got me out of bed for a better look — nope, nothing.

I hung up and went to the kitchen to start the coffee. I let the dogs out, then decided to take a hot mug of caffeine back into the bed to watch a little TV.

About 8 a.m. or so, I got up for a refill — and what I saw from the kitchen windows took me by surprise.

The road was gone.

The grass was gone.

And for once, my yard looked just like the neighbor’s.

It was snowing, and it was coming down fast.

I’m a native of Pennsylvania and have grown up around snows, so driving in this type of weather, at least for me, is usually a snap.

But it’s the other drivers who keep my heart in my throat during these crazy weather events.

So I decided to stay home, hunker down and ride out the snowstorm.

When most of us were young children, the snow was a wonderful thing. Our parents handled all the worry associated with surviving these winter months both physically and financially.

But if you paid attention, it makes surviving these months almost a snap as an adult.


During the winter of 1995-1996, in I believe January, we were crippled by three back-to-back heavy snowstorms in a three-week period.

I lived in an apartment then, and thankfully, it was close to the stores.

Because once the plows came through during the first snowstorm, the Ford Escort I drove then became encased in a tomb of snow.

That was the same time the landlord of that apartment building ran out of heroin money, and decided to cut off the heat for the five apartments in the remodeled house.

That was the last winter I spent in that hovel.

But again, that was not the first time I dealt with winter as an adult.

I was 20, and living in South Carolina.

Normally there was little snow during the winter. It would be cold, and maybe a snow shower here and there, but nothing dramatic.

Until my first winter there.

I lived in a rental house, and wasn’t knowledgeable enough to ask the right questions when it came to a home.

All I knew was the rent was cheap.

So when it came time to turn on utilities, I nearly had heart failure when I called the gas company.

They wanted a $500 deposit. Period.

I asked if it could be broken up into payments.


I asked if there was a minimum to pay to get something.


Then I asked the woman what I was supposed to do.

“It’s not my problem, sir,” she snarked.

I exploded. I couldn’t tell you word for word what was said, but my last sentence to her was, “When you’re home tonight, sitting in your nightgown with your slippers in your warm house, spare a thought for me and my girlfriend as we slowly freeze to death in my house.”

And it was a doozy of a winter that year. Imagine, if you can, taking a shower in a house that’s the same temperature as the great wintery outdoors. Add to that the fact the water heater was also gas — which left the shower water like ice.

To add fuel to that freezing fire, that was the year we had a major ice storm — inches of ice, followed by inches of snow.

That ice left us with zero electricity — the wires broke off the house and danced in the driveway until the power went out all down the street.

We gathered ourselves and two dogs, three cats and a rabbit into my Escort and trundled along icy, snowy roads heading for a hotel with a generator.

Those two days in that hotel were the warmest ones we spent that winter.

While the Tri-County may have luckily averted this latest round of winter weather, we need to get prepared.

Winter is far from over.

One of the worst stories I heard (no, it actually DIDN’T happen to me) came from a buddy of mine who travels a great deal.

He was driving down I-77 in West Virginia when a crash he couldn’t see blocked all the lanes of southbound traffic.

Traffic was stopped for hours, and during that time, the snow kept falling.

And falling, and falling.

Until traffic no longer was stopped for the crash — it was stopped for the snow.

People were hungry. Children were tired, cold and hungry. People were running out of gas and diesel.

And no rescue teams ever arrived. No snowplows. No help.

Trees were falling from the weight of the heavy snow. My buddy was stopped next to a tractor-trailer, thank goodness, because one of those trees fell and crashed on the trailer part of that rig. The top of that tree brushed the hood of his truck.

Again, winter is far from over.

Stock your vehicle with snacks, warm clothes, flashlights and cat litter. Take an emergency kit with you. If you’re on prescription medication, keep a couple doses with you. Keep fuel in the vehicle, as much as you can. Check the levels of your other auto fluids. Getting stranded is bad enough during the summer months.

In the winter it could be deadly.

Be smart. Stay prepared. Survive winter.

John Ross is a staff writer for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at