Donner Party redux
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January 13, 2017
The reports of cannibalism in my neighborhood are, at least so far, unsubstantiated. But I'm taking no chances and locking the doors at night.
There are a couple of neighbors who are conspicuously absent. Their immediate neighbors, who look rather well-fed under these conditions, say they are in Costa Rica, but I'm not buying it. They could just as easily be in the stew.
I'm not sure we are doing the Donner Party redux, but conditions are amazingly difficult. There has generally been more snow at my house than in town. I shamed a bunch of family members to come up and help shovel roofs on the farm buildings last weekend. It's like it never happened. It's three feet deep again.
The glacier on my roof mostly slid off in one teacup-rattling shock wave. There is still an iceberg on the less-steep dormer. It's cantilevered out about three feet but won't either slide or break off. I'm expecting it to crash into the living room any minute now. The design of the house was intended to have a roof so steep that this would never happen, and as a result, it is a roof too steep for anybody but Spiderman to consider getting on. So there's no shoveling it off. The iceberg will either come off in pieces, or crash through the roof below, and land on the coffee table. A friend who does avalanche control said that it's become too difficult to take explosives home these days, so I'm on my own.
That has led to a lot of hunkering down, which in turn has led to wondering about what’s happening with the neighbors and the Donner Party rumors. I emailed some neighbors whose road had been trackless for a few days.
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I've lived in my house for 33 years now, and grew up in the house next door. I've never experienced a storm cycle like this. There have been huge storms. There was one year when it snowed enough during Sundance to bury the garage. The snow was up to the eaves. But it quit, the sun came out, it melted back, and there was a little breathing room to clear it out of the way. Not this year. Six inches today, 9 the day before, maybe 14 tomorrow with a little rain mixed in just to complicate things. There's no place to put any more snow. The piles on either side of the driveways are as high as the front-end loader can stack it.
In a normal year, we get a break, and UDOT comes through with a big piece of equipment and pushes it back. They haven't had time to eat, let alone find a break to clean up and deal with that kind of thing. The snow is piled up right to the edge of the travel lane, which is getting tighter by the day. They've done a remarkable job clearing the main roads, but they aren't keeping up any better than I am on the ranch.
There is a group of cabins farther down the same road my house is on. They brought in a big blower and widened the road out to boulevard conditions. Everybody rushed to get their propane tanks filled, and less than a week later, it's so narrow that if your car gets stuck, you would have to climb out the sunroof because there's no way the doors will open.
Despite UDOT's (and other's) efforts, which have frankly been heroic, getting out of here is still a white-knuckle experience most mornings. You don't run to the grocery store on a whim. That has led to a lot of hunkering down, which in turn has led to wondering about what's happening with the neighbors and the Donner Party rumors. I emailed some neighbors whose road had been trackless for a few days. They didn't respond immediately, and I began to fear the worst. Instead, they emailed back and said they had all they could stand and were gone for the duration. Drained the pipes and lit out for the equator. Let it snow. They asked if I would let them know when the redwing blackbirds come back, because they weren't coming home a minute before then.
The skiing has been exceptional. Wonderful. I've had friends stuck on lifts and mired in long lines with the power out—the sort of thing that would normally bring on some serious grumbling. But they insisted the runs they had once the power came back on were well worth the wait. I missed that day. I was home dealing with about 8 inches of slush. It wasn't clear if the proper implement on the tractor was the snow blower or a pump.
In the past several years, a forecast that included 6 to 8 inches was reason to celebrate. This year, it feels like it's just 8 inches closer to being marooned. There's supposed to be a little break over the weekend before it picks up again.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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