Winter of '89

Voice Card  -  Volume 4  -  John Card Number 29  -  Sun, Feb 5, 1989 1:13 PM

I have now been under siege for a full week by an honest-to-god Montana blizzard. My windows are opaque, my pipes are frozen, the TV is out, and I'm eating spam and five year old can goods.

It all started last Tuesday. I heard about the storm Monday night, and I thought about going into town for supplies, but my microwave had just been repaired and would not be available until Tuesday morning. And the storm was not scheduled to hit until noon. So I set my alarm with the intention of racing into town Tuesday morning.

When I got up at dawn I realized that it was already too late. The storm came six hours early, bringing heavy snow and driving winds that soon made the roads impassable. The Temperature dropped thirty degrees in a few minutes and dropped another twenty degrees within an hour. I grimly surveyed my diminishing stockpiles of food. I nearly fainted when I found only two cans of Pepsi.

In the days that followed, the temperature dropped to 40 below, with windchills approaching 100 degrees below zero. A state of emergency was declared, the roads were out, and all mail delivery was halted. Forget this "Sleet, nor storm, nor dark of night" stuff. Archipelago was more or less ready to go by Wednesday, but since that was no longer possible, I passed the time by cackling madly and adding one new feature after another to the voice card stack.

Incidentally, forty below zero temperature makes for some interesting effects. The air is noticeably thicker and there is a phenomenon called ice fog in which ice apparently crystalizes in mid air and forms a cloud. It hurts to breath.

The dangers of this type of situation are greatly reduced by good neighbors. Several people called to offer shelter in case my furnace went out or offered to truck in staples from the general store if I got too hungry. In fact, as I was starting this card, a local rancher showed up with some heating gadgetry and crawled around the nether regions of my house unfreezing various pipes.

Some of you may have heard about the explosion in Helena last week. A chemical train car derailed and hit a propane tank. The resulting explosion shattered all the windows in the Carroll college dormitory, tossed 1500 pound train parts through rooftops 20 blocks away, and forced a mass evacuation at a time when the wind chill was 70 below zero. The explosion also destroyed a power substation and caused a blackout throughout the city.

Dionne lives a few blocks from the college and was also forced to evacuate. She called to say she was all right and also said to say hello to everyone.

At the moment we're in the middle of a brief heat wave (about zero degrees, occasional flurries) that is supposed to last through tomorrow. The yellow peril and I are going to try to make it into town, load up, and mail out the packets. If you receive this by the end of the week, you can infer that I made it.