March 13, 2013

Mark Millican: Blizzard of ’93 — a wintry blast from the past

The American-turned-British poet T.S. Eliot once penned, “April is the cruelest month.” But an argument could be made the callous designation should go to February, since by the end of the second month of the new year we’re all tired of seeing stark naked trees long-shorn of their greenery. Yes, the woods are still spattered with the leaves of the beech trees that refuse to yield their tan product to the forest floor, but the rest of the trees are just … cold and barren — typifying February.

No wonder whomever’s in charge of month durations gave it the shortest number of days.

But 20 years ago, March came in like a lion during its second week (the 12th through the 14th) and gave us the Blizzard of 1993. The storm arrived on a Friday night, so there was no great hue-and-cry for this scribe to navigate the six miles into town to go to work at my newspaper job in Ellijay the next day.

On Saturday the family walked down to the Coosawattee River, ever mindful of the pine tree limbs above us whipping and snapping off from the weight of the snow and the wind and plummeting to the ground. But my late and great golden Labrador retriever, Rusty, had never seen anything like it and was having the time of her life in the chest-deep snow.

We lost power, not getting it back for six-and-a-half days. The first night we closed off the rooms of the house with quilts, pulled mattresses in front of the fireplace, and I got up every 30 minutes to throw another log on the fire. Our next-door neighbors, Alfred and Rita Odom, brought over a kerosene heater after that and made the cold more bearable, which had dipped into the teens after the storm passed through. We cooked soup and “cowboy coffee” over the fire, the latter leaving much to be desired.

On Sunday, Alfred and I went cruising through the neighborhood in his jeep and found some vacationers stranded in a complex of time-share villas. One fellow — a city boy, we presumed — was holding up a fireplace log and trying to start it with a cigarette lighter. Then on Monday I had to drive to Chatsworth, and the Highway 282 corridor into Murray County looked like a war zone with downed trees and utility poles, a single-track “lane” over a foot deep in snow that curved back and forth around the obstacles.

Fortunately, there were no cars coming from the other direction.

After it quit snowing, we measured 22 inches of snow in drifts on the back porch. I’ve seen some pretty big snows in the Dalton-Chatsworth-Ellijay area — even one where we received over an inch of sleet on top of a foot of snow at the latter locale — but the Blizzard of ’93 topped them all.

So far.

Mark Millican is a former Daily Citizen staff writer.

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