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December 11, 2009

The Altamont Pass (elevation: 1,009 feet) with a rare dusting of snow
(Photo taken by Craig Sanders, courtesy of therecord.com)

The week of December 7, 2009 saw amazing and record-setting weather, not only in the San Francisco Bay Area, but throughout California and the entire Western United States. It was described as a ďonce-in-20-yearsĒ storm.

We awoke on Monday morning in Silicon Valley to see the mountains on all sides of us covered in snow. The Altamont Pass (elevation: 1,009 feet), which connects the Bay Area to Californiaís Central Valley, received four inches. The city of Stockton (elevation: 13 feet) saw measurable snow (1/4 inch) for the first time since 1976.

Although Russell was going through a busy time at work, Gail toyed with the idea of driving up to our mountain home to see the property in rare snow. She actually had her things packed and ready to go, but she changed her mind at the last minute on Sunday morning.

Gail was disappointed when Sunday nightís snow storm was followed by several days of freezing weather, which meant that the snow actually stayed around for most of the week. As we started hearing further reports, though, we were ultimately very glad that Gail had stayed home.

Valley Springs in Calaveras County (elevation: 669 feet), where we usually buy our last-minute groceries. All schools in Calaveras County declared snow days for the week.
(Photo taken by Tammy Beilstein, courtesy of thepinetree.net)

Our neighbor Scott told us that power was out in the area for two days on Monday and Tuesday. Our friend Dennis actually tried driving up to check on the property, but couldnít make it past the entrance gate at the bottom of the hill. The sub-zero weather had caused the initial rain to create a layer of slippery ice on the unpaved road. A layer of snow on top of that meant that the road was impassable. If Gail had driven up, she would have been stuck in our mountain home with no heat, no electricity, no water (our water pump is electric), and no way of getting out.

The access road to our mountain home property
(Photo taken by our friend Dennis)

Our biggest concern was that we had a broken water pipe somewhere up at the house. We had installed heat tape on the exposed pipes at the step-up pump and the water tank, but the heat tape was electrical. With the power out, there was no heat. On the other hand, the power outage also meant that the step-up pump wasnít functioning at all. We hoped that one problem took care of the other and that there was no water in the pipes to freeze.

Unfortunately, we were also scheduled to have our long-awaited hot water installed on Wednesday. That was clearly not going to happen. Our hope was that a second, warmer rainstorm due in the second half of the week would melt the snow and allow access again.

Dennis was finally able to make it up to our property on Thursday, December 10. There were still several inches of snow on everything in sight. Dennis discovered that the pipe to our exterior faucet had cracked, creating a fountain of water. He went down to the bottom of the hill to turn off our water meter, and discovered that the main water pipe was also cracked, spewing more water out at the meter.

Our only cracked pipe was on an exterior faucet, which created a small fountain
(Photo taken by our friend Dennis)

We had previously planned to drive ourselves up for the weekend on Friday, December 11, and we decided to keep that plan. Our plumber Curtis had rescheduled the hot water installation for that day; he also volunteered to fix our broken faucet pipe. We imagined a scenario where we would drive up on Friday afternoon to find snow outside, working hot water and electricity inside, and no broken pipes.

(Just to hedge our bets, though, we borrowed a truck from Russellís sister so we would have all-wheel drive. And we brought up a propane heater.)

Our last bit of bad news was a phone call from Curtis during our drive up. Amerigas had decided that the weather was still too inclement and cancelled their Friday appointment. There would be no hot water this weekend.

By the time we arrived at the property on Friday evening, most of the snow was gone. The weather forecast called for heavy rain and winds all weekend.

At this point, the hot water installation has been rescheduled for next Wednesday, December 16. In the meantime, Curtis has installed the flue for the hot water heater as well as the exterior gas bib. He also repaired the external faucet pipe.

And for an early Christmas present, Curtis also hooked up the faucet in the downstairs kitchen. We now have running water both upstairs and downstairs. Itís only cold water at this point, but itís still enough to make Gail overjoyed.

For the first time, we have running water downstairs. (If Gail looks cold, itís because itís currently 44ļ F!)


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