When in doubt, keep on trucking

Columnist Claudette Sandecki finds herself frozen in

Every winter storm is memorable, often for forcing you to cope with some hazardous predicament.

Therefore I greet each one by postponing ladder climbing or cooking anything that could scald me, and carrying penny matches in case of power outage.

I try to avoid summoning emergency personnel when rescuers would need snowshoes or a ladder truck to enter my yard. Unique difficulties can still show up.

The storm of two weeks ago buried my entire property under a deep, deep layer of snow, made deeper in many places by monumental drifts, with my unplowed driveway sealed off from the street by a snowplow windrow.

Over several days after the storm ended, I shovelled a footpath to the walkway gate and dug it out so, if necessary, the gate could be opened. I would let sun thaw the rest.

Until one morning I found my front door frozen shut. No amount of prying with a flat screwdriver, heating with a hairdryer, yanking on the knob or bashing the bottom of the door with my slippered foot broke it free. Meanwhile, my dogs whined on the porch awaiting breakfast.

The only solution was to push the door from the outside. But how to reach the outside?

I couldn’t phone a neighbour for help; I wouldn’t expect anyone to dress up and make his way through my snowdrifts to give my door a jolt.

My house has three exits. Neither of the other two was a good option. Both doors led to a yard buried under great swoops of snow resembling Calgary’s Saddle Dome, in places five or more feet deep. Morning light made it impossible to gauge the snow’s depth. I knew, though, from my dog’s struggles climbing to a vantage point for watching street traffic that a monster drift waited at the east side of the front porch.

Moving west would be the longer route. The height of my windows kept me from seeing terrain within 10 feet of the house. What might await me there? Snow in perimeter shrubbery could be deep or shallow. I couldn’t tell.

I concluded whether I went west or east, I’d face deep drifts.

Warmly dressed with pant cuffs pulled down over my boot tops, and grasping a corn broom as a walking stick, I stepped out the north door and headed west along the longest wall.

A few steps proved I had picked the wrong direction.

Instead of sweeping away some snow, the wind had piled drifts higher around that entire end of the house. But as Hamlet said, “To go back were as tedious as to go over.” So on I went.

Close up, the snow was uniform depth – almost the full length of the broom handle – from the house foundation clear across to the perimeter shrubbery.

Hugging the stucco wall for added balance, I slowly proceeded. I realized if anything were to happen to me, for instance a heart attack, my family would never look for me or find me here.

They would be unlikely to check for footprints leaving from the back door. And they’d have to step out the door to see my footprints, they were that close to the wall.

Half an hour later I’d fed the dogs.

I cut a two-foot long strip of acrylic boat topping, strong, paper-thin fabric, added a slit at either end large enough to slip over a doorknob, and hung one end over each doorknob. Besides a safe way to yank open a frozen door, the fabric goes across the latch keeping it in, so the latch cannot freeze preventing turning of the knob.

(Incidentally, I learned it’s wise to park my vehicle with space on either side for a Bobcat to plow.)

Claudette Sandecki waits for spring in Thornhill, B.C.

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