Preparing for the storm with bottled water


The weather forecast for the Cape and Islands was for a winter storm of epic proportions starting the following day,  Monday. A telephone alert informed us that the Tisbury School would be open that night if we needed shelter. Monday was when our visiting daughter Ann and son-in-law Paul were scheduled to leave the Island for their return trip to California. They decided to take an early boat to beat the storm.

“Actually, it might be fun to get snowed in on Martha’s Vineyard,” said Ann.

As we drove them into Vineyard Haven to board the ten-forty-five ferry, the snow started, a light dusting that blew in wisps and swirls across the road in front of us.

Ann hugged Howie and me goodbye. “Looks as though we’re going to miss the fun,” she said. “I kind of envy you. All that snow.”

“We don’t get a lot of it in Santa Barbara,” said Paul.

By early afternoon the snow was several inches deep. The wind picked up and moaned and rattled at the windows.

Howie filled our collection of cranberry juice bottles with water and we lined them up them near the candles and matches we have ready for the times the electricity goes off, which it does nearly every time we have a storm.

H and woodpile

Howie stacked firewood on the west step last fall

This past fall, Howie moved a cord of wood from the woodpile near the compost heaps and stacked it on the west step outside the entry. “We may want it closer in case of bad weather,”   he said. Before Ann and Paul left, Paul brought in several arm loads of firewood from the step to the entry where it would stay dry.


The woodpile after the storm Lynn Christoffers photo

I made a pot of split pea soup that we could re-heat over an alcohol burner when the electricity went out. By the time the soup was ready, the snow was a foot deep and the wind was whipping it into deep drifts around the house.

Darkness approached, time for Howie to feed the chickens and guineas and close the coop to keep out night predators. Daphne, the cat, stood at the entry door, staring out with an expression that clearly said she needed to go out but was not about to do so.

Howie was shrugging into his coat and hat and face mask to brave the storm, when Lynn Christoffers, who lives in the studio behind the Cleaveland House, appeared. “I’ve shoveled a path to the chickens. Want me to take care of them?”




Lynn shoveled a path to the chicken coop

Bliz trip 201501

The triplets, their first snow







Bliz LitterBoxc 201501

Daphne ready for the storm

“And while you’re at it,” I added, “there’s a litter box and litter in the tool shed for Daphne.”

The three of us had supper in front of the parlor fire with Daphne curled up close to the screen, waiting for her servings of whipped cream.

“If your heat goes off, or if you get lonely,” I told Lynn, “we’ve got a warm couch by the fire and plenty of blankets.”

After supper, Lynn gathered up her flashlight, struggled back into her boots, and left.

A few minutes later, Howie said, “The hot water is off. No heat, either.”

A call to Keith Fullin, our heating man, gave us a message to the effect of, “I’ll get back to you as soon as phone service is restored.”

We put a few more logs on the fire and snuggled together on the couch, a blanket over our shoulders, to play an old seafarers’ game called “Shut the Box” that Howie had ordered from National Geographic. Usually, he wins, but this time I won three out of four games. Wind howled at the windows. This past September, John and Barbara, guests from England, gave us a gift of storm windows that they made especially for us. The storm windows are mounted inside so we can install them without having to go outdoors. A timely gift and what a difference they make. Snow piled in drifts on the outside window sills. Snow plows rumbled past, two at a time, moving en echelon, yellow lights flashing.


From my study window

Bliz birds a 201501

Birds at the feeder


My car seen from the entry





We went to bed early. We’d deal with hot water and heat in the morning.

All night long the snow plows rumbled by.

The electricity remained on, despite hurricane-force gusts and blowing snow, which meant the NStar crews were out all night monitoring the vulnerable overhead wires.

There’s something grand about a big storm that brings forth feelings of adventure. We awoke to more falling and blowing snow and monumental drifts everywhere we looked. Snow has altered the familiar topography, softening the harshness of cars, roofs, and fences. A three-foot drift now blankets the steps leading up to the deck where our swing seat has a foot-deep cushion of snow. The snow-covered bird feeders are attracting swarms of cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, titmice, doves, house finches, and an occasional woodpecker, all of them desperate for seed.

Blizzard Chris crop

Chris, on snowshoes, ready to help Lynn Christoffers photo

Chris, who watches over the boat that’s parked in our west pasture, came by, brushing snow off his jacket. “You need any help, any help at all, you have my number.”

Mark, a writer friend, called. “You need any help. . .”

Fullin’s answering service took my call.   “Before you say anything further,” said the woman, “can Keith get to your house?”

“Well,” I said, “there’s an awful lot of snow between the road and our door, and our drive hasn’t been plowed.”

“You’re on the Edgartown Road, aren’t you?” she said. “Can he come in the front door?”

Islanders seldom use front doors. That’s why she asked.

“Lucky the electricity stayed on,” she added. “And you have fireplaces. Just like the old timers.” I could hear her moving papers. “ Keith is out there, and will get to you soon as he can.”

The temperature in the kitchen was forty-seven degrees. We turned on the oven.

We brought in more wood from the entry, where Paul had stacked it , and got the fire going in Howie’s lab. We lighted the fire in our bedroom. We donned sweaters and fleece jackets, hats and gloves. Drank hot tea and spooned up hot pea soup.

To my astonishment, within an hour, Keith Fullin appeared at the kitchen door.   “How did you get here?” I asked.

“Four-wheel drive,”  he said as he stomped snow off his boots. “Pushed my way through the drift to get my truck off the road and walked in.”

“I imagine you’re busy,” I said.

He nodded. “You’re number eight so far. Your heat and hot water are back on.”

“What was the trouble?” asked Howie.

“Snow drifted over the furnace vent,” he said. “I shoveled it off.”

Bliz bulkheadb 201501

Keith Fullin dug out the furnace bulkhead

After he left I looked out the window and he had shoveled an area about four feet by six feet wide, drifted three feet high, to expose the bulkhead door leading to the furnace.

Kevin Peters, who plows my sister’s and our drives, apologized for not being here yet. “Too much snow for the plow,” he told my sister. “ I have to use the Bobcat, and that takes longer.”

Lynn just came in, stamping snow off her boots, rosy cheeked from clearing the snow off Howie’s truck, and bearing three  warm newly-laid eggs.   ♥





About Cynthia Riggs

CYNTHIA RIGGS, author of eleven books in the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series, has a geology degree from Antioch College, an MFA from Vermont College, and a Coast Guard Masters License (100-ton vessels). She recently married Dr. Howard Attebery, who came back into her life after 62 years.
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9 Responses to THE EPIC BLIZZARD OF ’15

  1. Kay Reynolds says:

    So glad to hear that you were able to stay warm and, as it sounds by this blog, cozy! We had heard that the winds had reached nearly 80 miles per hour at one point (or around 70 knots for all you seagoers). This has been a strange winter. Fargo, North Dakota was experiencing 40 degree temperatures as your snow storm hit. We have only had a total of 7.5 inches of snow all season. Hope you continue to stay warm and cozy and look forward to your next blog!

    Larry and Kay

  2. Sandy Baxter says:

    Loved your narrative of the “blizzard”. Glad you had everything in hand. I would expect it of you, being an experienced person of the Island. Hope to see you on another cruise! Sandy

    Sent from my iPad


  3. sharon says:

    Thank you for the blowing by blowing description.

  4. It was an adventure! Our power didn’t go out either. I’m amazed.

  5. Bonnie Cantrell says:

    Love your description of the blizzard and here I am enjoying your new book. Love this new series can not wait for the next installment.

  6. Joanie Ruppel says:

    Loved your blizzard blog Cynthia – especially the picture of the snow covered wood pile and house – it’s so beautiful!

  7. Carolyn says:

    Your prose is like poetry, Cynthia. Still feeling adventurous? I understand you’re getting another foot today! Greetings from Mexico….don’t be jealous…it’s been pouring for two days!

  8. Pingback: January License Plate Report | From the Seasonally Occupied Territories . . .

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