It’s not easy to get around the back roads of West Virginia right now. Our four-wheel drive couldn’t make it up the hill to David Arnold’s place near Fayetteville, so he came down to get us in his Chevy Tahoe.
We spin through the snow, through archways made of broken tree branches. The drive is worth the effort; Arnold runs a whitewater rafting business, and he lives right on the edge of the New River gorge.
From his back porch, we can look 900 feet down to the river or 3000 feet straight across, through falling snow to the other side. It’s just gorgeous.
But listen for a minute, Arnold says. Hear that hum from down below, by the river?
“That sound you hear in the background is the generator running the county water system,” he says. “That tells me a lot right there. Just listening to that generator tells me that we’ve got a whole lot of problems.”
It means the power is out all around here. And if that generator fails, most of the people in this county will lose their water, too.
In fact 20 percent of all the people in West Virginia don’t have power today, Because this storm is a monster.
“We had 16 inches on the ground this morning, and as you’ll see, it’s still snowing,” Arnold says. “A lot of the snow has been compressed because it’s heavy and wet so it doesn’t seem that deep. But that creates its own set of problems, with trees being knocked down and limbs being knocked down. In all probability we’ll end up with 20 inches here at the most.”
So it is, officially a disaster. But this is the sort of disaster that will pass pretty quickly, Arnold says.
And probably for that reason, he and his family actually seem to be enjoying this time.
They don’t have power, but they do have friends, like his neighbor George Siecrist, who rolls up in an ancient Dodge Ram. He just spent the entire day rescuing a neighbor who was stranded at her job in a town half an hour away.
“Everybody just pitches in,” Siecrist says.
And in a few days, he says, West Virginia, at least, will be getting back to normal after superstorm Sandy.