Winter Snow and Ice … and Power

Plowing snow is a definite part of winter life in Montana and North Dakota.  Blowing snow is also part and parcel of winter living in that part of the country.

When it gets way below zero, you have to have some sort of heat to keep the house from freezing up.  After electricity was brought in to the farms and ranches, the farmers and ranchers had become used to having electricity for everything and they depended upon it.

One time, when we had had a heavy snow with strong wind, there were drifts all over.  The roads were pretty much impassable.  One farmer, who lived about 20 miles out of town, had his power lines go down in the storm.

Though this farmer heated with a propane furnace, without electricity there was no way to circulate the heat through the house.  It was possible to start the fire manually but if left without air circulation, definitely the furnace would be endangered and very likely the house.

Even today I don’t know how he got word into the power company that he was in desperate need of power, but they were advised of his situation somehow.  The power company requested a snow plow from the County Road Department so that they could get out and repair the line.

At night the plows came back.  The next morning all the plowing had to be re-done because the roads were drifted shut again.  This happened over and over again for a week or more before the power company finally got the power back on to the farmer’s home.

Meanwhile the farmer, being an ingenious fellow, had done some self-help.  He had taken one of the children’s bicycles down into his basement, mounted it up on blocks, taken the rear tire off of the rim, and placed a v-belt (from one of his other machines) on the bicycle rim and down to the blower pulley on the furnace.

The family took turns pedaling the bike, getting their exercise and warming the house.

This could be termed an early source of alternative energy.

Since we had “Ice Storm” in the Spokane area a few years back, our company has been called to set up stand-by alternative energy for many homes.  And we’ve gotten very proficient at it.

We’ve come a long ways from the days of “Bike-and-belt.”

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