The carport at Pam Garlock’s home in the Boise County mountains northwest of Idaho City collapsed when she and her stepson, Chad, were clearing more than 3 feet of snow off of it Wednesday night.
It was a scary moment for the pair — neither of whom was injured — but nothing like what happened during the winter of 2008. In February that year, Pam Garlock was buried by snow coming off the roof of a large woodshed on the family’s property in the Star Ranch area.
That’s a real danger all over the county right now. There’s so much snow on the ground in Idaho City that Commercial Street has been blocked off so it can be piled up there.
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“We are literally running out of places to put snow,” Basin School District Superintendent John McFarlane said.
He said he’s measured 42 inches of snow in his yard in Idaho City.
Idaho City schools were open Thursday, but school officials have made areas outside the buildings off-limits to students because of concern about the large amount of snow and the huge icicles hanging off the roofs, which have been damaged by the heavy load of snow.
A sump pump was used to suck up a half-foot of water and ice off a path between the high school and elementary school, which has snow piled so high that it’s blocking the view out the windows. Some students are wearing snowsuits to school.
In my 29 years here this is the most snow we’ve had in such a short period of time.
John McFarlane, Basin School District superintendent
Garden Valley Fire Protection District Chief Jon Delvalle and other emergency management service personnel in the county — most of whom are volunteers — say that many roads to residents’ homes haven’t been plowed enough to allow large emergency vehicles in.
“We’ve had some access problems getting to patients. We have to move to a smaller vehicle, or pack in a litter (stretcher) down to meet the ambulance,” Delvalle said.
People have got to work on these roads. They’ve got to push the berms back to widen for access for both fire and EMS.
Jon Delvalle, Garden Valley fire chief
Though they can move patients out in smaller vehicles or on foot, they can’t do that for structure fires. They have to be able to get their equipment close to the burning buildings.
Barbara Balding, a former county commissioner who has lived in the Clear Creek area for more than 20 years, said she and her husband, Bill, keep enough food on hand that it’s not a crisis if they can’t get out for days.
“We were snowed in yesterday and this morning, until one of our lovely neighbors plowed our driveway so we could get the car out,” she said Wednesday. “It’s just living in the mountains. You prepare for all emergencies.”
Snow sliding off rooftops is a danger that’s hard to prepare for. Chad and Pam Garlock were collecting wood from the shed in 2008 when they suddenly found themselves in an emergency. They both heard a loud rumble — like thunder, they said — as the snow came down. Pam didn’t have a chance to do anything but put her arms up near her head.
Chad had no idea where Pam was in the mountain of snow next to the shed, but he knew she was alive because he could hear her screaming.
He dug her out with his hands because he didn’t have a shovel nearby. The weight of the falling snow on Pam’s 120-pound frame knocked her to the ground and twisted her right leg behind her with such force that it broke in five places. She now has a metal rod in that leg.
“I kind of came to terms that it was over,” recalled Pam, who has four adult children and 11 grandchildren. She said she couldn’t hear Chad yelling for help and frantically trying to dig her out.
Chad estimates that it took him about five minutes to dig his mom out. Pam, the Boise County coroner and also an emergency dispatcher, believes that a snow pocket was created when she put her arms up before she was knocked down, helping to keep her alive.
She offered some simple advice:
“Don’t walk next to buildings with snow on them,” she said. “Pay attention to your surroundings.”