The first major winter storm of 2011 has come and gone and the Southeast was hit with snow, sleet, and freezing rain. As thousands were left without power from this major winter storm, how did one person survive in a tent?
Located in the middle of Georgia is the lower portion of the Oconee National Forest. I have camped here before but this was a first during a major winter storm that dumped mostly freezing rain and a couple of inches of snow in this location. 2011 has started with a bang as this first major winter storm sweeps through not only the Southeast but the Northeast as well.
How I survived this major winter storm began by my preparing in advance by filling up both propane tanks (20# each) and topping off my fuel tank in my truck. Having lived in Florida for the past several decades helped prepare me for this major winter storm of 2011.
My tent still had several tarps covering it for protection against rain and for catching rainwater. We are camped primitive style: no electric, no piped drinking water, and no flush toilets. This first major winter storm of 2011 taught me how having a tarp over your tent can be a danger.
After the major winter storm began sometime around 9 pm, we crawled in the tent and went to sleep only to wake up at 4:30 am to a crashing sound and the tent shifted somewhat. I put on my winter gear (ice cleats and all) and went outside to find out that the weight of the sleet and snow had pulled one of the tarps down onto the tent.
Quickly cutting all lines to all tarps, I began dragging the heavy tarps (filled with ice and snow) off the tent. It’s a canvas tent and sturdy, but heavy snow can collapse even a roof on a building. Satisfied, I went back inside to escape and survive the first major winter storm of 2011.
Hours later I realized that if I did not plan on cooking inside the tent that I would probably freeze to death trying to cook meals out in a major winter storm. Once again I put on winter gear, went outside into the major storm, and gathered food for the next two days.
When the major winter storm of 2011 finally left the area, I realized that everything was frozen, including all water supplies that I had collected from rainwater. I began collecting frozen ice and snow to melt for water. I weigh nearly 200 pounds and when the ice underneath my feet did not break into pieces when I walked on it (with ice cleats on), I realized that we may be stuck here for a few days.
I had initially taken some pictures of this major winter event for storytelling later, but reality set in and survival mode kicked in. After the first major winter storm of 2011 had passed through, the weight of the ice and snow on the trees began snapping some of the trees. I immediately contacted family by cell phone of my situation and made arrangements with my Aunt to go to her house two hours away (through the Atlanta area).
Quickly realizing that leaving may be more dangerous than staying I made the tough decision to ride it out since the major winter storm had already passed. A lot of the deaths that occur during a hurricane happen while people go out into the storm or they go out after the storm before it is safe. When Georgia Department of Transportation pleaded with folks to stay off the roads, I did just that.
I survived the first major winter storm of 2011 by preparing ahead of time, notifying family of my location, staying calm, allowing my survival training to kick in, and praying a lot (not necessarily in that order). I am living my dream, camping here and there, but experiencing an ice storm like this and listening to trees crack and fall while in a tent definitely was not part of the plan.
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