In the winter of 1979 I was living with my family in Southern Maryland, with a job and a home in St. Mary's County. It was a beautiful place, slightly rolling land located between the Patuxent and Potomac rivers to the north and south with the Chesapeake Bay at the far southeastern end of the peninsula. That tip, at Point Lookout, is also the place where my most recent book, "The Long Road Back," began in 1865 at the end of the Civil War.
We had a very unseasonably warm winter until about the sixth of February, when the temperature dropped dramatically, we received about five inches of snow and with temperaturest not going over thirty degrees for two weeks, it was cold. It reminded me of a winter I spent in Missouri in Army training as well as service in Germany. And little did we know that a small nor'easter which was forming to our southeast would soon add its fury, but not with so much wind as with snow, unheard of amounts of snow. During that lead up to the storm, the snow from early in the month remained on the ground due to the bitter cold. And when the weatherman said in the forecast for the evening of February seventeenth that the next day, Sunday, would bring some three inches of the fresh white stuff we thought like of it. We also figured that the cold front would soon end and the early sings of spring would begin to show.
To add to the drama, the following Monday would be our little boy's first birthday and we had invited his godparents, old Army friends from Europe, to visit for a few days and they were coming from New York on Sunday. That Sunday morning was cloudy, the sky leaden as I went to church to teach Sunday school and upon my return, the snow was beginning. It was beautiful and light, sticking instantly on the frozen ground and I thought nothing more of it until our friends drove up around two in the afternoon. I had been watching a game by the fireplace in the den and when I went to the door, I was amazed to see how heavy it was coming down.
We enjoyed our friends, but I decided to check the weather. The forecast had been changed to say up to ten inches, my buddy and I laughed and shrugged and went to watch the game while the ladies talked about everything under the sun. Well, to make a long story short, it snowed heavy all night and finally began to let up around eleven on Monday morning. We let our son open his presents, had a wonderful birthday lunch and the two of us men later bundled up to go outside. The house cat joined us at the door wanting to go out, and when he stepped down on the first step from the raised front entryway, he disappeared. We looked at each other and I went to save the poor pet who was befuddled, I found myself in snow up to my thigh. And finally we realized the gravity of the situation and I thought of fire or power failure. Had their been a fire there would have been no way to fight it for the roads were clearly impassable. We and our neighbors in the small community reached by a country rural road were marooned.