Bovina residents still shocked by damage from October storm

By Matthew J. Perry
Last week’s snow couldn’t melt away soon enough for Bovina residents.
What might go down in history as the October Surprise Storm of 2008 was mostly cleaned up by Saturday when the last of Bovina households once again had power. The town was under a state of emergency for nearly two days, and the hardships of those who lived at higher altitudes lasted even longer.
“In 24 years with the department, I never saw anything like it,” said Bovina Highway Superintendent Bob Burgin.
No fatalities or hospitalizations were reported, and all residents were accounted for following Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday night’s unseasonable winter blitz. But for two days many roads were blocked, and the longest power outages lasted for nearly four. Burgin pulled crews off the road late Tuesday because trees weighted down with snow and sagging over the roads presented danger to his men and their trucks.
In the aftermath, Bovina residents are still appalled and amazed by what they endured.
“I live at almost 2,300 feet and I measured 24 inches of snow there,” says Bovina Supervisor Tina Mole. “I had nine inches in the morning on Tuesday.
“We’ve had dustings around Halloween before, but nothing like this,” Mole continued. “And I took a drive around the reservoir on Wednesday and in some places there wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen.”
Bovina’s disproportionate share of the storm’s fury did have a silver lining. Fire department volunteers from four other, lower-lying communities converged on the town to help cut trees, account for residents and ease the burden on the town’s highway department. Walton Highway Supervisor Walt Geidel arrived to man the phone at the town garage so that Burgin could stay out with the crews. The county Department of Public Works also loaned the town a 10-wheel snowplow.
Nonetheless, Bovina’s crew worked for 15 hours on Tuesday and 12 on Wednesday.
“They’d said we were going to get it, so the department started preparing on Monday night,” says Councilman Chuck McIntosh.
As the snow accumulated, trees fell across roads and power lines, which made clean up and repair interminable. A road cleared on Tuesday often had new damage to be cleared on Wednesday.
The New Kingston Mountain Road was the hardest hit of the main town routes. Burgin states that nearly 100 trees fell on that road alone.
The Red Cross set up two shelters—in Delhi and Andes—to offer supplies and a warm place to sleep, but neither location received overnight visitors or dispensed supplies. Both shelters closed Friday.
“The county emergency services set up a reverse 911 call to residents so everyone got the word,” says Burgin. “We sent fire and EMS crews up the roads to places we couldn’t reach on Tuesday to see who needed help. But everyone just wanted to stay put.”
The Bovina crews’ job was complicated when their radios stopped working on Tuesday evening. “That’s where the fire departments and EMS really helped out,” says McIntosh.
With warm weather predicted for the coming week and the snow melting away to a few stubborn patches, the town seems happy to resume business as usual. “We’re still cutting trees,” says Burgin. “But we’re ready for the next one. They’re talking about more snow on Sunday.”
Certainly the October Surprise will be remembered, if not too fondly.
“Two days without power, you don’t really mind,” said a man inside Russell’s Store on Monday. “It’s when you get to three days—like I did—then you call it miserable.”
Supervisor Mole wants to be prepared for the next blast of winter. “It’s definitely a good time to get a generator,” she said.