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LIVING WITH THE SNOW - Lindsey Cairns, The Tirol, Austria
Thursday January 10, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

What's it like living in a tiny Austrian village buried under snow in one of the biggest storms in recent memory?




Everywhere looks beautiful in our part of Austria.

There has been 2m of snow fall in our little village of St Ulrich am Pillersee in the Tirol at 850m.

The first thing you notice is there is no sound as the thick layer of snow dampens everything.

It is difficult to explain what it is like to someone who has never lived in the Alps and experienced heavy snow.

There is nothing to hear except a muffled sort of 'silence' .

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We all appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all year and in the winter we expect snow, and this year we've certainly got a lot of it.

We know there will be some difficult days, this year though those difficult days seem to be notching up in weeks.

We are into our second week of heavy snowfall.

And I mean heavy, leaving 20-30cm of snow in just a couple of hours.

Snow clearing at our house is an endless sport at the moment.

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My husband gets up a couple of hours earlier than usual to clear the snow from our cars and driveway.

As well as ensuring our elderly neighbours can at least get access to their garages.

Our current heroes are not just our emergency services but also the teams that keep the roads, rail and runways clear to keep the country moving.

Even our postie is delivering our mail in her little yellow van - fitted with the obligatory winter tyres and snow chains.

Snow clearing is a community effort.

Our main roads, pavements, car parks and driveways all need to be accessible and you can't leave snow lying for long or it will turn to concrete.

It will be there like a man-made ice rink until April.

Anyone with a tractor, snow blower or shovel will be out there helping.

The elderly and sick need assistance during these times and everyone is willing to do their bit.

The piles of snow in the village are so high now and taking up so much space, they are loading it on to trucks and dumping it in the rivers.

To be honest everyone just gets on with it with minimal moaning.

The schools, shops & businesses are all open -  we don't have ‘snow days' here.

There can be times where roads are impassable, or trains can't run but they will be efficiently cleared and things will start moving quickly again.

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The biggest threat during a snowstorm is frustration as it causes accidents and incidents that can endanger life.

We don't have panic buying in shops as the lorries keep delivering food.

The things we run out of now in shops are items like snow shovels, tyre chains and snow blowers, but then there is always the internet for those essential goods.

Traffic is moving so you are confident you will get your packages and items.

Everything is running a bit slower than with the usual Austrian efficiency, but it runs, and people have patience and help each other to ensure that no one is left stranded or vulnerable.

Electricity and mobile masts are the biggest practical issue we have.

These are being downed by the weight of the snow or trees falling on them, but the companies are out there getting things repaired and getting people reconnected.

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The emergency services and our mountain rescue teams are under a huge amount of pressure.

Spare a though for our Bergrettung (mountain rescue) - they are voluntary band of people who rescue people from the mountain when they get into difficulty and have been called upon a lot this week.

For genuine cases, but also for minor incidences of sheer stupidity.

Avalanche and danger signs are put in place for a reason.

They are not to be ignored or skied under just so you can get to some of the fresh deep powder.

A handful of people have got themselves into dangerous situations and have had to be rescued, now though, they have to pay a large big bill for calling the rescue team out.

It's not just the fact they were called out but they are in danger of being buried in an avalanche themselves, inexperienced people can put others in so much danger as they simply don't think of the consequences of their actions.

My friend has had to move out of her house with her family this week as there is so much snow there is a risk of an avalanche to her home.

She said to me, ‘I can put up living with my parents with my kids and husband for a week or so, but what if I have no home to go back to as it has been crushed below the avalanche'.

That is a sobering thought.

My biggest concern - will the snow damage my home in any way?

The snow is light now, but when it becomes wetter, the sheer weight of it could damage the roof or our covered terrace.

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The news yesterday was asking people to clear some of the snow off their roofs.

It's not just the damage they could do to their own roof, but roof avalanches are a real danger to people walking beneath and cars in towns and villages.

Snow is beautiful and mesmerising.

It provides us with a playground in winter that we all love, however, spare a thought for the teams of people keeping Austria running.

I salute them.

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