Navigating Snow Country
Updated: Apr 3
Wow! What a way to bring in the New Year! January winter storms blanketed our Park with rolling hills of snow and trees so white Munds Park looked like a land only read about in fairy tales.
So far, Flagstaff has had a total of 69.5+ inches of snow this January, and although Munds Park does not have official readings, we estimate the Park received more than our neighbors up the hill.
What we love about the Park is also the most challenging. We are surrounded by wilderness and enjoy four seasons, and with that comes Mother Nature. She will dump heavy-wet snow, create strong winds, make our roads dangerous, pull down power lines and take our lights and heat.
Seasoned Mundsies understand and prepare for weather events. They heed the warnings from officials and have the necessary provisions on hand, local services organized in their contacts, and they are in touch with their neighbors. All these things are part of being self-sufficient and an essential quality of living in the mountains.
However, we have a lot of new Mundsies in the Park and many experienced a significant winter storm for the first time, catching them off guard. Even some of our experienced community members got into trouble. However, we are fortunate. We live in a community that takes care of our own.
Everyone pitched in, from short-term rental owners opening their cabins for people without power to owners of 4-wheel drive trucks and snow plowers pulling the stranded off the icy streets. The Red Cross, County Emergency Management, and the Munds Park Community Church opened a Warming Shelter. Community volunteers and our firefighters helped transport cold guests to a friendly place to get warm. It’s a beautiful thing to see people come together—Munds Park is rich with good people.
With all the newcomers, Munds Park is also rich with people who have no idea how to live in mountain country. Your realtor told you about the beautiful forest, the woodland animals, our cool summers, fresh air and endless blue skies. Munds Park is a romantic community—An easy sell to Phoenicians looking to escape the summer heat and hustle of the city.
What realtor’s don’t tell you is how to live in the mountains and navigate the nuances of the Park. Genna and I understand. We’ve only been in the Park for a little over three years and were flatlander’s, completely ignorant of mountain living. We’ve made mistakes and we are still learning.
The Pinewood News hopes to help with the learning curve. We are in our 30th year of publication, and it’s time to gather our resources and publish a Munds Park Living Guide. Going forward, the Pinewood News will publish a monthly feature, Munds Park Living, that will include tips and resources to help navigate the nuances of mountain living. This guide will be available online for easy reference.
For this month’s feature, we will start with lessons learned from January’s incredible snowfall.
We live in the forest, our land is heavily treed, and our weather can get turbulent. During inclement weather, our tree-filled land gives APS added challenges. The trees can bend and break, tearing down power lines and causing outages. Add strong winds, snow, and ice to the equation; someone somewhere in the Park will be without power.
APS provides reliable service 99% of the time across their territory, with Munds Park at 98%. The other 2% is managed by Mother Nature, and it’s our responsibility to prepare for when we are without power.
The storm that ended January 19 dumped 36.9” of snow on Flagstaff, and we believe a few more inches here in the Park. With this, it ranked as the 12th greatest snowstorm in Flagstaff history and caused outages throughout Northern Arizona. APS worked day and night restoring power, with January 17th challenging them the most. A large transmission line was impacted, along with intermittent power outages throughout Munds Park for over 23 hours. Some residents were without power for over 10 hours.
Unfortunately, some residents did not have a secondary heat source. Some ran out of firewood, or the snow blocked their supply. Some ran out of propane, or their provider failed to auto-fill tanks before the storm and the heavy snowfall blocked trucks from safely entering their property.
To provide relief for these residents, Coconino County Emergency Management, the American Red Cross and Munds Park Community Church, in partnership with APS opened a warming shelter for those without power. Ten residents were welcomed into the Church, and all were able to return home by 1 a.m.
To stay safe and warm, consider these tips.
Tip No. 1. Power outages happen, and you must always be prepared, especially in snow country. You can view and print a checklist for preparing for storms right here. The list is extensive and an essential tool for living in the mountains.
Tip No. 2. Always have essential numbers ready in your contacts and bookmark important websites. We have suggested sites and contacts available here.
Tip No. 3. Have a second heat source. If you are like Genna and me, we only have a propane heater, so our backup plan is a generator. Look for sales, and purchase a generator if needed.
Make sure APS information is on your phone to learn of power outages or report an outage:
APS outage hot-line 855-688-2437
Sign up for text alerts online at www.aps.com. You can also view their outage map online.
When Coconino Emergency Management and other local services determined a warming shelter was needed, news traveled through the Park via word of mouth and social media. Mundsies, concerned for their neighbors, knew that word of mouth and social media would not reach everyone and worried some would be left in the cold. It was suggested to create a contact list to reach at-risk residents notifying them directly that a warming shelter was available.
Fortunately, we have systems in place, and it’s called being a good neighbor and
Get to know your neighbors. Crack open your door, say hello, and make a friend. Exchange phone numbers and stay in touch—even with neighbors you may not like or enjoy. Why? Because when Mother Nature is in a nasty mood or a wildfire threatens our community, you will need one another.
Knowing your neighbor is the best and most reliable system. Your neighbors are invested and can be depended on better than any government agency.
Case in point. We already have an emergency notification system in place that could have notified Mundsies of the warming shelter, and it’s called Smart911. Mundsies mainly associate Smart911 with Ready Set Go and fire season, but Smart911 is for all natural disasters. The system would have notified all of Munds Park that a warming shelter was available. Unfortunately, the Emergency Management Department and other leaders missed the opportunity to use it. Chances are they won’t miss it again, but it makes my point. Systems can fail, but the chance of a community member forgetting about their 85-year-old neighbor during a snowstorm is unlikely.
Follow these tips to stay safe:
Tip No. 1. Get to know your neighbors and exchange contact information. Don’t let personalities or differences get in the way—we’re all in this together.
Tip No. 2. If your parents are elderly and live in Munds Park, get to know their neighbors and exchange contact information. Don’t rely on Facebook to check on your elderly parents! Our Facebook Groups in the Park are, for the most part, safe—but they are strangers. Don’t advertise to strangers that your parents are elderly and on their own. It’s not wise or safe.
Tip No. 3. If you are snowed in, power is out, and you are freezing—Call 911. That is why we have emergency services... to help when situations are bad!
Tip No. 4: If you or your parents only have a landline, getting a cell phone for emergencies is imperative. Today’s landlines run through the internet and can fail during storms. Cell phones can too, but they are more reliable—That is if you don’t live in a cell-tower blackout area. Again, knowing your neighbors will be critical if all communication methods are knocked out.
If you have lived in Munds Park for any length of time, you have heard of ‘Ready Set Go’ and the importance of signing up for fire notifications via Smart911. But did you know Smart911 will notify you of any natural disaster in the area and provides vital information to 911 Operators?
911 Can’t Find You
Over 80% of calls made to 911 come from mobile phones. When you dial 911 from a mobile phone, the dispatchers have little information to help you—only your phone number and a very general sense of your location.
This is a serious problem in an emergency when seconds count, particularly if you or your loved ones have medical conditions or are unable to speak safely.
Smart911 Saves Time and Lives
Smart911 can provide dispatchers and first responders with critical information during an emergency.
When you call 911, your Smart911 Safety Profile displays on the dispatcher’s screen and they can view your addresses, medical information, home information, description of pets and vehicles, and emergency contacts. You can provide as much or as little information as you like.
Smart911 is a national service. Your profile travels with you and is visible nationwide to any participating 911 center.
Safety profile can include:
People living in your home, phone numbers, and emergency contacts
Pets, service animals, and livestock
Medical conditions, allergies, medications and medical equipment
Property details, layout, and utility information
When you register and a natural disaster occurs, Smart911 will call you AND text you AND email you.
Tip No. 1: Not registered with Smart911? It’s past time. It is essential to you and your family’s safety, especially during fire season. Do it today!
Tip No. 2: Update your Smart911 profile every six months. It’s incredible how much can change in only a few months.
Register today at www.smart911.com
Need help signing up? Call the Pinewood Fire Department for assistance at 928-286-9885.
Some Mundsies ran out of propane during the snowstorm because they failed to check levels before the storm, relied on companies to auto-fill tanks and didn’t verify delivery, or didn’t clear a path for propane providers to get their trucks safely on the property.
To avoid running out of propane during a snowstorm:
Tip No. 1: Watch the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Even if you are on auto-fill, don’t leave it to chance. No matter who your provider is, you need to check your propane levels and ensure your tanks are full. Also, don’t call at the last minute! Companies have schedules and prior commitments, and you may miss out when the storm comes through. Plan ahead!
Tip No. 2: Heavy trucks have difficulty safely driving through snow and ice. If you expect a propane delivery during snowy weather, you or someone you hire must clear a path (a path that exceeds the width of a large delivery vehicle - about 10 feet) through your driveway. Don’t expect companies to risk their employee’s safety to deliver propane.
Tip No. 3: Keep propane equipment clear of snow and ice and mark the location of underground propane tanks.
Tip No. 4: If you order propane on demand, order when your tank is at 40%. Also, as a reminder, always verify your auto-fill orders!
Tip No. 5: Unless you own your propane tank, you cannot order service from another company. It is illegal for propane companies to fill tanks that are not theirs. You must buy your tank if you wish to shop around and order from different companies.
We always suggest buying local. For pricing information, we’ve called the two local favorites, Yavapai and Graves propane. They both offer the following services:
Yavapai Bottle Gas
Contact: 928-776-9007 • www.yavapaigas.com
Yavapai offers both “keep full” and “will call” services for $3.29*
$80 annual tank rental
$45 set fee for new customers
They will fill (2-3) 5-gallon tanks
John Graves Propane
Contact: 928-714-1111 • www.johngravespropane.com
Graves Propane touts the best price for gas in Munds Park. They have two price options: $3.44* for “Keep Full” and $3.50* for Will Call.
$72 annual tank rental
$0 set fee for new customers
They DO NOT fill up 5-gallon tanks
Graves provides complimentary safety and pressure test if you own your tank before filling it.
If you want to change propane providers, they suggest new customers change in the spring so trucks can easily access tanks. Yavapai and Graves are booking up for the spring, so call to get scheduled.
*Gas prices are subject to change. These prices are as of January 24, 2023.
Some got into trouble because they couldn’t access firewood once the snow level got too high. It’s important to store firewood properly, especially for snowstorms that can block your access to your wood.
To keep firewood accessible and dry, follow these tips:
Tip No. 1: Store firewood 30 feet away from your cabin but with easy access. You need a minimum of 30 feet from your house to your firewood for wildfire safety.
Tip No. 2: Be vigilant. Shovel a path to your firewood regularly during snowstorms. If you are elderly, you may need to hire someone or ask a neighbor for help. Plan ahead, and get services lined up before the storm.
Tip No. 3: Don’t wait; bring extra wood into the cabin before the storm
Plowing and shoveling your driveway is hard, and when county snowplowers leave massive snow berms at the foot of newly cleared driveways, you want to poke your eyes out. No one likes snow berms!
But the facts are this: Time is limited, manpower is limited, and county snowplowers must clear the roads quickly and safely. There is no time to ensure each driveway doesn’t get blocked. Their number one job is to clear the streets and make them safe. It’s our job, the property owner, to remove the berms from our driveway. We should not expect the government to do everything; we have a part in this too.
You will still cry with each new berm, but hopefully, these tips will help!
Tip No. 1: No matter how big they are, berms are the property owner’s responsibility to remove. You must be proactive and remove berms with each snowfall before they become a colossal iceberg.
We can’t stress this enough... don’t let your berms sit and wait for a day you feel motivated to remove them. The longer you wait, the harder it is to break through. Removing snow right away is the same for your decks and paths. If you wait, the sun will rise and melt your snow just enough to freeze overnight and create ice that is difficult to get through. Further, if you hire someone to clear paths, you may get hit with a larger bill if you procrastinate and now they are dealing with thick ice.
Independent contractors provide snow removal services in the Park, and each has a specialty.
Some have large plows that can easily burst through hardened berms no matter how high and easily move tons of snow off long or short drives.
Some snowplowers have mid-sized plows that can tackle reasonable berms and can plow long or short drives.
Some services only include plowing, some include plowing and shoveling, and others only shovel paths and decks.
As you can see, it’s important to understand your needs and ask appropriate questions when booking snow removal services.
Tip No. 1: Understand snowplowers are independent contractors. It’s generally one or two people teams working the snow gig, and they typically don’t have help answering phones or texts. When storms come rolling in, these guys are slammed. They work in inclement weather, navigate dangerous roads, and work extremely hard and obviously can’t return calls when they are on the job. So be patient and kind.
Tip No. 2: Know your snow. Is your berm five feet tall and hard as cement? Does your drive have fluffy white snow, or did you wait to call after driving up and down your driveway creating rivets and stacks of ice? Do you need only your driveway plowed or, in addition, a path to your door and decks shoveled? Know your needs so you can clearly communicate them—This will help manage expectations.
Tip No. 3: After a snowstorm is not the best time to book plowing services. Full-timers and owners of STRs compete for these services, and they book up fast. If you know a storm is coming and you must have a path out, don’t wait. Book ahead of time.
Tip No. 4: The Pinewood News always has reputable snowplowers listed on page two of the paper and pinned to our wall on Facebook for easy reference.
Trash & Snow
The Park is abundant with Short-Term Rentals and Weekenders who don’t pay for services to dig their cans out from the snow, ensure cans are not tipped over and that guests do not overfill them. It’s a hot topic in the Park, and nothing gets a Mundsie more peeved than when they see their streets covered in trash. Neighbors have no choice but to clean up the mess.
Genna and I recently saw Facebook posts of STRs with overflowing trash and tipped cans. So one Sunday morning we gathered tools and gloved up for a cleaning expedition. I have to say, it was disgusting. One STR had amorous guests who were, let’s say, very active. We had the misfortune of scraping up several frozen condoms off the road. We thought about leaving them, but kids were out playing.
You don’t have to be an STR owner or Weekender to have trash issues. There are specific ways everyone needs to handle trash, and it’s your responsibility to understand them and keep our neighborhoods litter free.
Please keep the Park litter free with these tips:
Tip No. 1. Ravens are strong and intelligent birds. They can easily lift the tops of garbage cans to sift through trash looking for food and nesting materials. Do not overstuff your garbage can, and keep a brick or large rock on the lid to prevent ravens from foraging. Using bricks or large stones is not seasonal... all year long, you need to protect your garbage from ravens.
Tip No. 2. When it’s snowing and trash day, you should put your trash out after the snowplow has cleared your street. Otherwise, the chances of the plow burying or knocking over your cans are great.
If your can stays on the street, you must dig your can out from newly made berms, and on trash day, ensure waste services can access your can or risk being skipped.
It is not the job of waste services to ensure your cans can be easily accessed.
Tip No. 3: If you own an STR or are a weekender and are not around to properly care for your trash, it is your responsibility to hire someone who can. Don’t ‘hope for the best’ or leave it up to your guests to keep our neighborhoods trash free. If you cannot afford these services, you may consider whether you are in the right business or can appropriately manage a second home—This is mountain living, and no one ever said living in the Park was easy or cheap.
Tip No. 4: If your cans are frequently overflowing... Skyline would be happy to deliver more cans. Skyline is a local business with excellent service, a Munds Park Business Alliance member, and a generous supporter of community fundraisers and your local paper.
Tip No. 5: Mundsies are proud of Munds Park and their community. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that we have lazy or uncaring residents, but we do. Take care not to be discouraged, and when you have to, grab a trash bag and pick up the litter of others. It keeps our Park clean and leaves you feeling good and with great karma too.
There is much more to discuss regarding safety and being prepared, but we will stop here and continue our conversation in March.
For now, we thank our thoughtful community, those who volunteer, help out and those who make it their life work to keep us comfortable and safe.
If you have feedback or suggestions about living in the Park, we are interested in what you have to say. You can email Hello@ThePinewoodNews.com or call 928-286-9827.
Stay warm, Mundsies!