Kenny Friddle plows North Mountain Road next to Whitehorse Community Park on Thursday in Darrington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Kenny Friddle plows North Mountain Road next to Whitehorse Community Park on Thursday in Darrington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Buried in 3 feet of snow, Darrington takes care of itself

The small mountain town got more snow than just about everyone. They dug themselves out.

DARRINGTON — Through a series of storms that brought more than 3 feet of snow, the Red Top Tavern stayed open.

It didn’t close a single day, the bartender said Thursday morning. Not even when it snowed for 48 hours straight. She said the bar had a generator in case the power went out. If that gave up, nothing could stop her from pouring beer. She would do it by kerosene lamp if she had to.

Darrington, a town that sits 554 feet high in a bowl of mountains, is a place that takes care of itself.

“It slows us down a little bit,” said Randy Ashe, co-owner of the IGA grocery store. “For the most part, we deal with it.”

The town came to a standstill when the snow hit earlier in February, Darrington Hardware store manager Dayn Brunner said. The city’s public works department only had two employees working plows — a third if you count Mayor Dan Rankin, who could be seen alongside them wearing his trademark overalls.

Others helped. Nearly every piece of equipment in town, no matter who owned it, was recruited into the effort if it could be outfitted with something, anything, to move snow around.

Dayn Brunner with one of the plows he has lent to help plow snow-covered roads in Darrington (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dayn Brunner with one of the plows he has lent to help plow snow-covered roads in Darrington (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Brunner said his employees spent more than 300 hours helping others during the storms. They often didn’t charge people if they were stuck.

“That’s how we roll here,” he said. “If someone needs help, help them.”

Ashe also went to work, clearing out a church parking lot and delivering groceries to people who couldn’t make it out of their driveways.

The storm provided lucrative opportunities for enterprising young people. Brunner’s son made more than $1,000 in three days clearing roofs.

It was a slog, Brunner said.

“You go clear the parking lot, and in an hour you can’t tell you cleared the parking lot,” he said.

Thursday offered a quiet, much needed break. The sun reflected off blinding white mountains and the vehicle-high berms of snow that had collected on roadsides.

Mountains are covered in fresh snow along Highway 530 on the way to Darrington on Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Mountains are covered in fresh snow along Highway 530 on the way to Darrington on Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Rankin said he could finally wear his “dress jeans” for a few days. But that was unlikely to last. Snow started falling again Friday, and was projected to continue through the weekend.

The mayor is comfortable operating heavy machinery; it hearkens back to his days as a logger. He’s more worried about the weather’s lasting impacts. Baseball practice is supposed to start next week and spring break is around the corner. He wonders how long it will take for popular recreation roads to open, and how tourism and the local service industry will be affected.

He’s concerned about the town budget, too. The money allotted for snow removal should last through this season, he said, but he doesn’t know if more storms will show up in November or December.

Whatever happens, Ashe said, “We’re all going to put gutters back on our houses when it all goes away.”

Back at the Red Top, the morning news played on the television, detailing the upcoming forecast. The bartender let out a sigh. She wanted to watch “Deal or No Deal,” she said, but she didn’t know how to work the remote control.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan @heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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