AVERY COUNTY— It’s March in Avery County and the year is 1993. March in the High Country is for celebrating the ground thawing, the trees coming back to life and the sun beginning to shine. In just a few hours, however, the celebration of spring would be halted by the Blizzard of ‘93.
Melynda Pepple was living in Seven Devils at the time, expecting a child due in June. Pepple decided to walk to a neighbor’s house to watch basketball on the television. Throughout the game, snow began to fall in Avery County.
“Everyone was amazed how fast the snow was accumulating,” Pepple said. “We decided not to stay to the end of the ballgame and walk back home, which thank goodness was downhill.”
As Pepple made her way back to her residence, she recounts thinking to herself that she should have never stepped outside as she struggled to see or walk.
When Pepple finally did arrive back at her residence, she remembers seeing 35 inches of snow on the ground when she woke up the next morning. Luckily, her house was one of few that still had power.
The son she was expecting in June arrived a month early and, along with the blizzard, also turns 30 this year.
If Pepple had lost power or went into preterm labor during the storm, she would’ve had to call emergency personnel like Avery County resident Mitch Banner, who in 1993 served as a volunteer for the Linville Central Rescue Squad Station 3, now known as Avery County Emergency Medical Services Station 1.
“Well this was pre-EMS as we know it. We still had two volunteer rescue squads as the primary emergency care provider for the county,” Banner said.
Banner and the other members of his crew arrived at Station 3 around 7 p.m. on the Friday night of the storm for their on-call volunteer shift. What they didn’t know was they would not be returning back to their families until the following Monday at 10 p.m.
The weekend would be spent answering calls, helping people and transporting people to important appointments, like driving one member of the community to Boone for kidney dialysis.
With chains on their tires and kindness in their hearts, the Linville Central Rescue Squad, made up of approximately eight people and a few other volunteers, were able to help residents who had lost power or had run out of their medications.
“In a little place like Avery County, it was always your neighbor who joined the squad or fire department and came down,” Banner said. “When that was over with, he looked at you and said ‘bye,’ and he either went back to work or he went back home.”
Banner experienced multiple rescue missions that weekend, like wading in snow up to his thighs in order to carry a pregnant woman in labor out of her house in a Stokes basket (which is similar to a stretcher) so that she could give birth to her first child.
Although the circumstances might not have been ideal, Banner said he and his crew were able to bond over the experience. Banner believes that if you volunteer to be somewhere, you have to enjoy being around the people you do it with.
While all that snow has since melted, and 30 years have passed, Banner has reflected on the opportunity and the memories made that weekend.
“I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience,” Banner said. “But I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel to do it over again.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.