MILLS RIVER — Gayle Snyder almost had a blizzard baby.
Gayle was expecting her second child when the Storm of the Century rolled in on a Friday night, March 12, 20 years ago.
"Basically that weekend is when the snow started," she said.
Her husband, Roger, who is now the Mills River mayor, couldn't stay indoors for a snowstorm, even one that severe. He used his tractor to scrape driveways for friends and neighbors. Although her baby wasn't due for four weeks, Gayle's first child, Ashley, was two weeks early, and she already knew this second baby was big.
"He'd come back, and he just told me I was not going to deliver this baby at the hospital," she said. "The roads were all clogged up; there was no way to get out basically."
Snyder was worried about his wife. He had driven his tractor all the way out N.C. 280 to the Asheville Airport, and knew the only way he'd get Gayle to Mission hospital was by tractor. He didn't much think she'd go for that.
"Trying to get from our house to the airport, even in my truck, four-wheel drive, it was impossible," he said, "because the tractor would just barely would go, a four-wheel drive tractor. About every hour or every hour I'd drive back to the house in the tractor, check on Gayle, and put more wood in the fireplace. But I just kept her in my recliner, and I said don't move."
Gayle recalled the waiting time and her husband's admonition to sit still so the baby wouldn't come. "He said I better sit in the chair and take it easy, or I'd be having this baby at the house," she recalled.
The next option to the tractor ride was not more appealing.
"Joe Fowler was the fire chief," Roger said. "Joe knew that Gayle was pregnant and expecting any minute. So Joe called me that night and said, if you need the fire department, we'll come over to the house and deliver that baby. I mentioned it to Gayle."
She was quick to respond: "There was no way that was going to happen."
As it turned out, Gayle didn't have to ride a tractor to the hospital or host a room full of firefighters delivering her baby. Taylor Snyder was born on March 22. He weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces.
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