Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ice Storm!

 Here's what a forlorn squirrel looks like after an ice storm. He ambled about beneath our oak, trying to find missed or buried acorns, I suppose. But the ice storm had sealed the ground from him and there was nothing to show for his efforts.
 For ourselves it wasn't much better. When I read the rain gauge on Monday morning [02/01/11] we had a healthy 0.59" of precipitation. About 1/4" of ice clung to tree branches. The next morning [02/03/11] the gauge read another 0.70" of melt-down but it took lots of coaxing to get all the ice to melt. The ice on the branches was easily 3/4" thick.
 The bulk of the one-two punch arrived Tuesday evening. Throughout the day, freezing rain had been falling and I kept an eye on the thermometer hoping the temperature would rise above freezing. Instead, throughout the late afternoon, it fell. By mid-evening, the freezing rain was pelting the window. At about 7:45 p.m. we lost power.
 We know a loss of power here in the country is often long-lasting and even fatal to sensitive water pipes buried thinly in century-old walls. And so I set up three kerosene heaters: one in the kitchen (near the bathroom); one in the living room (near us); and one on the enclosed porch. There I popped out two ceiling tiles so that the stove could warm the second floor bathroom pipes from below.

 Throughout the evening, sitting in the dark, we listened as tree limbs began to fall under the weight of accumulating ice. One terrific thud, perhaps on the main house roof, perhaps on the kitchen roof, caused all of us to jump when it hit. It was such a terrific blow that I went upstairs to make sure nothing had punctured our main roof. All was well.
 As I stood at the south window in the living room, admiring (and being jealous of) the lights of Germantown, the sky lit white and blue, as though a terrific thunderstorm was on our doorstep. But, no, it was Germantown's power fail in one brilliant flash. When my eyes regained their night vision, I saw that my jaundiced view to the south now returned only darkness. Everywhere I looked - in every direction - there was darkness.
 What is there to do without power? No TV. No computer. No light beyond a single candle and a coal oil lamp. So, by 9 p.m. we all went to bed. Mom went up to her second floor bed but I gathered blankets and made a bed on the living room floor. Dad crawled into his bed in the living room, too, and we lay down and tried to sleep.
 Throughout the early night, I kept getting up and checking the outside temperature. By 1 a.m. is was 34° and as the trees began to drip with renewed enthusiasm, the wind began to blow, too. Such a racket I have not before heard. Ice blew against the window. The roof crackled as ice hit, broke into pieces and rained down around us. I thought at any minute a nearby tree would split and crush us, house and all.
 I slept little. Between the noise the weather brought, Dad would occasionally break into a wearisome snore. I'd wake him and it would stop, only to begin again in a few minutes.
 At length the temperature again fell and the wind buffeted the house. Perhaps 40 mph gusts tore more limbs down, split whole trees from top to bottom, caused pine boughs to snap and fall.

 I could not go out when daylight came - it was too icy and too raw - but I looked out the kitchen window and saw debris of this sort everywhere. The largest branches, the split trees, were farther away. So in that sense we were spared.
 But we spent most of Wednesday without power. I called Sherry Wallace, the wife our our fire chief, Tom Wallace, to see if she knew when the power might be restored. Her power was already back on. She had Tom call me; he said we were third in line: first a power repair was underway on Mackinaw, then another would begin in a village alley. Our power loss required a pole replacement on Hemple Road. Then, in the early evening, Tom stopped by in person to tell of the progress and to make sure we were OK. He suggested we might want to come over to the fire station if we needed to stay warm. But with our space heaters we were all right ... for a while longer, anyway. Personally visiting us speaks highly of the caliber of public service personnel we have here in Jackson Twp. Where else would you find this? Thanks, Tom, you put Dad and Mom's nervousness to rest. Mine, too.
 Then, about 23 hours after we lost power, it came back on. Later in the evening it briefly went out again but was quickly restored. While I caught some shuteye, Sherry Lummis called twice from Shenyang, China to make sure were were OK. Ah, to know people like these is the greatest blessing any of us can have.
 By 10 p.m. I was abed again, this time under an electric blanket. Unlike the night before, this was a warm bed. I fell to sleep quickly and slept till 1 a.m. when the security system, thinking it was morning, beeped four times, asking me what time it was? I punched a button, acknowledged its concern and went back to bed. The answer waited till this morning when, with programming manual in hand, I re-set the clock.
 Now (2 p.m. 02/03) the sun is shining, the temperature has risen to nearly 26° and even some ice has begun to melt. The storm is over.
 When I see pictures of Chicago's snowfall, I feel embarrassed to write about mere ice. And yet of the two, ice can do more damage. The yard full of debris, the limbs still hanging from trees, the pine boughs littering the ground - these will wait for warmer weather still. Right now each is glued where it fell by unbreakable ice.
 So we have returned again into modern times, taken out of our Third World status by the resumption of power, by the application of a little sunshine. I walked to the street and heard a bird sing a spring song. Perhaps he sees farther ahead than I.