Where do I begin, posting about the ice storm our area experienced? As I'm writing now, the spring peepers are singing at the pond. It has been in the low 70s since Saturday, they think it's spring. Since the pond is 20 feet from the house, I fall asleep to their singing, and dream of spring. It can't come too soon for me!
The jonquils/daffodils are up as well, after having been under the thick ice and snow for several days. But the jonquils are hardy little troopers, and can withstand the elements better than I! Andrea had said in her post "My Mom is brave." But I am not all that brave.
The last time I posted ( before the torrents of freezing rain came down on the woods,) was on January 27th. We had an inch of snow, but were under a freezing rain advisory. Since we already had a couple of episodes of freezing rain earlier in January, that had kept me in for a few days, I didn't think this one would be a more serious one either. I was wrong! By noon that Tuesday the freezing rain had been pouring for several hours and Eileen called to tell me she lost power. Ice was already everywhere and on everything. She could not come here, or go anywhere else. I told her to call the law, since I heard a shelter was already set up for people with no heat. Then Jan called. She had already lost power as well, but she, like myself, had propane heat not dependent on electricity. I still had power at that point. But not for long. Before dark set in, my power went out as well. The freezing rain continued to pour down.
Did I prepare for the ice storm? Yes, but not expecting it to be as bad as it would get, I was not that well prepared. Besides the propane heat, I also have a small wood stove as back-up, and had lots of wood. I had candles, an oil lamp, and a flashlight, and a couple of little led lights. I also had a battery powered radio, but forgot to stock up on batteries. I had canned food, both bathtubs filled with water, and bottled water as well. But I had a worrisome night, as I kept listening to the pounding rain still coming down. And I hate the dark! I was glad to see daylight on Wednesday morning, but didn't like what I saw. Ice was everywhere and on everything, and the freezing rain was still coming down. Hundreds of birds were waiting at the feeders that I could not go out and fill with the black oil sunflower seeds I had stocked up on. So I pitched seeds out two different windows hoping the birds would find it. They did! The deer where nowhere to be seen.
(Icy Hickory tree by my bedroom.)
After the freezing rain stopped, snow began to fall. And Wednesday night, so did the tree limbs, sounding like bombs hitting the house all night! The cats ran under the bed, the dogs weren't sure what to make of all the noise. The boom, booms continued all night. The deck was full of tree limbs, missing the glass door by a few inches. The top piece of one of the trees that fell against the deck, speared the corner of the roof like an arrow and came through the attic, landing on the kitchen floor, scattering ice all over. In semi dark, with flashlight in hand I gathered several pillows, stood on a chair and with the broom handle pushed the pillows up the hole, to keep out the cold. Greg called and I was crying! Andrea called, and I was crying! Then remembering the huge hickory tree in the back, right behind my bedroom, I moved myself to the living room sofa for the night. I was afraid if that tree fell overnight, the roof would come down on my head, while I was sleeping. Strangely enough, as full of ice as that huge tree was, it only lost one limb, and it didn't fall on the house.
Thursday morning I woke up to discover the freezing rain had turned to 4 inches of beautiful, crunchy snow that made it possible to actually walk around outside. But the ice laden trees continued to drop their limbs. I heard on the news that several people were killed by the falling limbs. My car had a smashed rear window. I ventured outside anyway and even took some pictures. Everything looked beautiful! The entire time outside, I could hear the tree limbs snapping off in the woods, sounding like guns going off, as I cautiously held on to my sturdy stick, and stayed out of the way of falling limbs.
Andrea kept the mailman, UPS and Fed Ex busy with her care packages! Greg, who was trying to find a generator and could not find any within 200 miles of here, drove on 200 miles of icy roads to get here on Friday. By then, the road crews were out there clearing the gravel road of tree limbs and scraping the ice off so people could drive out of here. Greg arrived with all kinds of supplies, but no generator! He even ended up taking me to town around noon, after we found out the power had been restored there, and we ate at my favorite Chinese restaurant. It was such a wonderful treat!
Friday evening Eileen called. Since she lives only 3 miles from town, her power had already been restored and she was back home. But she was shaken from the experience. The generator at the shelter she had been first taken to, failed, and they had to transfer the people to the city garage which they quickly set up as another shelter. She said she was shivering from fright, holding her cane and her purse with her medicine, as they held on to her and led her in. I was glad she was back home and all right, but also envious that her power was back on three days later, while mine was still very much in limbo.
The area was declared a disaster area. FEMA came in with water and food; the National Guard arrived. Two cute, young Guardsmen came to visit.
"Is there anything we can get for you that you need?" they asked.
"Yes, you can get me some electricity," I told them.
They chuckled, gave me a hug, and said they wished they could help me. Two nice guys from the Fire Department had come to see about me as well, bringing me an extra flashlight and some batteries. They asked if I would not consider going to the shelter. I said no, I had heat, and I would never leave my animals alone.
Finally, some Linemen from other parts arrived to help our overwhelmed Electric Cooperative fix the lines. Greg had left, as he had to go to work, but was back the following Wednesday. He worked all morning clearing my long driveway of some limbs, so one could drive in and out without dodging them. The sun came out and was melting the ice and snow. I collected water in buckets and refilled both bathtubs. Everyone was given a large supply of bottled water and army food that heats up in the box. But I still had plenty of canned food left, and a few fresh things in the huge Coleman Cooler Greg bought.
Later that Wednesday afternoon a green SUV drove in. It turned out to be Andrea and Jimmy, who drove all the way from Ohio to bring me a generator! It was to be a surprise, and what a surprise it was! Jimmy and Greg set up the generator on the deck, after clearing it off from all the fallen limbs. What a neat device. Of course, it didn't power everything, but Wednesday evening, eight days after the power went off, I had some lights, a working TV and microwave, and I could charge my cell phone. Basics, really, but it was wonderful to see clearly again!
I can never, ever thank Greg, Andrea and Jimmy enough for all that they did to come and help me through the ice storm. I am very blessed! They left early Friday morning to drive home.
Later that morning, I met Eileen in town at our favorite restaurant. We lingered for an hour and a half, and caught up on each others details of how we fared during the ice storm. Back home, around 5 PM I went out on the deck and filled the generator with five gallons of gas. But I decided to wait a bit before starting it, and went back into the house. That's when I had the surprise of my life. The clock on my electric stove was blinking! I hit the light switch. The light came on. Water came gushing out of the faucets, the TV with the satellite worked. Everything worked. It was finally over.
But the cleanup around here will take months, and the forests will take years to recover from the ice storm of 2009. However, it could have been much worse, and there was much to be thankful for.
This past Tuesday, there was some good news in my email. I received a permission release agreement from Chicken Soup for the Soul. My story, "Making the Best of the Worst of Times" will be published in the book "Chicken Soup for the Soul, Tough Times, Tough People " in May of 2009. That story is about my beloved Apa's (Grandfather's) handling of tough times, while we lived in a refugee camp, and this news was a much needed boost, arriving at the end of my own tough times!
Thank you for reading my account of the ice storm. I left many details out, but even so, it is rather long, so I appreciate your patience in reading it. Have a wonderful weekend.
Blessings from the battered woods, where the spring peepers continue to sing, and life goes on!