"I feel calmer now. Its light out, although the sun doesn't shine. The landscape is unrecognizable. My imagination conjures up the words "nuclear winter". The devastation defies comprehension. Its been almost three days since we lost electricity to the outrider ice storm. Its been an exhausting and tense time, but now its time to pick up the pieces and go on."
We'd been warned---a major ice storm was on the way. I got off at noon and headed into a neighboring town to get my taxes done. I breezed thru the Wal-Mart before my appointment, picking up things here and there, preparing to be 'stranded' for the weekend. High on my list was D batteries, 9 volt batteries, peanuts and extra dog and cat food...oh, and new underwear (no, I don't know why, but they came in very useful when I couldn't do laundry for days and days! :-)It was drizzling rain. My tax preparer was an old high school friend and despite the falling temperatures we had to do some visiting and catching up. I was getting antsy as reports were coming in that the freezing rain was getting closer. I still needed to get home and get two round bales of hay out to the sheep. I picked up two pre-ordered pizzas on the way out of town, one for me, one for my folks who help me out with so much. The rain was freezing on the truck. On the way home I noticed a funny, beautiful weed out in the pastures--it seemed to have white blossoms......several more miles and it finally dawned on me...I was losing the race--the pretty weeds were actually just normal weeds with ice forming on them. Uh oh. As soon as I got home and changed clothes, Dad came up and we started putting out the bales of hay with his tractor. They already had one loaded on the bale buggy. It was a cold, sloppy job getting the bales out, but a great relief to have them out. I had them dumped as close to the barns as we could, so if it got really slick the sheepies could still get to them. As soon as we were done with that, I dashed about putting fresh bedding for chickens, filling all the water tubs with the hose and carrying in massive amounts of wood. Once in the house I filled up all the containers I could find, then later scrounged around found a few more things to fill with water. The freezing rain was upon us and it wasn't pretty. At 11:00 p.m. the electricity went off.
Words fail me. The night was long and tense. Darting from window to window at each crack...thud of a branch falling, listening to the trees dying moans. Before the electricity went out, I watched as the maple across the fence slowly dissolved...one branch at a time. It was eerie and made me feel small and helpless. After the lights went out, I went out into the breezeway, shining my feeble flashlight, trying to see if anything was destroyed, if the sheep were alive. When I shined my light towards the girls barn, 18 pairs of wide eyes reflected back at me. All night the questions haunted me as I heard the destruction continue---are the stock safe? Are the buildings still standing?
There was still traffic on the roads, maneuvering thru the downed branches. A neighbor stopped and asked my mom if he could pick us up anything in town and gave her his cell number.
The rain doesn't stop. The second ice storm is here. They say it will be catastrophic. The night was a repeat of the night before......its dangerous to walk outside. Chores are done quickly, praying a limb doesn't fall on me. The stock are alive and seem well. They are jumpy and bewildered. The buildings are okay. The garage has one small edge bent over on the roof where the mulberry tree hit it. The constant sounds are the rending of the wood....craack...shsssh...thud. Talking to my sister on the phone and her electricity goes out.
The power outages are widespread. Our little world is a disaster. They told us not to come in to work today. Dad chainsawed a path to my wood pile, where the maple and mulberry trees had made it almost impossible to get to. A few limbs are still randomly falling. The rain has stopped. Last night was high drama. At 10:30 I ventured out to make a final check of things, and discovered a crushed panel in the ram pen. I tried to shut the gate to the smaller ram pen (the boys were tucked in their house), but there were too many frozen limbs blocking it, and a huge broken limb sways and cracks overhead. Boone, the mastiff is 'helps' me. Finally I kick loose a spare panel, and carry it down to the downed fence. Another limb is hanging from the tree in the way, but I am able to jerry-rig the panel in place with a couple pieces of wire and a prayer. Boone stays in the house until after midnight because limbs are crashing all around his pen. Dad takes my sister a load of wood. I fill up several feed bags of wood from the woodpile for her. We also sent a fire log, starter sticks, lantern oil, wick, a book she was wanting to read, and some INSTANT COFFEE. (very important!) The silence at night is absolute. No dogs even dare to bark. The darkness is absolute. No lights anywhere on the horizon.
Back to work. Wash hair and 'shower'. Filled buckets of water at work to water the stock. On the drive in the landscape is cold, bleak, motionless. The trees are bound to the ground with frozen, drooping and broken branches. The scene is macabre, something out of a book of horror. The roads are clear. Wind gusts----the sounds of a million wind chimes fill the air as the icy tree branches clink against each other. Had a meltdown, but doing okay now.
Fill water buckets at work. Dad took more wood and a bunch of kindling from his stash to my sister. Some sunshine today. The landscape changes again and is breathtaking in its beauty. The worlds glistens and is full of a sparkling diamonds. The night was cloudy. Talked to my brother and sister tonight. My brother wants to come down and help...he wants to do something.. but there isn't much that can be done, except wait it out. Talked to my sister. We bolster one another as we sit in darkened houses. Its good time to connect with family, but sad that this is what it takes.
Wash clothes at work. Fill buckets. Shower bath (have discovered a long handled dipper that makes 'showers' much easier and effective!) and wash hair. Power lines almost down across the highway on the way to work. My truck is small enough for them to let me squeeze under, but the semi trucks are having to wait. They close the highway after I get through until later in the day. At night it is beginning to sound a bit like a truck stop, as generators hum in the distance. The night sky was clear, and I've never seen so many brilliant stars. Tried to find the dippers but only found one. Neighbor took a load of wood to my sister. A church member called me at work and offered a generator. I said I was doing okay, but then found out that the neighbor who took wood to my sister, were all staying at their daughters house with basically no heat, so I called the people with the generator and gave them a heads up. They ended up setting the generator up for them. You can't out give God it seems! My sister's electric came back on (She only has a tiny fireplace to heat her house). Talked to my sister (electric came back on, while we were on the phone!), another church member who was checking to see if we were all okay still, and a neighbor lady. I called the neighbor lady who is older and farms by herself after her husband died several years ago. She said she was doing okay, and we had a good visit sharing our stories. She could work circles around me I think.
Ho hum.... Glad its Friday! Filled extra buckets at work for the weekend. Electric went off at work the last half hour. Made a big mistake of trying to cross town to go to Wal-mart. Got caught in awful traffic since the lights were out. Got there and the stupid store was closed. Finally got to Radio Shack and they were open, so I was able to get some batteries I needed. Then stopped at a tiny grocery on the way out of town that had a generator working the lights. Got some extra dog and cat food, milk, Peanut butter. Got a couple bales of alfalfa hay. Looked nasty when I opened it at home. The sheep ate it okay. It had a nasty price on it too. Dad helped me drag the mulberry brush to the field to pile it, so we could open up the drive to the sheep pasture, as another bale will need to go out soon. Boone and Ariel helped too. Very tired tonite. Sister's electric off again.
There was a brief thaw during the week so most of the ice slipped from the trees. Starting to see how much damage there is to the trees. Heard on the radio that over 300 electric poles are broken, and 4,000 are still without power with our provider. (Many more still w/out power in the area on different providers). Finished cleaning up Mulberry tree outside the fence. Cleaned up elm that was over the bales of hay. Loaded a bale in the buggy. For breakfast I fried two eggs on the stove and made toast. Best eggs I ever ate. I make coffee by heating the water, putting a filter in a strainer and pouring the hot water over the grinds. Works well. Mom fixed a meal of salmon and mac and cheese and shared with me. Its snowing and sleeting tonight. Hateful stuff. Talked to Mom and sister and a co-worker.
108 Linemen risking their lives and working to get our power back. Saw four tree trimmer trucks go by---the first activity we've seen in the area. 2900 still w/out power. Poles broken now at 375. I saw three lights over on the south ridge tonite!!! Crescent rolls don't cook well on a wood stove.....
Here is an excerpt from a 'book on tape' I'm currently listening too (note to self: when you've been w/out power over a week, its not a good idea to listen to a book about the end of civilization as we know it!---to real). This is from Into the Forest: "This wet dark day will long be over... by next Christmas. The electricity will be back, phones will work, in town there will be food at stores and gas at the service stations. We will indulge in all that we lack, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, and milk, fresh fruit. Our computer will run, we will use the Internet, listen to t.v......"
Day 10-- Monday
Washed clothes at work, filled buckets, took shower bath and washed hair. Sister's electric back on again! Tired tonight but got some stuff done---unloaded water from truck, carried wood, fed hay, tidied house of clutter, cleaned off inside back windows (for some reason, lantern light really emphasizes the smudges...). There is electricity over on the main highway--its getting closer!! More excerpts from book: "a convergence of all these disasters caused this"....."and how quickly people adapted to the small to the changes"......"the final flame vanishes...darkness claims us once again. The casual way we used to use things...we lost the habit of groping for the light switch when we entered the room"..... I feel hopeful tonight we will soon have power.
Day 11-- Tuesday
Tonight--4 lights to the south and 1 to the north! June, the sheep very sick today. Doctored her the best I know how. Gave shots in near darkness, not easy. She was good though...bad sign. Put out big bale of hay. Hard night.. one obstacle at a time. Starry night. The sky is so light tonite, its filled with shades of black, grey and a paleness that glimmers. Saw two electric trucks headed east at 6:30 p.m.! :-) I think they were working across the pasture to the east as I saw red winking lights in the distance. My two tiny solar path lights shine dimly but bravely against the darkness. Discovered that static electricity actually lights up!
June still sick, still treating her. Mom called around 3:00 p.m. and said their electricity was back on! Which means mine was too! I headed home early, turned on the well house first thing. Headed in the house, washed several loads of laundry, refilled all the containers (just in case!). Strawed the dog house and June's stall, carried wood in, watered sheep and dumped ice, medicated June, finished cleaning out the last of the stuff from the 'frig, then bleached it out. So clean and shiny and empty. Dried clothes, took a shower. Still hear generators in the distance and know that my neighbors to the west and north are still waiting. All the useless items that were in the way during the outage can once more be used. (Those were: t.v., VCR, remotes, washer, dryer, computer, coffee maker, toaster, microwave, toaster oven, bread maker, etc. etc.) Thank God we are through to the other side!!
A typical day of life during the outage: Get up, clean ashes from the stove, build fire, put two bowls of water on the stove to warm, add water to the back of toilet and flush, fix critter food, do chores in the dark, carry water to the critters, bring truck around--load buckets and water containers etc, use two bowls of warmed water to 'shower' and wash hair, dress for work, then off to work, back home--unload water, feed & water critters, carry 3-4 loads of wood in, warm supper on the wood stove, trim wicks on the lantern, fill/flush toilet, listen to news on the radio, eat, collapse in chair by the stove and read or talk to friends and family on the phone. Off to bed.
Only one more post on the Ice Storm...I promise! (For those of you who are getting depressed reading them---you know who you are....)