Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The 2003 Ice Storm

Six years ago this week, our county was blasted by a serious ice storm. We use it as a watershed reference ("that happened before/after the ice storm") because the storm wrought such devastationthat the forests still show the signs of its passing. Recently I came upon the photos I took of a small part of the damage.

This tree fell on the back of the house, poking a quarter-sized hole through the roof. Larry patched it with a piece of Formica and glue and the patch held until he could do a better job in good weather.

The sidewalk between the house and the car was completely blocked in many places by downed trees. We had a lot of chainsaw work to do just to get to the car. Electricity was off for nine days. When it finally came back on, the power company had to send someone down to the house to tell us because we'd turned off the main breaker during the storm to prevent any surge damage if it came back on.

We were quite comfortable--plenty of ice to melt for water, lots of wood in the shed for heat, food in the cellar, and a tan of propane for the turkey fryer (the one I've never used for turkey, but sure use a lot for other things!). The house phone worked for a while, and we had the cell phone to use outside if needed (no signal inside).

Neighbors got together to clear the road. We worked two hours to travel one mile, then drove to town. No place in town had electricity, but Wal-Mart was serving customers one at a time with a flashlight. Since we were among the first to arrive, we were able to get the things we needed--a battery radio, batteries, flashlight, corded phone, milk. Later they quit letting people in, so we were lucky. Then we drove another 20 miles to the closest open gas station that had gas and kerosene. After an hour and a half, it was our turn to get the rationed 5 gallons of kerosene. We were able to fill our gas cans and the truck, but later this station ran out of fuel. Again we were lucky.

All day long for two or three days we heard trees breaking. The sound was like gunshots, like the opening day of deer season intensified. Every three or four seconds another tree would break. It was nerve-wracking, knowing that we would not be able to anticipate which would go. We lost many, many trees and we still can't walk in the woods without remembering those days.
A neighbor driving up the road had a tree fall on his truck, totaling it. Another neighbor waited to go out, afraid a tree would fall on his new truck. Finally he ventured out and a tree fell on his truck as he drove down the road. It was scarily funny.

This is what the ridge road looked like one week after the storm. I was finally getting out to go to work, but it was like driving through a war zone.

With all the damage, fear, hard work and lost trees, still the storm was breathtakingly beautiful. I took this photo at 4am on a morning two or three days after the storm. The full moon is barely visible in a frozen blue world, looking more like a science fiction setting than the place we knew. But beautiful? Absolutely, painfully lovely.

It was an experience we haven't forgotten. Whenever the weatherman calls for ice, our stomachs clench, remembering those days in 2003 when the ice came.


Small Pines said...

Those pics are amazing - What a funny thing for something so terrible to have these little moments of beauty. A good lesson, both directions, I suppose. Stay safe and warm. That was a huge storm.

Granny Sue said...

It was, and certainly left an impression on us all. But so, so pretty in a terrible way. I thought it was funny how people were howling about stuff in their freezers going bad--and all that ice and snow out there to pack it in! Sometimes people just don't think too clearly.

Laura said...

I felt like I was right there with you. We had a bad ice storm in 1999 (I think). We don't have as many trees as you, but feeding cattle was a chore. Lots of people went without electricity for close to two weeks. We were fortunate to only be without for a day or two. One more reason you always have to be prepared when you live in the country.

Granny Sue said...

Laura, you definitely know what it's like. Being prepared is definitely important. We try to have the things we need on hand all the time because even in summer a terrible storm can cause a flood or knock out power for days. I can't imagine if we'd had livestock to care for. That would have been 'way hard.


Your pictures are vivid and stunning - really giving life to thhe story. I appreciate this window into your world and community.
Thanks so much for you encouraging notes. Sitting up tonight I decided to come pay a call. Ellouise

Jason Burns said...

It's moments like these that make you realize how strong you are. Not that I want to relive a flood or storm, but its nice to know you can depend on yourself if need be.

Granny Sue said...

Ellouise, thanks for taking the time to come by. I'm amazed you have the energy!

You knw what I am talking about when I say watershed year, Jason--only yours was a real watershed. We've had some serious floods in my county during the time I've lived here, but nothing like the Flood of 1985 you experienced. Even the ice storm seems like nothing compared to that.

mary said...

My mother often spoke of the day my father came home from work, and told her to turn off the stove and come with him. The almost-setting sun was shining on ice still on the trees, a dazzling sight that he wanted to share with her.

Granny Sue said...

That is a good memory, Mary. I can see him taking her by the hand and pointing to the sparkling ice. Thank you for sharing it.

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