Tuesday, December 24, 2013


We had an ice storm in these parts over the past weekend.  It left, as ice storms will, a coating of ice (about 1/4-inch thick) on everything that wasn't sheltered from the falling freezing droplets.  Most especially the trees, which produces a starkly beautiful effect once the storm has passed, and the sun returns, its rays creating a delightful aura of refracted light from the icy coating on the branches.  Simply beautiful.

But of course, that icy coating is not weightless, and the subsidiary effect of coating tree branches in ice is that a non-trivial number of those branches will break under the stress of the excess weight.  And some of those branches will take power/phone lines with them as they fall.  The local news reports say that 30,000 residents of the metro area (which comprises about a quarter-million souls altogether) were without power as of Sunday afternoon.

We, thankfully, did not lose power, but several of our friends, and even neighbors within just a couple blocks of us, did (and I suppose I don't really need to say that the last few days before Christmas is a particularly nasty time to be losing power; to say nothing of the cold snap that blew in after the ice had done its business).  And so it came to pass that, yesterday afternoon, Jen's mom and her husband came knocking on our door, along with an armload of cell phones and iPads needing to be charged.  Of course, we were happy to have them visit us, and use our intact power to re-establish their ability to communicate with the outside world.  And just to thaw out for a few hours, since the loss of power also rendered their furnace non-functional, and the indoor temperature of their house had dropped to around 50F.

After their phones and devices were all duly recharged, they bid us adieu and returned home, and within minutes, our phone rang again.  This time, it was our close friends, the husband of whom was my Best Man, that large fractional century in the past.  They were wondering if they could come and hang with us for a few hours, recharge their own devices, and possibly warm their own toes to a more comfortable thermal level.  When they offered to bring beer. . . well, how could we refuse?  They came, and we enjoyed an evening of unplanned, relaxed fellowship (over beer, wine, and gin-and-tonics by the time the night was done).  The whole day turned into one of hidden blessings in the wake of physical hardship, and we were blessed to be able to provide a bit of comfort to our friends in their time of trial, and it was a blessing for us, just to spend some time with them, enjoying their company, that we hadn't remotely planned on.


It reminds me of a time, maybe 15 years or so ago, that we lost power for a day-and-a-half, back in our previous house, when a heavy, wet snow fell just before Halloween, before many of the leaves had fallen from the trees.  The first night without power was a cool adventure, as we scurried around looking for candles (and wishing that we'd bought those camping lanterns that we'd considered), and being thankful that we hadn't tossed our old cord-style phone when we bought the cordless.  The water heater worked, even if the furnace didn't, and so we could cycle everyone through the shower every few hours (and Jen and I even got to enjoy the old hippie adage about showering with a friend) (or, you know, in our case, your spouse).  Pulling fun out of difficulty, making lemonade out of our lemons, and all that.

When we got to the second night, the sheen of fun was starting to wear thin, and we were most definitely ready for our adventure to be over.  Even so, we went to bed still without power (and I freely admit that Jen and I had it better than the kids did, though we wouldn't have minded a bit if they had wanted to bunk in together to share body heat).  Sometime around midnight, the lights, whose switches we had forgotten to turn off, came abruptly, and we heard the clunky sound of our furnace coming back to life.  After a brief round of rejoicing, we went through the house, turning off lights and blowing out candles, and went back to bed, happy to return to the warm and comfortable status quo.

But that was late October; and it was only 36 hours.  The inside temperature of our house may have fallen below 60F, but it was comparatively short-lived.  Some of our friends and neighbors are going into their fourth night of darkness and cold, and the weather forecast is colder, with overnight lows around 10-12F.  People are talking about putting antifreeze in toilets and drains, and faucets are dripping all over town, to keep pipes from freezing.  This is hardship of a deeper order than we ever faced.  And humbling, to realize that the Universe has the last word, no matter how our technology manages to buffer us from its harsher edges. . . most of the time. . .


  1. We've family in Fenton who've been sans power since Saturday.
    They're making the best of it.

    I have a couple of stories about power losses here where we wondered if the power company had forgotten us.

    On the other hand we know who our real friends are.

    1. I'm not sure of the numbers of the powerless in the whole state, but I'm sure it's well into the six figures. . .

      I think most of Our Town will have their power restored by the end of today. Even so, one day is a fun adventure; everything after that feels more and more like a pain in the ass. . .

  2. It's brutal during, but oh the rejoicing when it's over! We had friends without power for a week after Sandy last year. They brought over their phones and frozen foods to keep in our freezer.

    Glad you were able to provide some respite to your friends.

    1. Yeah, it was kinda fun to be the 'Oasis of Light and Warmth' for our friends. And you know, their company is kinda pleasant, after all. . .

      It got a little in the way of our Christmas prep, but when we thought of them and their Christmas prep, that seemed like a pretty small deal. . .

  3. I've been in a few ice storms but never lost power. Oh, there were brief outages, measured in hours, but nothing catastrophic. I'm thankful for that.

    You're right about the beauty, though. Full sun on ice coated trees (and other flora) is simply stunning.

    1. You know what else was stunning? We were out Monday or Tuesday after dark, and we drove through a couple of the affected areas. No streetlights, no lights in any of the windows, just perfect pitch blackness, right in the middle of the city. I had to put on my high-beams, just to see the street. Then, every few blocks, there'd be one solitary house with a couple lights on, and you could hear their generator chugging away out the back door. . .

  4. early on in our house ownage we had a similar storm. we learned then to always keep multiple type of heat sources and plenty of fresh water at hand (OK, and a power inverter or two to charge things with). Amazing how close you get to friends and neighbors when you are forced to coop, huh?

    we were actually debating cutting back on the prep when Lee came through and reminded us of the need and we discovered that our limit was about 2 weeks ;-)

    1. Lowe's, Menard's and Home Depot were all sold out of generators by 10AM Sunday. Our friends found a heater that would run on natural gas, so they could tap into the house supply (they just happened to have a valved port to tap it from), so they weren't as cold as some folks were. . .

      Judging from the darkness of the affected neighborhoods, I'd guess that lots of folks just moved out early for Christmas, to stay with friends who had power. I'm not sure how long you can trust a freezer to keep stuff frozen, but if the ambient temperature is dropping into the 40s/30s, it's probably a while, if you don't open it. The pipes are the main worry, it seems to me; at least in wintertime. . .