Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby...

Four weeks ago I was beginning day two in our house without power and somewhat shut off from the world. Tom and I joked with the kids that it would be fun to "play Amish." (There is an Amish community close by my parents' home. We soon learned that there wasn't anything funny about that. We awoke on Tuesday, January 27, to find that there was ice EVERYWHERE. I mean INCHES of ice. Tom had made it safely to work, but freezing rain was continuing. We lost power at 9:40 a.m. I thought it would come back on...soon. Our phone was also cutting in and out (for days). I was thankful for my cell phone - which became my lifeline! - and my car charger.
Luckily, we have a gas fireplace in our home and we had gas in the tank. The boys and I kept close to the fireplace. They played board games and I scrapbooked a little. I put some food in a cooler out on the deck "just in case" the power was out too long. Tom brought pizza home for dinner.
It got dark early. We lit candles. We all sat in the living room together. The boys and I played Yahtzee by the fireplace until I could not see anymore. At 7 p.m. the phone rang and I realized we'd all fallen asleep! That night it was SO quiet when we did go up to bed. I could hear trees snapping and crashing all around us. We all stayed warm though even with the fireplace off for the evening. The heat had risen up the stairs to the bedrooms and we added some extra blankets to the beds. Tom left again on Wednesday to head to work. He got there to find out that the company had also lost power. With the freezing rain continuing, more ice was building up on power lines and the weight was snapping them. Also, branches and even full trees were snapping and falling on the lines. The news Tom had heard was that it could be "days" before power was restored. I just kept telling myself that since we lived within a mile of two schools and right off of a main road that our power would come on soon...Although we had batteries for flashlights, we didn't for a radio. Tom stopped to get batteries and I finally had "contact" with the outside world! However, the local radio tower was out and they were broadcasting by some special way. We were thankful of our location when we heard: "If you can hear this, you must be within 10 miles..."
The news wasn't good. They were predicting up to a week for power to be restored. Our electric company (there are two in our county) had 174,000 homes without power.
Looking out, there were mixed emotions. On one hand, the ice looked beautiful on some trees and in the grass.
It was amazing. On the other hand, you'd see a beautiful tree or a great "privacy border" of trees destroyed. And we were without power. We were losing the food in our freezer. There were many worse off than us without a heat source.
There were lines in town for people desperate for generators (we didn't have one) and lines for kerosene. It was awful to hear that police had to monitor the gas stations because there had been disruptions. Generators were being stolen from homes.
We realized that our gas tank was getting low. Usually we only have to fill it up once a year and it barely gets below 50%. We were at 30%. I started using the fireplace less and less and during the day we just layered and sat under blankets. We called the gas company and they said they'd be out in a couple of days, but the weekend was coming and I was getting nervous.
I had time to organize all my scrapbooks - might as well use my time wisely! There wasn't much else to do. The boys and I really enjoyed going through them and remembering "good times". WARM times!That night we decided to use some steaks that were defrosting in our deep freeze. Tom was going to grill out. I made up potatoes to bake on the grill and we were excited about our warm dinner. Then the propane tank on the grill ran out before all the steaks were done! That's another thing that we never worry about when cool weather comes. You check that thing in the spring! Needless to say, Scout ate well that night! The boys enjoyed the steak that was done and I think Tom and I both agreed that was the best baked potatoes we'd ever eaten!
Blake had a great idea when dark came. He put on his headlamp that he'd used on a Cub Scouts caving trip. He was our "light" while we played Upwords after dark!I think Tom may have gone stir-crazy home with us for even just one day. He went to work on Thursday even without power at the plant. It was pitiful watching the boys enter the living room and out of habit pick up the remote to the tv. The ice had stopped accumulating, but we still had too much to do anything outside. Plus, if you went out, you weren't really able to warm up and clean up when you came back in.
We never lost our water, but it was cold. It seemed to get colder, too. The boys would come out of the bathroom and if I commented they hadn't washed their hands, they'd whine that it was too cold. Kevin complained that it hurt him. I got the same complaints from them when I'd tell them to "clean up" (sponge bathe).

Power was coming back on in town and I called our favorite Mexican restaurant to see if they were open. They were!!! That is one place you can guarantee you will always receive a HOT meal. I practically begged Tom to take us our for dinner and he happily agreed. However, there was one problem - my dirty hair!

What followed was an experience that I'm sure my boys will never forget. I decided early that I needed to wash my hair in order to give it time to dry. I went to my bathroom to get started and then it hit me that I'd probably stay warmer doing this in the kitchen since it's right off the living room with the fireplace. Plus, there's a sprayer.

When the water hit my scalp and the "needles" starting piercing my brain, I started screaming. However, I was already wet and there was no stopping me now. The boys came running to check on me. I am happy to say that I survived the hair wash during the blackout of '09. And I happily sat in the restaurant that night with clean hair. Although I had shivered by the fireplace for what seemed like hours.

We had invited my mom to join us for dinner and offered to pick her up. My younger sister was driving home from Louisville since her apartment was without power and classes at UofL had been cancelled. My sister would meet us for dinner and take Mom home. The drive to Tom's both both beautiful and tragic. It would look like a winter wonderland in one sense, but then you'd see on the damage and destruction around it.

As we pulled into the drive at Mom and Dad's (Dad was on call at the fire department), I captured some of the "beautiful" shots from the storm.

The boys commented that the round bales looked like frosted shredded wheat - they did!
That night on our way home, Mom called to tell us that her power was back on and invited us over for the "night." We ended up staying there for 4 nights. I was the last one in my family to get power restored when it finally came back on late Monday. I can't complain though, a good friend in the next county was without power for 18 days and as of today is still without her phone service.
In closing, I want to add one last photo. I took this one in the boys' school parking lot. This is the school that I thought would allow us to get our power on early. Of all the schools in the county, this school and the middle school in front of it were the last two to get power back. Just my luck, huh?
I think the ice hanging off the sign sort of explains why the kids weren't allowed to enter school for SEVEN school days.
It was quite the experience. One I hope to not experience again.


Mel said...

WOW! Those pictures tell the story. That is so crazy! You are so good about telling the whole story and special specifics that really make it memorable. Thanks for sharing the experience.

Lynette said...

Amy you are a great story teller...I love how you make us feel and see what you were experiencing.