Ice storm

Mike at ExtremeInstability, notorious for his thunderstorm-chasing photos, ventured into the heart of Nebraska after last weekend’s ice storm. His pictures show an alien landscape; make sure to check them out. (Note: the link is good, but I guess his pictures are popular enough to nuke his hosting server. Try back in a day or so if you can’t get through.)

Power transmission towers crumple under the ice. Image credit: ExtremeInstability

The pictures reminded me of the ice storm we (in central Ohio) suffered through exactly two years ago. It was one of the worst weeks of my life.

Heading to bed one night, a few days before the winter holidays, I was looking forward to having some time off. We knew that a winter storm was coming, but that type of thing really isn’t that big of a deal. It was kind of cool, actually. I was suffering from a nasty cold virus, and knew that any snow would give me an excuse to bum around the house for a few days, doing nothing.

Around one in the morning, I was awakened by bright flashes of light blazing through my bedroom window. Initially, I thought the kids were playing with the light switch. I got up, saw a few more, and thought, This is the weirdest winter storm I can remember. Lightning and everything. Soon, my sleepy brain realized that the house had no power. All that could be heard was a faint raining sound pattering on the windows. I went downstairs, opened the front door, and peered into the blackness.

As I stared, another brilliantly bright flash of lightning appeared, searing my dark-adapted retinas. But this flash didn’t behave like lightning. The neighborhood lit up like the inside of a blue flourescent bulb for at least five seconds. What I had assumed to be lightning was in fact the explosions of nearby power transformers. And in that five second flash, I saw a scary, completely changed landscape. The tree in my front yard was bent completely over, laying on the ground, the branches splayed out on the ground like the strings of a giant mop. The trees in the distance were not visible, apparently suffering from the same assault as my own feeble Cleveland Pear. I could see for miles. To punctuate the scene, suddenly the siren went off on my NOAA weather warning radio.

Immediately, I realized: This is bad. We had no power, no heat, I had two young kids upstairs who would be getting cold soon, and I’d have to act fast before the roads got any worse.

I warmed up the car, loaded it up with a handful of necessary items, and headed to my sister’s house 15 miles away. The trip took about two hours. Along the way, the kids and I were blinded by blowing transformers, and deafened by the loud, continuous cracking of trees falling down in the woods that lined the roads. I tried to keep the mood light, knowing that the girls were scared, (and not wanting them to see how scared I was), so we sang songs the entire way. If I hear B-I-N-G-O one more time, I swear, I’m gonna grab a rifle and climb a clock tower.

Long story short, my city was sent back to the stone age for ten days, buried underneath two inches of ice. Making things worse, immediately behind the storm was a frigid air mass; the temperature didn’t rise above five degrees for about a week. I made several forays back to my house in the meantime, and was able to chip my way into the back door using a clawed hammer as an ice ax. I did what I could to keep the pipes from freezing, but paid the price: my sickness turned into the worst bronchitis and strep throat I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know what I would have done had my sister not been there to take care of my daughters while I lied on her couch in a vegetative state.

So, to sum up my week: Ice storm, no power, living on my sister’s couch, high fever, and a sick infant (I ended up passing my virus on to her).

Oh, and I forgot to tell you, my wife was swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas at the time.


Rather than take a crappy vacation with five people, we had decided to surprise our oldest daughter with a decent trip alone with her mother. “Go,” I said to my wife, “I’m sick anyway. I’ll watch our 18-month- and three-year-old. We’ll find some fun things to do. Take our oldest on her first nice vacation.”

Feeling sorry for me yet?

Anyway, after it was all said and done, my neighborhood was the last in central/eastern Ohio to get power restored almost ten days later. Almost 200 transformers needed to be replaced.

I only ended up losing a handful of small bushes and half a tree (I have never been able to figure out how the ice storm only killed half of my tree). My pipes didn’t freeze. I was able to save most of the contents of my fridge by burying whatever I could in a pile of chipped ice on my back patio.

I learned a few things, too. It’s amazing how people don’t realize that any given community is just a few minutes away from being sent back to the stone age. Especially in the wintertime.

Secondly, I realized how important it is to have a proper NOAA hazard alert radio. Had the transformer explosions not awakened me, then the siren from the alert radio would have a few minutes later. No home should be without one. It should be viewed like a smoke detector, when you need it, you’ll be glad it’s there. Many times I’ve been watching the local TV station’s weatherman, and heard his NOAA radio siren go off at the same time as mine. The catch is, I see what the information is right away, where he gets around to reporting the information only after five minutes of insane commercials. And they’re not just for weather; the federal government uses the same frequencies for any public hazard announcements (say, if a train carrying toxic chemicals derails near your town). Get a good one, one that has SAME technology so you can set up the alerts county-by-county. I use a Midland, which doubles as my alarm clock.

Thirdly, I discovered that a shot of my brother-in-law’s rare-breed barrel-proof bourbon is the best medicine for strep throat. It hurts, but it works. (Mostly by making you not care about how much it hurts.)

Lastly, I’ve discovered that my wife owes me big time.

1 Response to “Ice storm”

  1. 1 Mikey V Jan 7th, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    I remember that storm…Only on my end of town we got a boat load of snow and were trapped inside. I think the worst thing for me about that week was that my DVD player got fried. Kinda puts the whole thing in perspective.


Leave a Reply

About the monkey

An escapee from a government contractor’s test lab, the monkey lives in hiding, hacking away at the keyboard to bring you random thoughts, stories, news, and graphics. Depending on his mood, he may be informative, amusing, obnoxious, or inane.

Text Link Ads

Support monkeyPi!