Saturday, January 15, 2011

SURVIVING AN ICE STORM


This is not our house, but the road is similar.

We've had a worse-than-usual winter, but I recall one several years ago here in Texas that became worse for us than it should have been.

The weather stations from Austin and San Antonio blasted us with the news that Central Texas should prepare itself for a big ice storm. We thought we'd be fine--just stay in the house, off the roads, and this, too, shall pass. Plus, I always keep a good store of food, so we had no worries about that.

By dark, ice had coated everything with extremely thick layers. Our huge ancient live oaks worried us, because the ice was so heavy even enormous limbs bent to the ground. We retired for the night, hoping none of the limbs would break off.


Little did we know that would not be our biggest worry. We woke up around 7:30 am, began to stir around, but before we could even get the coffee on, the electricity went off. In the winter, even when the sun is up there somewhere above the thick, gray clouds, it is dark. Our house is all-electric, so that meant no coffee, nothing. The power has gone off numerous times over the twenty years we've lived here, so we thought all we had to do was wait a while and it would come back on.

We ate Cheerios and yogurt and settled down to ride it out. But what do you do if there's not even enough light to read in the daytime, no internet service, no stereo, no TV, no…nothing. We noticed a couple of trucks inching down the road, but our driveway is long and made of concrete--iced over. Anyway, the garage door openers wouldn't work and we know what a hassle it is to unhook them to open manually.

The house became colder and colder. By noon, we were cold but not that uncomfortable. My husband started hauling firewood close to the back door--a huge pile of it and built a big fire. That warmed the living room some, but you know a fireplace does not heat an entire house.

We both changed clothes and added a layer of thermals underneath our clothing. Our water comes from a well, brought to the surface by…yes, you guessed it, an electric pump. Of course, we conserved what water we had--especially in the toilets.

For lunch, we ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches and apples. Maybe the electricity would return soon. We wandered around the house like zombies, trying to find something to do in the dim light. I opened the blinds all the way to the top of a window, pulled a chair close, and I could read a little at a time.

I searched the house for candles and grouped a few on the table between our lounge chairs. The one book I could read was by Sandra Brown and I had checked out the large print edition by mistake. That came in handy when reading by candlelight.

By four o'clock, my husband went to the shop and dragged out a Coleman stove we've had since the sixties. He found about a cup of fuel and brought both to the back screened-in porch, set it up on the table out there, and fired it up. (The Coleman people should use us in a commercial) By hand, I opened a can of Progresso vegetable stew poured it into a pan, and we heated our dinner. By flashlight, I peeked into the refrigerator for cheese to add to crackers.

After dinner, we quickly changed into sleeping clothing with our thermals under that, added our sweaters and coats, and…now what? Hours until time for bed with nothing to do. Aha, he remembered a small transistor radio he had from the fifties--yep, he never throws anything away he thinks he might need. We settled down in front of the fire in our loungers, put up our feet, drew on our blankets, and prepared to listen to the radio.

Very little would come in clearly enough to listen, except one station out of San Antonio. The NBA team, the Spurs--OUR team--was playing someone in a playoff game. That was our entertainment for the evening. When it was over, well, there was nothing else to do except go to bed and hope the electricity would come on.

We did, with extra blankets piled on, and slept fairly well. The next morning, we woke up to beeps and flashes. Do you know how many things in your house has a little light on it or sound on it? Our bedside clocks, the microwave, the oven, the computers, the TVs--three of them--set up a little chorus. The refrigerator hummed. Two lights came on we forgot to turn off the day before. The heater fired up.

Guess what we did? Made a pot of coffee as fast as we could, ran to our desks, turned on our computers, and connected to the outside world.

We only got an inkling of what others go through during severe disasters. My heart always goes out them.

Stay safe and warm! And be thankful for your blessings.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
http://www.celiayeary.blogspot.com/
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20 comments:

  1. Hi Celia:

    I can relate! A couple of years ago we went without power for eight days! And we were living in the city of Tulsa: not in the country!

    We had some gas but the furnace does not work without electricity. Also we converted our fireplace to gas logs and still had tons of logs outside in the yard we could not use!

    I wish I had my AlphaSmart then. I could have typed for days on two batteries. We did have lots of radios and flashlights and batteries. These helped. Also if we could get to the main streets, that is get out of our neighborhood, the city did plow and sand these roads. My office was just about a ½ mile away and it did not lose power. I pretty much lived over there. Our next door neighbor got her power back on in two days. Did we ever envy her lights at night!

    Power off is no fun but it did make us think of the pioneer women in their Prairie Schooners! No wonder Oklahoma has a giant statue of the Prairie Woman!

    Vince

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  2. I recently discovered how silent a house without electricity is, and you're right, there is nothing to do without lights.

    Toni

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  3. Hey Celia!!! GREAT POST, AS USUAL!!! When we lived in WV we had a lot of snow, but not like the ice we get here that is so destructive. I remember how we used to live in a trailer park there and ALWAYS, our side of the street would go out and the other side would have power. Just across the street! Gary and I would get in the car and drive to the bowling alley and eat dinner and bowl until we just had to go home, and hope that the power was restored by then.

    Vince, I'm from Oklahoma, too!Yes, I've often thought of that statue fo the Pioneer Woman with her little boy--good grief--can you imagine weathering these winter storms with the ice we have sometimes as they had to back "in the day?" That must have been something else!

    Cheryl

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  4. Celia, amazing what happens when the electricity goes off, huh? My relatives in NH have a generator for the house - just in case. Thing is generators are big item purchases. How often would you use them? And they're loud.

    I bet you did feel like a pioneer woman - at least for the day!
    Smiles
    Steph

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  5. Your pics remind me of the ice storm we had here in KS back in '01. Ten days without electricity. Thankfully we had a furnace that still worked. Sure made me appreciate things a lot more. Oh, and I love peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

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  6. VINCE--eight days! My lands--I would have gone to a motel. Oh, a backlit eReader would have come in handy, wouldn't it?
    Eight days....geesh. Celia

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  7. TONI--yes, the silence was very noticable, sort of eery, but nice in a way. Makes us realize how totally dependent we are on electricity. Celia

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  8. CHERYL--how funny! Oh, and yeah, we've experienced that--the power off on our side of town but on elsewhere. I remember the statue of the pioneer woman, too. Now I know why I love historicals--so we can give these women the praise they deserve, because I'm sure glad I wasn't a pioneer. Celia

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  9. STEPH--at least we live in Texas. If you don't like the weather, wait a day--it'll completely change. No, I wouldn't invest in a generator--just check into a motel. Celia

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  10. ANNE--Ten days!! Egads--I thought 8 was bad. I've seen stories on TV, and always thank the good Lord I'm not there.
    We eat honey with peanut butter instead of jelly--love them! We always have a good supply of PB--always take a jar and box of crackers on a trip, too. It's come in handy more than once.
    Celia

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  11. With the current economic situation, I wouldn't trust being able to get to a motel, or any place that has electricity. If I could I would invest in solar generators, and wind generators, and anything else I could, including a wood stove.

    For a time because of a situation I was in, I read by candlelight. I became fond of it. And while I do love electricity, the quiet is nice, too.

    Oh by the way, everyone, store up two weeks worth of water, at least!!!

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  12. Those photos are gorgeous! We've twice been without power for over a week, in two different houses. We had a portable generator for the last place since it was temporary, and used it often, just to run the fridge and a couple of lamps. I got plenty used to making sure to have good flashlights and did a lot of reading by flashlight. Now we have a whole house generator that kicks on automatically. No more messing with that nonsense! ;-) When it gets down to 12 degrees here on a regular basis during the winter, you have to be prepared!

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  13. About the comments on the night being silent! Wow, oh how I wish it had been true for us. For two nights, all night long, we could hear the tree limbs cracking like thunder and falling like glass breaking. Many hit our roof. But it was the whole neighborhood.

    Then there were the sounds of the house making house sounds only louder. Fortunately we had all kinds of flash lights and lanterns. I was able to be in bed and read by a special flash light that clips to the bill of a baseball hat.

    No matter what, I’m going to read!

    Vince

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  14. SAVANNA--WE HERE in Texas are not so prone to outages from ice, but we are more pront to outages in the raging summer heat when everyone cranks up the air too much and blows out the..whatever it is. It happens little, but sometimes I'll tell you about a power outage in 102 degree weather, and into the night. Ugh. Celia

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  15. LK, oh, my lands, I could not live in such climate. Central Texas is almost "too far north" for me. Celia

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  16. VINCE--I do understand. Our live oaks have huge limbs and trunks, but if they're healthy, they'll bend a great amount. But that's what kept me awake...the thought of those huge limbs cracking off. We, too, always keep flashlights with good batteries. Our worst outage came in the summer when the temperature was 102. The power went off around four in the afternoon, so we closed all the blinds to keep the sun out, ran the tubs full of water,and by dark just tried to sit still and not work up a sweat. We were burning up. At about ten in the evening, we stripped to our unmentionables, got wet towels, and lay down on the bed, and covered ourselves with the towels, trying to sleep. That just caused a sauna bath, so we ditched that idea.

    At 11:30 at night, I said to my dh, let's get dressed and drive to Wal-Mart. They stay open all night and surely their power is on. In the middle of dressing, the power came on, the air conditoner, the fans, and oh, what bliss! We are so spoiled. Celia

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  17. Love this story, Celia, and the one about the summer power outage, too. You just pull the reader right in...

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  18. Enjoyed your story. I had a power outage last Feb. after an ice storm and wasn't prepared. This winter I will be more so.

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  19. thanks for sharing.

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