Monday, February 23, 2009

Ice Storm Thoughts Cont'd

Well, Terry made it home Monday evening, the day the ice began to accumulate. The prediction was for the weather to remain just at freezing for Tuesday night, it was expected to cool some more as Wednesday morning approached and then the moisture should change to snow. It is the first time I ever recall the south collectively looking forward to snow.

We spent Tuesday night at Tracy's again. It was simply raining too much to try and do anything around the property. I moved the cars from the garage driveway and pulled them down closer to the house where there are fewer trees that could fall on them. It turns out to be a good thing because a section of a pine tree came down right where my pickup truck and Ford Focus were sitting. I don't know which one of them would've been hit, but one of them would've gotten clobbered. The pine was maybe 50 feet long, but it was about twelve inches across at the base.

We spent Tuesday gathering things, planning on what our next steps should be and then went to Tracy's to spend Tuesday evening. Tuesday night was when the major part of the damage took place. The rain increased and we could hear the booming and crashing all around us while at Tracy's. She does not have the extensive woods near her home like Terry and I do so I can imagine what it must've sounded like in our cabin. I talked to our neighbor Eddie the next day and he said it was downright scary.

We had left our cat Al at home because the cabin is a pretty well constructed building and there are very few large trees nearby. Even if the trees fell on the home I did not feel the structural integrity of the cabin would be compromised. So Al got to hear the booming and crashing Tuesday evening.

Wednesday morning, January 29 was sunny. It was chilly, but clear. The ice in the trees looked magnificent. Each twig, each branch, each pine needle was heavily coated and in the sun light glinted with the hint of artist crystal. The radio spoke of many roads and streets blocked, travel was difficult and people were warned to stay indoors and warm. For both Terry and I there was the strong desire to get to our home. It had nothing to do with braving the elements or taking chances, but we've lived in that home since were married in 1991 and it is our refuge. So we had breakfast, drank coffee and debated what to do. The only contact we had was radio and one station in Jonesboro was broadcasting nothing but news of the storm. They were receiving calls from all around Northeast Arkansas and putting emergency officials on the air to report on their area. The Sheriff of Greene County, our county. had warned of numerous road blockages and really urged people to stay put. Of course we didn't.

Fortunately the roads were not icy. We did have the snowfall predicted, perhaps a half to an inch, but the streets were OK if you took your time and eased along. As we drove the ten miles toward our cabin in the woods I mentally reviewed our options. I could think of five different routes we could take to get to our home, but thought be most direct offered the greatest chance of success. It tends to be fairly open with no trees crowding the roadway so I thought it had the best chance of being passable.

Coming into Paragould, no traffic lights were functioning. State law says if a traffic light is not functioning motorists are to treat the crossing as though it were a four way stop. We went through seven lights and never saw a violation. Every car we encountered at an intersection stopped and acted as though it were a four-way stop. I was proud of my fellow travelers.

We drove without incident to our private drive. Here is where we encountered the first difficulty. The power lines were down and hanging about a foot off the ground, blocking our entrance. There was no room to pull off the road and 22nd Street just a hundred yards before our turn also was blocked by power lines. We drove ahead about 2 tenths of a mile to the driveway of our rent home. That to was blocked, but there was enough of an entry that we could park off Fairview Road and not block traffic.

We walked up the driveway of the people who lived next door to our rent home and crossed over to our land some distance up the driveway. The damage was amazing. Tall trees once standing proudly in the weather were bowed, some bowed so bad that their tops touch the ground. Wood isn't supposed to be able to do that. In many cases it couldn't and simply broke. Tops of trees were strewn everywhere. When we started to walk a path we maintain between our home and the rent home it was impassable. So, off through the woods we went. What is normally a two or three minute on the path turned out to be a twenty minute trek through a wasteland of timber.

I took pictures, but they do not do the landscape justice. It was beautiful, everything ice coated and in the sunlight twinkled with reflected light. However, trees 50 and 60 feet tall were now in many cases stripped of their branches and looked like gigantic spears ready to impale some hapless victim should he/she fall from the sky. The ground was a tangle of broken branches, limbs and large limbs leaning precariously on trunks of other trees. It was like a maze. Sometimes we had to walk away from our home to find a pathway toward our home.

Finally we broke through to the yard and our home stood bathed in sunlight looking cold and forlorn, but home nonetheless. There was a trunk of a tree across the driveway where the day before my pickup and small car had been parked. My yard tractor was buried in debris. My new to me, chore tractor was hidden under heavy cedar limbs hanging over the tractor. It would be several day before I could get the tractor out of its cedar bough prison.

We were home. The devastation was extensive. There was no damage to the home, but the surrounding land looked like the aftermath of a artillery bombardment during war time. Terry and I came into the house. Al surrounded us. I don't know how one cat can surround you, but she did. We had running water as were are on city water. Our toilets worked because we have a septic system. We have one small propane heater in the bathroom that we lit so at least we had a place to come to to get some warmth.

One of the first tasks I under took was to haul the new generator I had purchased months ago down to the porch and see if I could get it running. I had not run it in some time. It is heavy, but lugging planks to act as a ramp to get it up to the porch and using my little manual air pump to inflate soft tires I got it the hundred or so feet to the porch. It took a little bit, but it fired up and soon I had a couple of extension cords running into the house through the front door and we had the coffee pot on. Terry and I dearly love our coffee and that was a very successful moment when we heard the heater warm the water for our first cupa.

With heater lit, coffee made and refrigerator plugged in our thoughts turned to what tasks we should undertake to deal with out situation. Tree limbs and trees still groaned and broke under the weight of the ice. I did go out and take a number of pictures. The ice would stay today, but the weather was to get into the 40's on Thursday and this crystalline scene would melt away. I wanted to make sure I had a record of what our home area looked like.

That is enough for now. My next effort will be to describe how we become foragers and deal with the challenges of making life comfortable.

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