If you’ve never witnessed an ice storm, no words I’ll use will be able to do justice to the experience. To be technical, an ice storm is when rain falls from the sky but immediately freezes upon contact. It leads to branches, leaves, individual berries, even individual spokes on a bicycle perfectly encased in ice. The sun shines through the ice and it’s astoundingly beautiful, like trees made out of hundreds of delicate prisms.
It’s also astoundingly dangerous. Ice, of course, is made of water, and water is heavy. Branches that are coated in pounds and pounds of water in its frozen state will bend, sometimes break, under the weight. Large limbs and even whole trees will lean way down, sometimes in the roadway, more often on utility lines. The lines themselves are already struggling with the weight of their own coating of ice, some stretching low down to within easy reach from the ground. Add the weight of an ice-laden limb, and more likely than not, the line will snap, or at very least, stop carrying electricity.
Ever see a transformer short out? It’s not a sight I recommend seeing, as the sudden blinding light can be extremely painful to sensitive eyes, and the pop sounds a bit like a blast from a rifle. Sometimes you get to hear an ominous buzzing sound before the lights go out.
And all is silent, in the hours before the neighbors fire up their noisy gas-powered generators. Imagine the sound of a wine glass shattering on the floor. Outside, in all the trees around the property, as bits of ice break off or tips of branches snap free, is that sound in a continual chorus. Ice from above strikes ice on the ground, and other than this distant crystalline tinkling, scarcely a sound is heard.
The electricity that powers the water pump is gone. That fires up the furnace, gone. That warms the water, gone. That refrigerates the food, ignites the stove burners, lights the way to the bathroom (which is now an indoor outhouse), gone. A call to the power company begins the same recording that you’ve heard enough times to be able to recite, but still, like yesterday, you type in your number and wait for any news.
Unlike snow, which can be pushed away, or liquid water, which would have evaporated back into the air or else soaked into the ground, ice lingers. For days. Long enough to wonder about food spoilage in the fridge (some essentials have been moved out to the porch, where they’ll freeze rather than spoil). Fortunately, a long lighter can ignite the propane appliances. Four burners and one fireplace–usually used for ornamentation–stand between you and freezing. It’s too late to wonder about the pipes; no water goes through them now anyway. You drink a lot of cocoa, and you have to wipe your cup out with a paper towel because dishwater doesn’t exist. Sleep isn’t easy. The house is cold and lacks the numbing hum of the refrigerator, pipes, and furnace to lull you. Out across the street, the neighbor’s generator sounds like an idling lawn mower. It’s not the noise that keeps you awake; it’s the thought that they have heat and light, and you don’t.
To make a long story short, I haven’t been online and can’t log into SL at the moment. I’m writing from a coffee place two towns away that has wifi. This town has everything running. Most of my town has everything running. My street, however, remains dark and quiet. It has the look of a winter painting outside. As himself says, “It looks like a Hallmark card… that can kill you.”
Suffice it to say, I’ll be late on my tier.