Plinky Prompts

Ozarks Winters are Not Fun – Is it Spring Yet?

Four and a Half Inches of Ice

Have you ever experienced an earthquake, flood, or other natural disaster? Where were you? How did you react?

We survived the ice storm of 2007. It was the middle of January and they (the weather forecasters) sent out a winter warning.

We ignored it. We shrugged it off, rolled our eyes and said, "Meh. Whatever."

For you see, our weather people are rarely accurate in the Ozarks. But it's not their fault, the winds in our part of the country shift so rapidly that our weather literally changes from hour-to-hour and that's pretty hard to predict. So when they started forecasting a winter warning, we didn't take it too seriously.

We certainly didn't freak out like the rest of the city. As a result? We were ill prepared for what happened next: 4 1/2 inches of nothing but ice. Evil, crippling ice.

The ice weighed down our tree limbs, which snapped off and took down our power lines. Seventy-five percent of our city lost power. We were personally without power for 11 1/2 days.

And yes, I was counting.

School was out for a solid week – people were dying in their homes because they were so cold they brought in their gas grills to keep warm and died from the toxic fumes.

It was a nightmare. Our city quite literally came to a screeching halt during that time period. And the weather stayed cold enough that the ice wouldn't melt off for a few weeks. It was truly a nightmare.

I wrote about that time period, but on another blog. I'd like to re-publish those posts here so that you can read them (if you wish) and I will have a copy of them on my permanent blog.

This is a timely question considering we're currently under a BLIZZARD warning. I'm pretty old (mid-40's) and I don't ever remember having a blizzard warning for our area. In addition, we now pay attention to WARNINGS, though we still roll our eyes at watches. But when they predict a warning, it's pretty much a guaranteed thing. It's snowing now, I'd say we have accumulated about two inches so far. They are predicting a foot.

I'm happy to say, we were prepared for this winter warning.

Winter blows.

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January 15, 2007

So, we're alive.

Did you wonder where I was today? Were you worried? I know I have been.

I've been in the dark, literally. We've been without power since Friday night. It started at 10:30. We were settling in for the night when *boom*, our transformer blew and the lights went out. At first, we weren't too concerned. After all, we've lost them in the past and City Utilities was very good at restoring our power. But when I tried to call, to report our outage, I got a busy signal. I knew right away, something was wrong. I didn't realize just how bad it was until the next morning. We were in the throes of a major winter storm. We received about an inch of ice Friday night, another two inches on Saturday and finally, another inch Sunday. Our poor trees (we have, oops, correction, HAD, four maple trees) are destroyed. Limbs have snapped and are everywhere. Many of them have fallen on electricity lines and transformers have blown all over the city. Ninety percent of the city is blacked out. Temperatures are frigid and we don't have heat.

The nights have been the worse. We were so unprepared for this storm. We didn't have any wood for our fireplace, didn't have any contingency heating plan. But thank God, Kevin had filled up the two propane tanks on our trailer and the propane tank on the BBQ grill. So, we brought the grill inside the house and have been cooking, and keeping warm, with that.

When my parents found out we were keeping warm with propane, they freaked out. They warned us about carbon monoxide poisoning (which we didn't even think about!) and thank God, had an extra kerosene heater. We've been using that and it's been WONDERFUL. It's keeping us warm at night (yes, we make sure there is plenty of ventilation).

I didn't have very many candles on hand so we've been very stingy about lighting them at night. As a result, we've been literally sitting in the dark. The boys and I (Kevin fell asleep in a chair) watched a teeny-tiny, battery-operated TV last night by the light of one candle. If you could have seen us, you would have felt sorry for us. lol

The nights have been the worse. Since most of the city is without power, it's pitch black here. I've felt claustrophobic. The nights have been LONG and SCARY. It's such a relief when morning gets here.

Kevin stood in single digit weather for over an hour to buy us a generator trucked in from Nebraska today. I'm posting this from my laptop running from the generator. Our gas is running out and we'll soon be back to candlelight. No one can tell us when we'll have power again. But things are so bad, I'm betting it won't be until the end of this week. I'll post pictures as soon as I can.

In the meantime, entries will be sporadic. I'll post whenever I get a chance. I plan on going to the library tomorrow (assuming their power is restored) to get some work done.

Thanks for being patient. Please send positive thoughts and prayers our way. When I say it looks like a war zone here, I'm not exaggerating. Springfield hasn't seen an ice storm like this in 20 years.

I'll never take electricity for granted again.

_____________________________

January 17, 2007

Well, we're still without power.

Tomorrow will be one week. I can't believe we've endured bitterly cold weather without power for one week. It doesn't seem possible.

The boys and I went to lunch with Kevin today. While out, we came across some guys selling wood. So now we have wood to burn. It's wet, but we're hoping we can keep our fire hot enough that it's still usable.

When we came home, I tackled the generator by myself. I'm pleased to report that I got that thing up and running all by myself! It's tougher to crank than I thought it would be. I then put a firelog in the fireplace and turned on the insert. We have heat! I'm pretty proud of myself for taking care of this by myself. Kevin was usually the person to do all of that. I guess I need to start learning, eh?

We've seen a ton of CU trucks all over town, just none of them in our neighborhood. We still have no idea when we'll get power but we're adapting. I hate to say this but I think we're getting used to not having electricity. You don't really know what you're made of until times like these come along. I'm pleased to report, I'm tougher than I thought. 😀

I know ya'll are probably sick to death of hearing about this right about now, but I now have a deeper appreciation for earlier generations. It truly takes all of your time and energy just figuring out how to survive something like this. We spent the entire day just thinking about how we're going to survive the night. At least the arctic front has moved past. It's supposed to start warming up beginning tomorrow, thank God. We got through a zero degree night last night (two in a roll), we could sure use some warmth.

Our yard has been cleaned up. I still can't believe we were one of the first people on the block to have our debris taken away. In some ways, it feels like this whole thing never affected us, though we all know differently. 🙂 It's nice to look outside and see our neighbors again, as opposed to seeing a bunch of icy branches. I took pictures before the crew cleaned up and I'll post some of those later.

There are so many things I want to tell you! All throughout this experience I've been thinking, "I need to blog about this!" But of course, finding a pen and then paper to write it down in the dark seemed like too much effort so I've forgotten half of what I wanted to tell you guys. However, I'll summarize it for you. Bare with me.

January 12, 10:30 p.m.

We lost power. I've already talked about what that was like. If I had known we would still be without power one week later, I would have had a nervous breakdown.

January 13

We spent the entire day walking around in a daze. We couldn't believe this was happening, let alone what to do about it. We frantically drove around and gathered resources – firelogs, candles. We couldn't find either. Saturday was the second wave of the storm. We had already received one inch of ice, we were in the throes of getting another inch. We stopped at a Sonic for lunch (we haven't been able to eat anything at the house. First, we can't cook [this was before our generator] and we didn't have anything to eat. We usually go grocery shopping over the weekend and our food supply was pretty low to begin with). They had their music up so loud, it was hard to order. I felt the first wave of hysteria at that point. Hello?? Can we get rid of the musak so folks like us can simply SURVIVE? If the kids hadn't been with us, I probably would have lost it.

We pulled the air mattresses and sleeping bags out of the camper. We pulled my oldest son's mattress off his bed and I've been sleeping in a recliner. The hubs stapled sheets over the doorways and we've been living in three rooms ever since (family room, office and kitchen).

We cleaned up our BBQ grill and put it in the kitchen. We turned the propane on from time-to-time to get warm. When night came, we lit the camp lantern and played a thousand games of Uno.

January 14

We felt a little more upbeat by this time. We were convinced we would get our power back. When we went out for supplies and saw just how much damage had been done to our immediate neighborhood, I cried. There is an entire row of trees on our power lines. I don't know how the CU guys are going to get through that mess. I suppose they will have to pull the wire out and simply restring it over the fallen trees because I'm sure they don't have time to clear those things out. Again, I have a picture of that.

We're starting to develop a routine by this time. We have all of our supplies within easy reach. My folks lent us a kerosene heater (which was a God send) and we started using that at night (I clipped the sheet back so we could get fresh air). The boys are going nuts by this time. They are scared, worried and bored out of their minds. Thank goodness I had bought them a car charger for their Gameboy DS's because I think they would have gone insane otherwise. Kevin has done a wonderful job of taking care of us, too good, as a matter of fact. Because the thought of him going to work on Monday and leaving me and the kids alone in a dark, cold house makes me cry. (I've cried more in these past days than I have in years.)

Our phone rang off the hook that day. Thankfully, we had an old fashion phone ( you know, the one that actually plugs in and has a cord? lol) so everyone was checking up on everyone else. My in-laws came over to check up on us. They were impressed with our survival techniques. They were on their way to buy a generator. All of the stores were sold out of them, of course, but he knew of some people that were selling them off a semi-truck in a parking lot somewhere. So they went and called back to say they bought one. We hurried over there but they were sold out by that time. Well, not exactly sold out, they had some industrial sized ones left (it even came with an automatic remote starter!) for $1,800. Let me repeat that, EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!! Um, no. We'll freeze to death.

So, we went driving and found another semi-truck in another parking lot, but they had sold out. They were getting another shipment in from Tennessee that night. By the time that time came, we were all too bushed to check it out. So, we didn't get one.

January 15

Kevin goes to work and I'm not sure what to do with myself. I clean up as best as I can (I had to wash dishes by HAND folks! Talk about torture! lol). We listened to the radio and since there were quite a few gas stations closed due to no power, gas was in short supply. This of course, freaked people out and the stations that were open not only had lines but had to close because they sold out.

The boys and I head to Wal-Mart to see if we can pick up some more firelogs. We had been pretty conservative with our supply by this time but we were running low. We happened to arrive at about the same time they received a shipment. We bought two boxes of firelogs, a couple more candles as well as batteries. I came home feeling triumphant because I had gotten more supplies.

Throughout this entire mess, our cell phones have been out. We couldn't get a signal so getting hold of Kevin was difficult. I tried calling him several times at work, but he never answered and I was starting to get worried. The roads never really got slick, but considering gas was hard to come by I could imagine him stuck on the side of the road somewhere.

D., my sons' friend, called and wanted to know if he could stay with us. His mom works nights and they had run out of wood, so he would have been by himself in a dark, cold house. Of course I allowed him to come over – I wasn't going to let the poor boy freeze to death!

Right after he arrived, Kevin came home. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon by this time. He had gotten off work early and stood in line, in frigid single-digit weather for over an hour and bought us a generator (5500 watts). He came across it by accident, he was driving home when he saw yet another semi-truck (this one was from Nebraska) with a truckload of generators. He came home, we put in some oil and hooked it up. We had lights for the first time in three days. I can't tell you how thankful we were when those lights came on! So,we hooked up the fireplace blower, turned on the Wi-Fi and I checked my email and the boys played their games. Our spirits were high.

We all slept pretty good that night because we all felt a little more secure in the knowledge that we were "handling" this.

January 16

Someone knocks on our door at about 10:00 in the morning. It's some guys roaming our neighborhoods wanting to know if we want our debris cleared out. Um, yes! I still can't believe how little they charged and they did such a great job! So, while the guys were out doing that, the boys and I bundled up our laundry and went to the laundry mat. Geez louise, talk about a nightmare! It was packed (of course), and there was one lady manning the shop. She took our names down and when the number of washing machines became available, she let us have them.

Then, it came time to dry. Getting a dryer was a free-for-all. I literally had to stand by a few to stake my claim and when they became available, I swooped in. Each cycle took 45 minutes (45 minutes!!) and even then, the clothes did get dry. I had to run the jeans and towels through twice (I and still had to lay them out to dry when I got home). To top it off, I had stuffed so many clothes in the washer and put too much soap in. By the time I pulled them out of the dryer, I had clothes spotted with dried detergent. I'll have to run them through yet another rinse cycle and dry them before we can wear them.

But for as busy as the laundry mat was, I was impressed with people's attitudes. Everyone was as upbeat as could be expected and it was interesting to hear their survival stories. I spent nearly the entire time talking to this one lady, we just hit it off at once, and not only was it nice to talk about what happened, she made me laugh and gave me some tips. Even though we spent a long, grueling four hours at the laundry mat that day, I left feeling just a bit better about what was happening to all of us.

We then prepared for a zero degree night. Between blankets and sleeping bags, we have more than enough to keep us warm. But the air gets so frigid that you wake up with throbbing nasal passages. The rest of the house (outside our sheet-blocked rooms) is 42 degrees. You can walk through the house and breathe smoke. It's really a bizarre feeling.

We have hot water, thank God. Taking showers in 40 degrees is not as miserable as you might think. There's so much steam built up by the time you're done that it's actually pretty comfortable, providing you dress fast. It's strange though to breathe smoke while you're naked. It's quite a juxtaposition to be warm in such cold temperatures.

January 17

That brings us to today. I've already mentioned we found some wood. I'm sitting here now on pins and needles wondering when the gas in our generator is going to run out and plunge us into darkness once again. It's a little after 4:00 and I can't wait for Kevin to come home. It's creepy being here after dark without my man around. Don't I sound like an insipid female? lol

So, we're doing okay. We're hanging in there. Still no sign of the CU guys. Still no idea when we might get our power back – but we'll endure the wait. We've already been through so much, what's a few more days? *sigh*

People have been simply wonderful. Even though we're all uncomfortable and miserable, there's still room for a quick conversation and time for a smile. We're all in this together and we'll survive. This may all sound pretty trivial, especially to Katrina and earthquake survivors, but we have the bitter cold to contend with. It's pretty scary when you can't find the warmth you need to survive. There are shelters all over town, but they can only house about 200 people – you can imagine how many people that leaves out in the cold, literally.

We've had all sorts of help from all sorts of places come in. I've been seeing utility trucks with different license plates all day. It's comforting to know that people haven't forgotten about us. A lot of people have been pitching in whenever they can. The guys that cleaned up our yards weren't actually tree guys but tile guys. I suspect that was one reason they charged so little for such a major cleanup – they were donating their time and resources to help us.

Times like these … I don't know. It tests people. And I can safely say that the people in the Ozarks have come through with flying colors. We've always been so generous with our time and money to help others in need across the country; it really is a comfort when others return the favor.

I better wrap this up. The generator has been running for a few hours now and I want to post this before it gives out.

Thanks again for all the comments and well wishes. You guys are so awesome and it really does help to know that when I get online, I can always count on a chuckle and a smile.

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I just read on Yahoo that 100 million people are being affected by this latest winter storm. Stay safe and stay warm, friends.

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