Monday, February 9, 2009

Ice Storm One Week in the Past

A week ago today, I was relieved to see utility trucks in front of our house. I was hopeful our power would be back on by at least the following day. There was alot to do on our little road. They had their work cut out for them. Just seeing the crews work lifted my spirits as I'm sure it does anyone in this kind of situation.

They worked until dark, and indeed, our power came back on around 6:30pm that evening to the joy of all of us, but mostly me. When you've lived with a house full of males (husband and two sons), as the only female, you realize you are more emotional about these kinds of events than they are.

Looking back today, those six days seem like a dream. I remember thinking that would be the case. You just live each day keeping supplies up, keeping the house heated, cooking in the evenings on our gas stove (fortunate we opted for the gas oven/stove when we bought the house), washing dishes with heated water (normally we have a dishwasher), later planning out heating water for the short baths, lighting in a different way and you realize, everything takes double the time than when you have power.

The entire week was not horrible for us, but then I have a husband and a son, much alike in their personalities, who don't get ruffled by much, so their routine calmness about everything tends to temper my own stresses during an event like the ice storm.

I am usually a calm, reasonable woman, but the night the trees started breaking and shattering around our house, and up in the woods, I had a panic attack like I've never experienced before and honestly, I don't know where it came from. It took the calmness of my husband of 26 years to reassure me 1-we couldn't do anything but say a prayer until daylight. 2-it'll be OK. After his reassurances, I tried to calm my thoughts because those fear thoughts are what start multiplying, at least mine did. My parents electric, because my dad is on oxygen. The horses. The dogs. A tree falling on us on the horse stall, all kinds of crazy running thoughts flowing one right after the other. I basically had to say STOP IT! When daylight came and I was able to see what had gone on around us so far, I did feel more at ease.

Around 3am that morning, when I knew the power had gone off by the chirping of our smoke alarms I got up to check things out. The quiet of the house meant the cracking, banging, and thundering of the falling trees echoed up and down our little valley. Sounded as if a war were going on right outside. Extremely eerie. I think my the first part of my panic attack started with concern of my horses. The sound of the trees was more like gunshots and Spirit is very sensitive. So, around 3:30am I put on my coat and boots and picked my way out to the stall. I could tell the horses were nervous so I got hay for them to calm them down. If they were munching on hay, I knew it would help them. Ice had accumulated all around and I had to be careful walking. I figured if I fell and hit my head or something, my family wouldn't even find me until some time in the morning. Poor Maggie, she whimpered to me over by her house, I went to pet her but told her to stay in her house. The "gunshots" were affecting her too. I felt better knowing the horses would be OK, and didn't look like any trees had fallen over the fence anywhere near the corral or stall area.

Carefully plodding my way back to the house over the ice and snow, I thought maybe I could get some sleep. No such luck. The sounds of the breaking trees were too provoking. So, I got our battery operated radio out and listened to local FM stations for the next 4 hours. I think I did nap a little because I remember losing some time between 5-6am. By 7 am I could see light beginning and reports on the radio weren't good. The storm was going to continue through the day. Well, I was going to have to deal, one way or another.

I always keep instant coffee on hand since we do have periods where our power is out after rain storms in the spring and summer. Fixing my coffee was soothing, and drinking it more so. My thoughts were clearing by the light of day. I remember reading somewhere that humans do have an innate instinct to fear dark and the night. It is amazing how black our little road got, and we don't have that many lights up here, when the power goes out.

Day one we continued to have falling trees, tree tops, limbs as the ice and snow continued to fall. Around 11am I was startled by the enormous thud and shaking of the house, glass and pans rattling in the kitchen. A huge maple tree had uprooted and fell just behind the kitchen, just missing our house. Later that day while #2 son and Hubby were attempting to get some trees off the fence out in the field a tree fell across the road, mashing two sections of our wood slat fence and within a short period of time, out in the field where they were working three more pine trees cracked and fell to the ground. Later, again, #2 son had been digging a trench to allow water to flow away from the house, he moved over behind the house and a tree top fell right where he'd been digging just moments before! The sleet and ice had turned to a blowing snow around noon and by 2pm the snow had ended. The trees were still falling all around, but it had become intermittent. I knew after looking at our little area, we were in for a long haul this time.

I was able to phone my parents before we lost our phone the following day. Their electric remained on through the entire event, for which I was entirely grateful. My dad is on oxygen and has a machine at their house. So, my stress was lessened knowing they were OK. However, I became frustrated the following day when our phone went out AND my cell phone would not pick up a single bar. Usually we can get a couple of bars out here. I learned later, there had been trouble with one of the cell towers during the ice storm.

After the initial day of getting things in place, kerosene heater, Coleman light, flashlights, headlamps, candles, the days seemed to roll on uneventful, for the most part. We got into a routine. By Thursday evening we emptied what food we had in our fridge into coolers and lived out of coolers until the power came back. Kind of reminded me of our camping days with the boys. Thursday we also traveled out of or little valley to the world and were stunned by the amount of trees that had fallen across the road, now cut with fresh ends sticking out all along the road. Our two lane passable country road had become a one lane overnight.

Hubby didn't return to work until the following Monday. They'd been on restriction as had many places in our tri-county area because of the level 3 emergency on the highways. He decided to take a vacation day Friday to stay home and attempt more clean up around our place.

Even today, a week back to "normal" we have trees lying around. There are trees out in the horse field, mostly pine. One cherry top fell (I hate that tree standing there, but it's a natural cherry and not in a convenient place to totally cut down near the fence) so Hubby made sure they got that one cut up and out of the field first.

In the evenings we reminisced about the storm of '03 and don't recall it being as bad as what we got this time. Come to find out, our end of the county was one of the worst hit.

I am taking one lesson from this event, fear can be paralyzing. I don't want that to happen to me again, but, sometimes, you cannot control it when it comes upon you. I don't remember being hit with a panic attack like that before. Hubby even said it surprised him. I hope to take from this experience the memory of the fear and how helpless I felt, and how in the reality of life, it did me no good, and accomplished nothing. I had to stop the fear in order to think rationally. As with horses, the flight/fight response is something that may need to be worked out so the thinking side of the brain can work to your advantage, or, you'll just melt.

Yeah, I was wanting January out of here, and I'm glad it's gone. I haven't changed my mind about January being my least favorite month of the year!

1 comment:

Linda said...

I don't particularly like February either. That ice storm sounds horrific. I've NEVER been through anything like that. One time, however, there was a wind storm and I heard the trees cracking outside--and I had a panic attack similar to yours. The only thing that relieved the panic was going outside and standing in it. I think it helped me to see what was going on rather than just hearing it. Bad weather always freaks me out for the horses!