Friday, February 11, 2011


When the biggest winter storm in 60-ish years came through our part of the country in the first few days of February, it manifested as a mix of ice, freezing rain, and snow. I'm usually pretty intrepid when it comes to snow--heck, I walked to school last year when we had our version of snowpocalypse--but this was different.

Tuesday morning wasn't horribly bad--it got warm enough for me to chisel my way into my car with a potato masher. But it got progressively worse... And I had an evening class to think about. I hemmed and hawed about whether to cancel class, which I hated to do--that's the group I only meet with once a week.

(This is what my car looked like on Tuesday morning... before things got really bad...)

I went out to move my car from the far parking lot to the closer one at 4:00, and what would normally be a 10-minute errand took me half an hour. On my way back into my building, I slipped twice on what looked like perfectly fine walkway. That scared me. When I e-mailed students to ask about how things looked on their side of campus, I kept getting reports of people falling. And this was *after* the university buildings & grounds staff had already been working all day on clearing & salting the walkways. So I relented, canceling class and heading home a little after 5.

Boy, was I glad to be home that night! As the rain/sleet/snow continued to fall, Dexter and Patrick and I had a nice, comforting dinner of leftover curried chickpea stew with rice, made some popcorn, and sat down together in front of the teevee to watch some episodes of King of the Hill (which Dexter recently discovered & likes; we have to be a little bit careful, though, about which episodes he watches!).

Every once in a while the lights would dim or flicker, and I'd worry. Our stove is electric, so if the power goes out, we're in pretty bad shape. The only thing that would still work is the hot water heater.

And as the evening grew into night, the noises outside started: sounds of branches and trees, loaded with ice, crashing to the ground. It was awful.

Our next-door neighbor has lots and lots of tall, thin trees growing alongside the fence between our back yards. And one by one, about half of those trees (or significant pieces of them) came down. At 8:00 it got really bad, and one tree came down just inches from our back window--the one next to the couch where we were sitting. All three of us jumped up and darted to the other side of the room!

Bedtime rolled around and the crashing was still going on outside. It was scary. We hoped for the best and went to bed.

The next morning, thankful that our power was still on, we looked out the windows at the things we'd been hearing all night. Trees down everywhere. Wires down at various places on our street. It was amazing.

(This was our first view out the back window upstairs; that tree isn't usually there!)

Even before eating breakfast, I pulled on my boots and took my camera outside and took about a bazillion pictures. It was so unreal, so strange; I think I kept taking picture after picture in part because I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing...

(Our little magnolia lost a major limb...)

(We were sitting next to that window on the right!)

This tree, amazingly enough, did not break, but it sure made a lot of noise as it arced itself toward the ground... and its neighbors' branches came down on our roof.

(Trees & branches down along the fence line...)

(In a couple of places, the branches that cleared the fence kicked back when they landed & put holes in the bottom of the fence... woah!)

I think one of the things I wasn't prepared for was how stark the broken-off tops looked on the trees that were still standing.


Another palpable sign that this was a Truly Bad Storm: my school was closed. (Only the 2nd time that's happened in the eight years we've been here!)

(There was ice everywhere AND the power was out... the storm gods were definitely not in favor of marching on as per usual!)

(The ornamental grass, normally almost as tall as me, was lying down...)

(A thick layer of ice coated absolutely everything... kind of eerie!)

After lunch we ventured out a tiny bit further to the yards adjacent to ours, sticking to walking on the ice-covered snow, pounding footholds in with our heels as we went along; it was just too dangerous to walk on the other surfaces.

Every neighbor had trees and branches down.

(across the street...)

(neighbors out back... check out the icicles on the steps!)

(Dragging branches to the back yard--we'll be doing lots more of this when it warms up a bit!)

(This injury looks painful...)

And later we ventured out to see if we could sled on this mess. Turns out we could--it was FAST once you got going enough not to break through the top layer!

(Dexter stomping through the top layer...)

(We had to put on the "emergency brake"--foot out to the side--when we got to the tree line!)

(Our poor garden gnome...)

(Not sure this is much better...)

And as the day went on the temperatures started to drop. On Thursday, school was back on (at least for me), and because of the bitter cold, my car was frozen absolutely solid. Patrick tried for a half hour to scrape, chisel, and water his way into it to get it started & warmed up, but no go. I decided to walk.

This was probably not the smartest decision, I figured out later. I should have called friends to see if I could get a ride with someone; but I figured that everyone else was in the same boat, and that now that classes were on (along with the power), I'd better cowboy up and get myself there on foot.

The prospect of walking to work (about a mile and a third) on ice filled me with dread. I got snippy and cranky that morning, only later figuring out that it was because I was truly scared. I was afraid I was going to fall down and really hurt myself--damage the hardware in my left arm, perhaps, or break the right one, or maybe break a leg.

As I left that morning, I was nearly crying. About a hundred yards into my trek across the back yards (to avoid walking on the streets & sidewalks), I remembered to stop. And breathe. And ask for courage.

As I continued on, all around me I saw signs of devastation, but started to think about them as signs of survival. I had to stop a couple times and relax my shoulders and back--I realized that it was as if I were trying to hold myself up in the air, as if that would discourage gravity from pulling me down. And I looked at the strange beauty around me. (But only every once in a while--had to keep an eye on my footing!)

(When I got to school, there were ducks on the creek... it was a comforting sight, somehow.)

Thursday's classes were fine, and by Friday even the local schools were back to normal.

So we made it through the storm. And this weekend it's supposed to get up to 40 degrees, which will feel balmy after the past couple days (yesterday our front porch thermometer told us it was BELOW ZERO as we were getting ready to go to school!).

Next time we have an ice storm, I might get a ride with someone. Or cancel a few more classes. But all in all I appreciate the experience, I suppose. Can't say I enjoyed it, but I appreciate it.

I hope you enjoy warmer temperatures soon where you are!


Edited to add: I should mention that the whole time, our power stayed on, and we were really, really grateful for that. We had friends who'd had to spend the night elsewhere, whether at friends' houses or hotels, because they had no heat... We lost cable and internet access for a couple days, but our neighbor let us borrow her wifi. We were very lucky!


  1. The garden gnome can take it, but can any of us who have experienced this LONG, COLD winter stand another day of it?

    Let's get out in the streets, let's protest. Maybe that will bring spring.

  2. It looks absolutely stunning. So beautiful. I guess the gods of winter are telling everyone to stay in and spend some time in self-reflection! :) Glad you are all safe and sound.

  3. I have never been in an ice storm but it's incredible what can happen. I'm happy your power stayed on and no trees came crashing through your windows.

    I remember that snow day we had a few years ago! First time in 50 years, or something like that?

  4. Oh, no! I'm glad you got through safe and sound.

    Ice is so very beautiful and so incredibly damaging. Spring! We need spring!

  5. Just a quick note here to say YES, we need spring, and soon!

    (It's sunny here today, and the temp. is above 30--for the first time in weeks!--so it feels like spring might actually happen eventually... someday... )

  6. I love these pictures. And I think that ice storms are the worst -- they terrify me. You were very brave to walk in to work. Very brave indeed.

  7. Wow. Thanks for the photos and commentary. Breathing and balance. That kind of sums up what I ask for from Wakan Tanka in my life. Glad you guys made it through OK. All the best to the sure footed.