I’d just hit the “Send” button on the final email for the evening last week Thursday and was thinking about heading to bed when, at 10:45pm, I found myself sitting in complete darkness in the studio. Hmm, this was curious. My first thought was to figure out where I’d put the flashlight. Ah, there it is, glowing from behind some shipping boxes. (Note to self: in the future, do not lean shipping boxes up against the rechargeable flashlight.)
I grabbed the flashlight and headed downstairs. Eric and I met up in the kitchen. The generator has kicked on which re-powered several lights in the kitchen and the clock on the microwave. It was hard to hear the wind blowing over the whir of the generator and the subsequent snapping of branches. Looking out the front window, we see that our neighborhood is pitch black.
Neither one of us has a good feeling about this.
Friday, 12/12 Day 1 Welcome to the 2008 New England Ice Storm
At 6:00am the power is still out, the generator still whirs and I realize that the time on my alarm clock, with its battery back up, has drifted a good 30 minutes. The alarm goes off thinking it is 6:30am but it isn’t. I lay in bed listening to the news. The report isn’t good. We are one of at least 300,000 people without power.
The vision outside is unbelievable. We are living in an ice forest. Every tree and bush and plant is covered in a thick coating of ice. It is raining. The temperature hovers around 31 degrees. We are fortunate. We have heat, hot water, limited lighting, a microwave and refrigerator. The phone, internet and cable are dead. Out come the cell phones and the battery operated radio.
As the morning progresses we listen to the creak, crack and crash of tree branches. Our yard alone has four tree branches splayed on the frozen ground. It is a stunning process with stunning results. Branches rip, tear, and shred, landing on the ground with a dull thud and a crash as the icy coating shatters on impact.
I cancel my chiropractor appointment. While the situation is fine at their office, getting out of our town is next to impossible. Eric attempted to go to work. Driving in our small neighborhood is fine; getting on the connecting road is not. Look to the right and you’ll see downed branches, ice, and wires. Look to your left you’ll find even more branches and wires.
It looks like a battle zone.
Eric heads back out on foot with a small saw and loppers in hand. After the fourth tree limb fell in our yard, I, too, decide to head out and see what things look like.
The Kindness of Neighbors and Strangers
I was surprised to see several people out on the street assessing damage not only to their own property but talking to neighbors and commenting on the stunning damage. People who knew each other and those who do not are out cutting down branches, pulling tree limbs to the side of the road, and checking on each other. “Oh man” and “Look at that” and “Wow” are said frequently. We are all amazed at what we see before us.
The road which connects to our street is practically impassable due to the shear number of tree limbs and wires. Walking up the road is an adventure in itself as ice falls from the branches and limbs continue to break. Power and cable lines lay tangled together. Other power lines hang like limp spaghetti.
Two men driving a Range Rover make their way up the road. They pull off to the side every few feet, climb out, rev up their chain saws and start cutting. Several of us are like the second crew, pulling and pushing branches, limbs, and fresh cut wood off the side of the road, cutting back those branches that still stick into the road, and shoveling debris.
The most stunning tree damage, however, belonged to two trees in a neighbor’s field.
One neighbor’s son described it like a flower with four petals that fell open.
We joked that it looked like the “Whomping Tree” got whomped.
It took a few hours to cut, clear, push, and shovel debris. And it seemed like the further we walked, the worse the damage. Post lights were busted when branches landed on them. Mailboxes were crushed under the weight of tree limbs. Whole trees were uprooted. And the only sounds you heard were chainsaws, generators, the falling ice, and the cracking of more limbs.
It was beautiful and devastating all at the same time.
In the afternoon Eric did get out to pick up some provisions for what would prove to be the longest power outage we’ve ever experienced. I dug through closets and boxes looking for board games to keep ourselves entertained.
That night brought us a full moon. On my calendar for 12/12/08 were the following words: