This piece originally began as a recounting of my family's experiences throughout last winter's epic ice storm. It is exactly one year later than where that unfinished draft (in block quotes) began. This morning most of the Ozarks region was placed under a winter storm watch. Although it's still too soon to tell, this anticipated weather event might cause some grief. Hopefully, history won't repeat itself, at least not in such a drastic manner. Without further ado...
Monday, January 26th began in the normal Casa del fugi fashion, except for two elements. First, it was Tiger's 11th birthday. Secondly, the Ozarks were about to be assaulted by an ice storm, the severity of which had largely been taken for granted until nature's impending bad joke sprung its punch line. What the skies actually unleashed was more like a knockout blow.
I'd done some shopping a couple of days earlier, stocking up on whatever non-perishables my family's end-of-the-month budget would allow. If nothing else, half a lifetime spent in the middle of Florida's east coast taught me that most storm preparation shopping gets pretty ugly when folks wait until the last moment. I didn't know if the same panic mentality held true here in Fulton County, and I wasn't inclined to find out firsthand. If the same disappointing behavior was true about my community, it probably would have broken my heart.
Most of the day's household activities centered around washing a small mountain of laundry and preparing Tiger's birthday supper (homemade bacon burgers and hand cut french fries). These tasks occurred during the short intervals when our beautiful 3-month-old Princess wasn't hungry.
Upon returning home from school Tiger and Cougar helped panthermod feed and secure our outdoor animals. The rabbits got plenty of alfalfa hay for nesting and munching, plus their water bottles and feed bins topped. Those in elevated wood hutches would weather the storm just fine. However, the ground level wire cages were tarped for extra protection.
Next, the guys attended to our dogs and cats. The cats do well in bad weather since their size and physiology allows them access to unusual, albeit cozy hidey holes. The anticipated welfare of our dogs was another matter.
Missy, our sweet little lemon beagle, is perhaps 10 months old. Panthermod and I agreed that due to her size she should be a temporary guest in the utility room. Neither of us was keen on the prospect of potential chaos from our two indoor Siamese sister cat "teenagers" ganging up on her.
Maggie, our stubborn power house pit bull-boxer, hates being indoors, period. She normally even refuses outdoor shelter, but wisely took cover in an empty 55-gallon barrel which was converted for such situations. Attending to the needs of Dolly, Maggie's daughter, was a challenge.. She had whelped a litter of pups not quite two weeks before this storm. We had to trust Dolly's survival and mothering instincts since she still had the pups stashed in an inaccessible location.
Later that evening a hearty, home cooked meal was enjoyed by all as sleet began to coat our region. Following supper the boys each took showers, put on warm, clean pajamas and began their homework. Reports of motor vehicle accidents began crackling over the county's emergency services radio channel as the night's final load of laundry got washed. The phone rang around 7:30, an automated announcement from the district superintendent about school cancellation. Approximately an hour later our township's fire chief called, stating that all crew members were to keep him updated on their whereabouts.
Panthermod and I settled in to watch NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams after the boys had gone to bed. There was no sense in alarming them if the ice storm had already caused serious trouble elsewhere. Heaven knows they still have bad memories of our last two hurricane seasons when we lived in Florida. Projections of this ice storm's impact were grim.
Candles, flashlights and additional blankets were gathered. Extra water was boiled in case Princess had to go on formula. All faucets were left on a steady trickle to keep our well pump from freezing. Fresh batteries were inserted into an mp3/AM/FM player. Local weather related incidents continued to foreshadow the gravity of the storm as the fire department radio charged in its base.
Panthermod and I exchanged frequent glances with each bit of radio traffic that was broadcast over the county channel. Prayers were issued, both audible and silent, for those in harm's way. A young mother in labor needed ambulance transport to neighboring Baxter County. A toddler near Camp was in respiratory distress. A Salem nursing home resident needed to be taken to Fulton County Hospital's ER. The increase of domino-effect multiple vehicle accidents on main roadways compounded already life-threatening situations.
We awoke the next morning to find that we still had power, phone, and running water. Approximately one-half inch of ice coated our property, and was growing at a steady clip. We lost power at 10:30 am. We have neither a generator, fireplace, nor wood stove. All our major appliances are electric.
The temperature indoors was manageable throughout most of the day. Panthermod kept the boys occupied with various activities during the periods when they'd tired of playing in their bedroom. Princess snuggled into the recliner with me, riding "co-pilot" between my knees as I knitted. Meals were simple, but nutritious, involving foods that didn't require opening the refrigerator. Extra layers of clothing became necessary as the day trudged along.