Daily Archives: January 14, 2007

Springfield Ice Storm

We’ve been hit by a major ice storm in Springfield. It arrived late Friday afternoon the 12th of January and over the last two days, laid around an inch of ice on trees and power lines. Streets have been saved for the most part because the water would run off and in to the main sewer drains before freezing. I can’t say as much for the trees and power lines.

65,000 utility customers in the city are estimated to be without power. In a small city with a population of 150,000 people, that means that 90% of the city is likely without power. In a bizarre twist of fate, my neighbor on the north side of my house has power and I do not. Worse, the house is empty, recently having a change in ownership.

To our benefit, a recent friendship is paying some dividends. Paul Boulifard, an architecht and neighbor, sold his house this month and moved to North Carolina. He doesn’t close until the end of the month which means that his vacant house (with power!) is available as a shelter. Tammy and I stayed here last night and are making plans to stay here until either the power goes out here or ours returns.

The worst part? Well, there’s two: we don’t have working plumbing in our house right now and there’s no end in site to the power outage.

Tammy and I picked this weekend to redo the bathroom floor before knowing about the impending ice storm. We made the decision based on the aforementioned empty house and the easy access to working plumbing while ours would be out of commission. Thursday, we removed baseboard trim pieces and the closet door frame you can see in Tammy’s photos. We had the floor removed down to the joists when it hit Friday afternoon while I was at Lowe’s getting all of the supplies. We ran extension cords to the neighbor’s house with power so we could work yesterday, allowing us to complete the subfloor installation and most of the backerboard for the tile. Kevin French was doing most of the work while I was acting as the assistant–a partnership I’ll never forget–working until it was too dark to see to saw boards. I’ve got pictures, but it might be awhile before they make it up to the web.

Now we’ve hit another roadblock: tile adhesive and grout can’t be applied at temperatures below 60˚F and the inside temperature of the house is 48˚F as of this writing. With no hope that power will be restored today, tomorrow or maybe even this week, our tile project is on hold.

This kind of storm is depressing. It immobilizes you–no power, no refrigeration, bitter cold–and makes you realize how fragile your life is without electricity. In my neighborhood, there are trees 50+ years old and over 50 feet tall, covered with ice and cracking under the strain. The tension is palpable where you’re wondering if your tree, your house is next. The sounds are especially demoralizing. Imagine: utter silence in your neighborhood shattered by a sharp crack of a branch breaking under the ice load. That branch falls through the others on the tree, cracking and shattering ice and branches on the way down.

The whole experience is comparable to what my imagination thinks a sniper attack would be like. First, everyone’s lives are upended by the first “crack” and then we all try to return to some type of normal while we cope with the event. Then, as more and more occur, we all become paranoid, silently praying the sound marks someone else’s misfortune and not ours. It’s a guilty feeling.

We’ve lost half of our small tree in the front yard and a large branch of the maple in our back yard. I expect that our south neighbor’s large tree will crush our garage (and our Honda Accord) soon if the ice persists. The National Weather Service says we’ll be getting another half inch of ice. More depression.

At Paul’s house, where I’m typing this, it’s warm. We have electricity here, working plumbing and a sense of normalcy. There’s no furniture, so it’s like we’ve stumbled across the hunting lodge on a mountain after the avalanche–we’re safe now, but what’s next.