“Stormy thoughts and feelings can no more overcome your quiet awareness of them than do raindrops have the power to wash away the sky through which they pour.” – Guy Finley
Written on 2/7/14
This has been the coldest winter in Maryland that I can remember. Besides being cold, we have been getting hit with a lot of snow and freezing rain.
This past week has been almost unbearable.
For the past 30 days we have been dealing with temperatures below freezing, and at times it was as cold as 0 degrees.
Things that go bump in the morning
This past Wednesday morning (2/5/14) around 6:00 am, I was awoken by a loud thud outside my bedroom window.
Now only was there a thud; I felt my bedroom shake when it happened.
I immediately hopped out of my bed while removing my eye boogers to see what it was.
And there it was a scene to behold. A large tree branch had fallen from the maple tree in my backyard.
Not only had that branch fallen, there were tons of large and small branches covering my icy snow-filled lawn.
There was Snow had already been on the ground for a week before this, but on top of that we had freezing rain all night.
What happens with freezing rain is that it builds up on the trees and as it freezes it makes the branches sag. Eventually the branches snap from all the pressure.
This happens to people as well, but that’s for another story.
I live in the Country, it’s a truly bucolic setting and it had been my dream for a long time. One of the downsides of living in the country is that we are prone to power outages.
When my family and I first moved here in 2008 the power went out often during simple rain storms.
As the years went on power outages became more rare.
My wife and I decided that investing in candles would be a wise choice. We stocked up on candles from yard sales and Goodwill. We were buying large pillar candles from 50 cents to a dollar or two. Not bad considering what they cost retail.
We also store jugs of water for when the power goes out. Not only for drinking but for flushing the toilets. We have well-water, and well-water runs off of electricity.
In addition, we have plenty of canned goods to eat and a fully stocked first-aid kit too.
In my home I have a fireplace and I have been steadily splitting and storing firewood over the past few years just in case the power goes out. I have about five cords of split and seasoned firewood that my neighbor and I did over a year ago.
Back to my story
After I looked outside and saw the damage the freezing rain was causing, I realized one other thing. The power was out.
Having the power out in the summer time and having the power out in the winter time are two different things.
My house, myself, and my family can still easily function in the summer without power. Yeah, it’s hot but we’ll manage.
During the winter however, the freezing temps can cause serious problems with people and their homes.
Water pipes can freeze, roofs can cave in from the weight of the snow and ice and cooking and preparing food is a bit of a challenge. Luckily I have both a gas grill and a charcoal grill for cooking food.
Staying warm in the winter is also challenging. Besides wearing about eight layers of clothing, I use my fireplace to keep my house and my family warm.
Ideally I would prefer a wood burning stove insert for my fireplace, but they are a few thousand dollars to buy and have them installed, so I have been putting it off for a while.
That same morning after my wife had gone to work I decided to go outside and see what was happening. The freezing rain continued as tree branches and tree limbs were falling down by the second.
I saw that I had my work cut out for me while outside assessing the damage.
Good thing I bought a chainsaw shortly after moving into my house. I have used it more than I thought I would, and I could see that I will need it to cut some of the larger tree branches that were on the ground in my yard.
(I brought my video recorder outside that day and filmed some of the live action. You can view it here.)
After filming the ice debacle while walking towards the side door to my house I noticed that the telephone wire to my home was cut in half.
It was just lying on the ground next to my house and the other half was across the street hanging from the telephone pole.
So now I don’t have electricity in my home and also I don’t have telephone service which means no internet access either even if the power comes back on.
I called the telephone company that day and they said that a repairman would be out on Monday. Today is Wednesday February the 5th. That is way too long for me to have to wait.
Later that evening, my neighbor called me and asked if the power was off. I told him it was. He said he was staying at a friend’s house that night (who still had their power on), but he offered to get us a hotel room.
He called a few places but they were all booked solid. He offered to let me borrow his generator that night. It’s a smaller generator, but you can use it to at least plug in a lamp and a space heater.
So he and I got the generator and we wheeled it over to my house. The generator was half full of gasoline and both of our gas cans were empty.
He started the generator for me and left it running.
I ran some extension cords from the generator to a power strip. This way my wife and I could charge our cell phones, plug in the lamp and a small space heater.
I suddenly remembered that the generator was only half-full of gasoline and my gas can was empty. So I decided I would drive to the gas station to fill my gas can.
My wife and I headed out for the gas station around 6:30pm.
The tree branches hang over the roads where I live. Regularly the State or the Electric Company comes through and trims the overhanging tree branches, especially ones that are near power lines.
However, there are still a lot of trees arching over the roads.
As we’re driving down the road, ice and tree limbs are falling in the middle of the road. As a matter of fact, all day long trucks with plows were plowing large branches from the road and pushing them to the side so cars could pass.
But as soon as they cleared the road, newly fallen branches were there to take their place.
The ride to the gas station was intense. I had to stop several times, get out of my car, and remove fallen branches so I could pass.
The roads were icy in some parts, but the State Highway Administration does an excellent job of salting the roads in Maryland. 🙂
Eventually we made it to the gas station and filled the gas can. We also picked up some lo-mein and fried rice from the grocery store so we could eat that night.
The power was still on in downtown Phoenix, but not where I live, even though it’s only about a ten minute drive.
We arrived safely back home after leaving the grocery store and I went outside to start the generator. We used it until the gas ran out which was about 2 hours.
We were able to eat using a table lamp for light and charge our cell phones and get some heat from the portable space heater until the generator ran out of gas.
So I went out back to where the generator was and I filled it with more gasoline. I made sure everything was set. The gas line was on, the choke was in the right position. I pulled the cord and it wouldn’t start.
I pulled again, waited 30 seconds, pulled again. It wouldn’t start. I did this about five more times.
The sky that night was pitch black. I couldn’t see any stars, or the Moon.
While trying to get the generator started, I could hear branches falling in the woods next to my house.
Also, the wind began to pick up that night. It was quiet for a few seconds and then a strong wind would come through the woods, and then tree branches began falling all around me.
I said, “The hell with this,” and I went back inside. I told my wife that we are gonna “rough it” tonight because the generator won’t start.
So, the first night without power, my wife and I pulled the Futon mattress off the couch and placed it on the floor in front of the fireplace. (Not right in front of it, you have to be safe from fireplace debris).
Besides that, we placed about five blankets on the futon mattress.
My wife had no problem sleeping that night, however, I did. Every time the harsh wind would blow, tree branches from the overhanging trees in my driveway would fall on the roof of our house.
This happened all night long. It would be still and quiet outside one second, and then here comes the wind, and next tree branches were falling on the roof of the house.
Eventually I did fall asleep.
I was hoping when we woke up the next morning the power would be on. It wasn’t. My wife left for work around 7:00am that morning and I had a Doctor’s appointment at 10:00am.
So I left my house around 8:30 and went off to my Doctor’s Appointment.
The nurse that escorted back into the examination room lives just a few miles away from me. She told me her power was back on already. She must be on a different electrical grid system than I am on.
My Doctor’s appointment that morning was to have a large mole removed just below my belly button. It was about the size of a Nickel, but it wasn’t cancerous.
I also had an EKG test done which the results were good. So I had the mole removed, my heart is strong, some blood work done and a urinalysis.
I was there over two hours and I headed straight home afterwards to see if the power was on. It wasn’t.
So I knew I wasn’t going to sit in a cold house twiddling my thumbs. I decided to start removing the tree branches that were littered all around my property.
I have an acre and a quarter of land. That’s about the size of a Football field. My property is three quarters surrounded by trees and there are several large trees on the property too.
So as I am hauling the tree branches into the woods I am being extremely cautious of the large tree branches hanging over my head.
At any second, a tree branch could snap and potentially fall on top of me.
I was able to drag about 90% of the tree branches into the woods without cutting them. Keep in mind, my lawn is a sheet of ice. It’s not soft snow, or cold earth, it is ice.
Needless to say, I got a great work-out that day.
Towards the end of the tree limb removal process I got out my chainsaw and cut the larger branches so I could easily drag them away.
I started working around 12:30 in the afternoon that day. I would go inside periodically to check if the power was back on.
Around 1:30pm I called the power company and asked them when they expected the power to be back on. She told me the estimated time was 11:00pm that night.
So, I went back outside and continued working on cleaning up my property.
Around 3:30 in the afternoon I went inside to refill my water cup. Even though it was freezing cold out, I was working up a sweat hauling around those tree branches. Gotta stay hydrated!
When I opened the door to my house I heard my furnace running. Yes, the power was back on!
I am writing this on Friday February the 7th and updated on February the 12th.
The local weather has reported that more snow is expected this weekend and next week. It is supposed to snow tonight (2/12/14) and turn into freezing rain on Thursday.
The telephone company finally came this morning, a week after it had been cut in half by a falling tree branch and they attached a new phone line from my home and connected it to the pole across the street.
They also told me that the power line to my house is no longer connected to the pole.
It’s basically being held up by a tree branch.
I called the electric company today and told them about my situation and they said they would send someone to fix it today or tomorrow.
So, I am now back online after a week of not having access to the internet. It feels great, and I had a ton of unread emails in my inbox.
The worst part of it for me was not being able to take a shower. The rest was a piece of cake.
I have to admit, it wasn’t so bad being offline for a week. I got a lot of things done around the house that I had been putting-off.
Be safe and be prepared if snow or freezing rain is coming your way. Hopefully the power stays on this time, and my phone line stays where it is supposed to.
Be safe, be careful and look at for each other!
Until next time. 🙂