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LAST WORD

Surviving the New England Ice Storm of ‘08

Jim Magay
Jim Magay

The red berries on our burning bush were rimmed with ice and looked like a dessert in a fancy restaurant. Branches breaking in the forest sounded like rifle shots. A dazed 6-point buck wandered through our field looking lost and confused. 

Naturally my chainsaw broke as I started to clear a large maple tree that had fallen across our driveway.

The Ice Storm of December 11th 2008 will be remembered in New England for a long time. The sub prime meltdown, the huge government bailouts, the housing crisis, and Obama’s election, all paled into insignificance compared to the loss of electricity in my town for 11 days.

The night the power went out seemed like a lark, a momentary novelty. Everything would be fine in the morning. Nope! Morning came and we could view the extent of the devastation. The surrounding countryside looked as though an airburst atomic bomb had gone off. Tops of trees were all over the ground, power and communication lines in shreds, the sound of generators and chain saws everywhere.

We didn’t have it too bad – at least we had a cell phone and a battery operated radio to keep up with the news on our local station. Our wood stove and gas range were working fine. A nearby stream provided water for flushing. Places to go for showers and washing clothes made everything comfortable.

No television or computer at home was a novelty, old-fashioned conversation and reading good books was very pleasant, especially after we bought little LED headband lights that left the hands free to hold a book.

Getting reacquainted with our neighbors was a bonus. Candle light suppers (potluck) got rid of food before it spoiled in un-powered refrigerators, and snow-banks proved handy for chilling beer and other beverages.

16 miles away, our store was doing well, no problems with the power, no danger of frozen pipes, but we were storm central. Customer after customer arrived with tales of trees crashing through roofs, crushing cars, and breaking wires. Stories of husbands working 19-hour shifts for National Grid and other utility providers abounded. Horror stories about blowing delicate electronics with improperly hooked up generators and extension cords from one house to another. One couple’s odyssey of flying to New York in their private plane and buying two generators then renting an SUV for the wife to drive them home while the husband flew back with the kids.

As I look up the street behind our store I can still see high piles of debris piled in yards waiting to be removed. Making matters worse, we are in a quarantine area because of a local infestation of the Asian long-horned beetle. (Only licensed tree removal specialists can handle the debris.)

Recession, pestilence, and war, we can deal with those, just please, PLEASE, no more ice storms!

Jim Magay
jmagay@ziplink.net

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