January 6, 1998: Epiphany; the icy rain storm began.
January 7: Even icier.
January 8: No school, power on and off and then OFF, with no more ons.
On the 8th, My Guy had to park his red truck at the neighbor’s house because wires and limbs prevented him from driving up to our house.
Via battery operated radio, CMP (Central Maine Power) officials warned customers not to talk to power people–just let them do their work as they’re under a tremendous amount of pressure. And definitely no bribing them with food.
After our neighbor, Mr. Mush, stopped by in the afternoon to check on us, I looked out the window and noticed a man wearing a hardhat walking up the road. Mr. M. approached him.
“We aren’t supposed to talk to those guys, but he is. I’m going out there,” I thought.
Our youngest joined me. We donned our winter gear and headed out the door. I said to P, “We aren’t supposed to talk to CMP workers. We’ll let Mr. Mush do the talking.” As I said that, I looked for the CMP truck, but didn’t see it. Then I did a double-take.
“Mr. Hall, that’s you,” I said shaking my head as I realized it was another neighbor under the hardhat. “I thought you were a CMP worker. I was so hopeful.”
He chuckled and said, “You haven’t been listening to the news. You aren’t supposed to talk to CMP workers.”
Jan 9: Wee hours of the morning: SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! CRASH!
My Guy flew across our bed as I sat straight up.
“It’s OK,” I choked. “It’s just a tree hitting the roof.”
After which I hyperventilated and struggled to add, “It’s just a tree. It’s just a tree.”
I could hear My Guy trying to reassure me, but I was frozen with wild terror. My throat, which felt like it had closed, finally opened. From that point on, I shook.
The cracking and clashing sounded worse than firecrackers and continued all night long.
January 10: Our friend Bob called from a job he was working on in Massachusetts. He couldn’t get through to his wife, Marita, as their phone line had been affected by the storm. Somehow, however, she and I figured out that we could talk if we picked up our phones at the same time and I guess I called her. Anyway, I assured Bob that she and the girls were fine and she was her chipper self. What I didn’t have the heart to tell him was that his goldfish had not survived the storm. They froze to death.
January 11: Our sons, S and P have storm clean-up all figured out. The town crew will plow up the branches and trees. Logging trucks will also be needed. They’ll haul the wood away to mills to be turned into baseball bats and paper.
We had heat for the first time. No lights, but plenty of warmth and I actually thought of shedding a layer of clothing. Another neighbor’s son-in-law lent us a small generator to fire up our furnace for warmth and to keep our pipes from freezing.
One thing a storm of this magnitude made us realize that people are good. My Guy was one of the best. And my biggest hope after all was said and done was that the people he helped would remember that he stayed open for them without power at the store. And he kept ordering stuff so that he would have what they needed.
Outdoor conferences with the neighbors became a constant.
And family and friends called to offer warmth and a shower.
Marita and I offered each other encouragement and she came to fill water jugs daily. We loved the bread she baked.
January 12: We heard via our battery-operated radio that Baltimore Power trucks arrived in Maine today. Apparently they were sighted on the turnpike bearing signs that read: “Maine or Bust!”
My Guy and I took showers thanks to the generator on loan. And we invited Mrs. Mush over to shower as well. My sister-in-law took the boys for the day, which gave us a chance to do some clean-up, though despite the fact that My Guy wasn’t at the store, he was constantly in contact and thinking about it often. The wee bit of slow-down that the day offered him, gave him time to reflect and sort through all that had happened in the last few days.
One of our tasks, other than yard work, was to clean out the refrigerator and freezer–stinky and sticky. We cleaned it and turned it into a momentary breadbox.
Mrs. Mush and I also picked up sticks and branches in an elderly neighbor’s yard while she was away staying with her daughter and son-in-law.
January 13: 124 hours of no power. School has been cancelled until next Tuesday.
Last night we began helping our next-door neighbors raise the temperature in their house with our Kerosun heater.
The ice, as much as it’s been a menace, is incredibly beautiful.
As cold as it was outside, the boys and I spent as much time outdoors as possible, so it would feel warm when we went back in–at least for a few minutes.
While they skated on our outdoor rink, I chatted with another neighbor, Tom, owner of Tom’s Homestead Restaurant, which he’d turned into a shelter for some people. Despite the fact that we didn’t have power, Tom was still able to function with a woodstove and gas furnace.
“I’ll teach you how to skate, P,” said S.
And so he did. The boys were five and three, S in kindergarten and P in preschool.
They also enjoyed the snow fog that rolled down the street. Oh, and those signs at the end of the driveway: announced to the world that Winnie-the-Pooh’s Studio was located in our barn and everyone was welcome to visit.
Writing that now, I’m reminded of a sign Mr. Mush stuck in the snow at the end of the road: “245 people live on this road.” Um, I’m pretty sure there were only ten houses and residency ranged from 1 to 4 or 5 in any particular abode.
January 14: Imagination has always been the name of the game and the boys have always had vivid ones so, of course, we celebrated Tigger’s birthday, homemade party hats for all.
Another big event today: an NBC affiliate from Washington D.C. came to town to film the proper use of generators. They stopped at Hayes Hardware and interviewed My Guy. Then he sent them to our road to tape a generator in use at a neighbor’s house. The boys and I followed them around the neighborhood. We then called everyone we knew out-of-state and told them to watch at 6pm. We listened on our radio. No mention of our town much to our disappointment–it wasn’t our day to become movie stars.
7:30pm, 148 hours without power. We’re especially concerned tonight because it’s already -2˚ with a full moon. But, there are now five generators being shared between 8 homes on our street.
January 15: With the advent of a full moon, we knew more trouble was brewing as the temperature dropped. Pipes froze in our pantry sink. We placed the Kerosun heater by it and I kept pouring boiling water (thank goodness for a gas stove so we could cook on top, using a match to light the burners), into the sinks–to no avail. At 9:30am, Mr. Mush came over with a torch and warmed the pipes (at that time located literally outside the pantry).
Then he tucked insulation around them.
In between working, My Guy helped to keep everyone on our road under control.
That afternoon, S and I did some yard work, hauling branches to the pile. The boys also sold me some snow cones, snow pies, and lemonade.
While we were outside, a CMP truck drove up. I slowly approached and asked the driver, “Can we talk?”
“Uh oh, you’re scaring me,” he said.
“No, I just want to know if we have any hope,” I replied.
“Well, the crew is in South Bridgton now. When they finish there, they’ll head back into town. They’ll be here. Maybe today, but don’t count on that. Probably tomorrow. But, do you know what the storm looks like?” he asked.
“They’ve lowered the amount of snow to six inches,” I said.
“Good, what about the temp?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Oh, well, we’ll see.” And off he drove.
Later, Marita appeared bearing muffins.
And I had this conversation with P: “What are you doing?” I asked as he chewed his fingernails.
“My fingernails are stuck,” he said.
“What do you mean, your fingernails are stuck?”
He studied his hands, “My fingernails are stuck to my fingers.”
One really bad thing we learned today. Moe Needham’s house burned to the ground last night.
Late that night, after My Guy and I had settled into bed, the most powerful light lit up the street. Of course, anything brighter than a Coleman lantern illuminates our world. But this light was different. High intensity and not flickering like a plow, though it was snowing as predicted.
My Guy dressed and ran outside. I was so excited that I called my sister to tell her men were in buckets up in the trees. I wasn’t sure if they were there to cut trees or reattach wires. After I hung up, I headed out the door. Arborists from Cohrain, Massachusetts. In a state that is proud of being 90% trees, there were many, many downed ones to cut.
January 16: I had the best helpers as we dug out from the overnight storm. S shoveled the snow off the steps.
I only wish I remembered what advice P was offering as he worked. Or perhaps he was gleeful because he was eating snow.
January 17: A CMP scout checked things out.
While the boys and I shoveled six inches of snow off the driveway, the CMP truck crept up the road. The driver told Mr. Mush he was waiting for an out-of-state power company to come work on our lines.
At last they arrived! I phoned neighbors at work.
From the neighbors’ driveway, we watched the action.
At last, the man in the bucket lowered himself. “The power will be on momentarily,” he said.
Mr. Mush met me in the driveway to ask about our furnace hook-up. We walked up the driveway and saw My Guy in the barn. I yelled, “It will be on momentarily.” Above a bulb was lit.
“Look,” I exclaimed. “How is that on?”
“The power is on,” My Guy said with a smile.
The boys had to check it out after 186.5 hours without such.
Meanwhile, at the store, the line was long. Somehow, My Guy managed during all this time to meet the needs of customers, the needs of neighbors, and the needs of his family. And always with a grin.
Thank goodness our boys saw it as an adventure.
The list of thanks probably left someone out, but in the end we were all so grateful for the sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since the Ice Storm of ’98 Cameth and we were afraid that it would never Leaveth, but it finally did.