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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Remembering the Ice Storm of December 2002

It is such beautiful weather outside today, that I am sure that most of you are not thinking about winter weather.  But you should know that one of the banes of our existence here in North Carolina are ICE STORMS.  

I just found an old family letter I had written shortly after the big ice storm that hit North Carolina in December 2002.  One of these could happen to us this winter, and I wanted you to read my first hand account.  Maybe it will help you gather some supplies for the future.

Here are some excerpts:
I spent lots of time the first few days of the week (December 2002) getting ready for the big nativity scene event which was to happen Friday night at the Cary church building. On Monday the news started saying there was a chance of an ice storm coming on Wednesday, so I moved up my preparations.  I hoped the ice storm would be melted off by Friday morning. 
Wednesday afternoon the kids were let out of school one hour early, and the sleet and snow and freezing rain started and went on all evening. It wasn't bad at all, because the streets were warm enough that the snow didn't stick. The streets were wet all night. But the problem was with the air temperature. Trees got coated with ice and were breaking everywhere. All night it sounded like gunshots and big explosions as trees hit the ground. About midnight our power went off. 

(NOTE:  This was a very strange ice storm, in that no one was trapped at home by icy roads.  The roads were fine and we could all drive around.  But there was NO POWER because all the trees had fallen onto the power lines all over the state.)

(2.2 million people were without power.)

Thursday morning we woke up, and the sidewalks and streets were still passable. But we had no phone and no power. All my radios in the house ran on electricity, so I sat in the car a couple of times a day to listen to the radio news, and they said over 1 million people were without power from CP&L in North Carolina and 1.2 million people were without power with Duke Power. It was worse than Hurricane Fran, because with Fran, it took them 9 days to get all the power back on, but with this ice storm, they knew people could freeze to death if they didn't get the power on quickly. 

The high on Thursday was 34 degrees. We still had no phone or power. We had our fireplace on, and our kerosene heater. We cooked frozen dinners from the freezer on top of the kerosene heater, and then my husband cooked supper in the garage on the campstove (he left the garage door open for ventilation). I drove over to Tiffin’s, and her phone worked, so I called Marta A. (who was the chairman over the whole big nativity event) and she said she had so many trees down she couldn't get out of her long driveway. She was going to have to wait for her husband to get home on a plane, and he would drive home, and park by the road and walk to their house. She planned to walk out and use that car in the morning. She and I didn't know if the church building had power or if it would get power. 

Thursday night we turned off the kerosene heater and let the fire in the fireplace die down, and went to bed with massive amounts of blankets and sleeping bags, and slept just fine. 

Friday morning, I had set the kitchen timer to wake me up at 6 am, and checked to see if the phone worked. It didn't. So I checked it again at 7 am, and the phone was still dead. I had no idea if the church had power, but since I was in charge of the nativities I had to know. My husband drove to church and found that it had no power. When I heard that, I knew we wouldn't have the nativity event, but I couldn't phone anyone, I had to let them figure it out on their own. Later in the day I found out that Marta had driven to the church later, found out there was no power, and had put up signs on the doors saying the nativity was cancelled. 

It is too bad that the weather ruined our event, because we had articles in the Apex News, The Cary News, and the News and Observer, inviting the public to attend. But I'm glad it was cancelled, because if we had gone ahead with it, no one would have come anyway, people were so busy trying to get the trees out of their yards and figuring out how to survive without power. Most people, (me included) forgot all about it after Friday morning, and just went on with survival. 

We spent all day Friday trying to stay warm and cook food in unfamiliar ways. My husband had to go to work and was gone all day. The kids were bored without any TV or computer. Thankfully, our gas water heater worked great and I took a shower in the frigid bathroom. The roads were fine, so I took my kids to a few stores just for a break. The heater in the van decided to break, so we couldn't even get warm in there. 

There were whole sections of town that had power, so lots of people were out shopping, but as it started to get dark I decided to go home because I didn't want to be in that cold van. 

We had lots of different foods to choose from, but just for fun Friday evening I decided to try out a cooking method I had read about in Civil War books, where the soldiers would wrap bread dough around their ramrods and cook the dough over the fire. We tried it with biscuit dough wrapped on a stick we used for marshmallows, but it kept falling off. So I covered the fireplace shovel with foil and put a thin biscuit on it and held it in the fire to bake. That was a very slow way to get some supper, so when my husband came home he cooked a big pot of hamburger helper on the campstove with the hamburger that was thawing in the freezer. 

I went out to the car Friday 9 pm, and heard on the radio that 292,000 in the Triangle were still without power. It was 26 degrees. I came back in the house, and at 10 minutes after 9, the power came back on. We were so happy! 

I learned a few things in those 45 hours. 1) I was thankful to have a fireplace, firewood, a kerosene heater, and two cans of kerosene. 2) I wish I had a working radio inside the house. 3) I will buy a cell phone charger for the car. My electric charger did me no good. 4) I will buy an inverter, which can power your fridge or other electric appliance or gadget from the car battery. 5) And most important, always keep my husband around to help out in a power outage.

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