Personal, Photography, Stories Told

Scenes from the ice storm

As last week began, the weather forecast called for two ice storms in as many days. It looked like it could be very serious – up to an inch and a half of ice, which would cause trees to fall and power lines to snap. The electric companies warned that if the worst happened, power could be cut for days or even weeks. The governor even went on TV to urge Hoosiers to be prepared.

My home has an electric furnace and an electric well pump, so losing electricity makes my house a whole lot less useful. I’ve lost power for long periods on two other occasions, which wasn’t much fun, but at least it was summertime. I’d rather roast without air conditioning than freeze without heat! Just the same, I set aside a few gallons of drinking water and filled the tub with water I could use to flush the toilet. Then I settled in and waited.

The first wave came through Monday night and Tuesday morning, coating everything in a thin layer of ice. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to bring power lines down.

Ice-covered evergreen

I brought my laptop computer from work so I could work from home, at least as long as I had power. Remembering the great photo opportunities from the last ice storm I experienced, more than 20 years ago, when the freezing rain stopped late Tuesday morning I went outside with my camera.

Ice-covered shrub

The second wave hit Tuesday night. TV meteorologists said that it would start out as sleet and change over to freezing rain, and that the later the changeover the better. Fortunately, it sleeted for hours. I’ve never seen so much sleet. This evening shot over my deck shows how it accumulated. It may look like snow, but when I picked up a handful it felt like fine, cold pellets. Those that didn’t melt in my warm hands ran like sand.

Sleet-covered deck

The freezing rain came as I went to bed. For a couple hours in the middle of the night I kept being awakened as I heard things scraping along my roof. A few trees stand close to the house, and I worried that they were dropping heavy, icy branches. So when I woke up, grateful to find the house still electrified, I dressed and went outside to check for damage.

What I didn’t know was that overnight the temperature rose to about 35 degrees before falling again to below freezing. That caused everything to start to melt and then freeze right back up — including all that sleet on the ground. So I took one step out of my front door and immediately slipped and fell. I landed hard, hitting my head and spraining my wrist. I was fortunate not to need medical attention. I walked around the house and found no downed limbs. I wondered what made those scraping sounds. My roof was covered with ice; could it have shifted? And then I slipped and fell again, but fortunately that time I landed squarely on my butt.

The mayor asked that people travel only if absolutely necessary, so I worked from home yet another day. I went out again later, walking much more carefully, to take more pictures. My yard was frozen so hard that my steps didn’t break through the ice. I tried jumping up and down to break through, but even that didn’t work. Then I realized I was risking landing on my butt again, and stopped.

Shadows over the frozen yard

It was about a half an hour before sunset, so the shadows were long.

Shadows over the frozen yard

I was in such a groove of getting things done that I worked from home again on Thursday, even though reports were that the roads were passable. But by Thursday afternoon, cabin fever was setting in. I went to the office on Friday.

My sons came over Friday evening for the weekend, and then Saturday morning about five inches of snow fell. Finally, a chance for them to help me shovel the driveway! We made short work of it, shoveling down to the underlying ice, which hadn’t gotten any less slippery. All of us, including our dog, had trouble keeping our footing. But with three of us working, we weren’t outside for long.

Dog in the snow

Some of my neighbors were out with spades breaking up the ice on their driveways, but with my wrist still sore I decided that since God put the ice there, he’ll have to take it away. This has been a long and relentless winter, and I’m quite ready to see it go.

You’d think that it would make sense to just head south for the winter. I tried it once, and when I came home, Indiana had its revenge. Read that story.

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Best of DTR: A good icing

I’ve spent most of my spare time recently writing my Michigan Road report. I hope to finish it this weekend and then get back to blogging! Meanwhile, I’ve dusted off and edited one of my earliest posts in honor of this lingering winter.

As much as I don’t enjoy winter, I have to admit that Indianapolis winters usually aren’t that bad. We do get one, maybe two, heavy snows each year. The city can never plow the streets fast enough; more than once, my commute home has turned into a four-hour endurance test. And every winter seems to have a few days cold enough that I need my wool-lined Army-surplus trench coat that has repelled every wind for the 20 years I’ve owned it. I needed that old coat as I cleared a foot of snow off my driveay after this recent storm. Otherwise, during Indy winters the ground is clear and I wear a medium jacket.

During my South Bend kidhood, snow was on the ground from November to April. Oh, the snow forts I built and snowball fights I, well, lost because I can’t throw straight to save my life. But whatever love of snow I might have had died when I was about nine – my dad issued me a shovel and told me to hit the driveway. There were times we shoveled two or three times a day for five days at a stretch. I routinely shoveled in the blowing cold. And how the cold wind could blow in South Bend! I remember walking to and from school in winds so strong and cold that I would sometimes walk for blocks sideways, legs braced, so my back could take the brunt.

Terre Haute’s temperate winters made it seem like a distant foreign land. Snows always melted within a few days, and I could usually run around with an unzipped coat and no hat. But Terre Haute was prone to ice storms, and several hit while I lived there. They always disrupted life by snapping power lines and turning the roads into skating rinks. But the ice storms could sure leave some beauty behind. Everything would be coated in a layer of ice, making ordinary things such as trees and street signs and fences seem fresh and clean – and stiff. I remember driving down I-70 on my way back to college a couple days after an ice storm. The trees lining the road seemed like ghosts as their white-tipped branches hung low and still.

After an ice storm in about 1990, I chipped a half inch of ice off my car with considerable effort and drove the slippery roads to work with considerable care. I wished I had time to snap photos of some of the storm’s work. When I got to the office, I found the building dark and cold. My co-workers huddled in the breakroom drinking gas-station coffee. The power company didn’t know when power would be restored, and even then it would take hours for our computer servers to boot. I didn’t fancy shivering in the dark breakroom all day, so I drove back home, found my camera, and walked a block to Collett Park to take some photos. My photography skills were, charitably, weak, but some of the photos turned out all right.

I came upon this young oak near the horseshoe club’s pit. The tree must not have been too strong, given that it was propped up like that. But its leaves were awfully tenacious, still clinging to the tree well into winter. Even the ice storm’s strong winds couldn’t break these leaves free. Instead, the ice conformed itself to the leaves.

collett-park-young-oak.jpg

The mature trees, having long ago lost their leaves, glowed in a quarter-inch coating of ice.

collett-park-tree.jpg

The ice weighed the branches down, making them hang low.

Branches heavy with ice

The nets on the tennis court glistened, frozen stiff.

collett-park-tennis-net.jpg

I would have thought an ice-covered slide would be lightning slick, but I thought twice about trying it when I saw ice clumped up down the middle, ready to assault my sensitive parts.

A very slippery slide

This fence looked like a Photoshop “unsharp mask” effect had been applied to it in real life – except that nobody had really heard of Photoshop yet.

Chain link fence at Collett Park

The storm also left ice appearing to drip off the clothesline and power lines in my back yard.

Ice along a clothes line
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A good icing

Indianapolis winters have been mild as long as I’ve lived here. I can count only a handful of bad snows, which always bring grief as the city can’t plow the streets fast enough. More than once this has made my driving home across town from work a four-hour endurance test. We just went through a pretty big snowstorm — I measured a foot of snow in my driveway, the most I’ve seen in years. A few days every winter it gets cold enough that I need my wool-lined Army-surplus trench coat that has repelled every wind for the 20 years I’ve owned it. I needed that old coat during this recent snow. Otherwise, during Indy winters the ground is clear and I wear a medium jacket.

Growing up in South Bend, snow was on the ground from November through April. It seemed like there was always enough snow for forts or snowball fights. But I had no love for snow since, as soon as I was old enough to hoist it, I was issued a shovel and told to hit the driveway. There were times we shoveled 2 or 3 times a day for five days at a stretch. The cold was always a real worry, too. Mom wasn’t being overprotective when she ordered hats, gloves, hoods, and scarves. I remember walking to and from school in winds so strong and cold that I would sometimes walk for blocks sideways, legs braced, so my back could take the brunt.

Terre Haute seemed like a distant foreign land when I experienced its comparatively temperate winters. Snows always melted within a few days, and I could run around with an unzipped coat and no hat. Unlike either Indianapolis or South Bend, however, Terre Haute got several ice storms while I lived there. They always made the roads treacherous and some of them disrupted life by snapping power lines. But if you had power and didn’t have to go anywhere, you could go outside and take in the beauty the storms left behind. Everything was coated in a layer of ice, which made ordinary things such as trees and street signs and fences seem fresh and clean — and stiff. I remember driving down I-70 on my way back to college a couple days after an ice storm. The trees lining the road seemed like ghosts as their white-tipped branches hung low and still.

After an ice storm in about 1990, I chipped a half-inch of ice off my car with considerable effort and drove the slippery roads to work with considerable care. I wished I had time to snap photos of some of the storm’s work, which was especially lovely. When I got there, I found the building dark and cold, and my co-workers sitting around in the breakroom drinking gas-station coffee. The power company didn’t know when power would be restored. I knew that even after power returned it would take hours for the computer servers I depended on to boot. I decided I didn’t want to sit around in the cold and dark breakroom waiting, so I drove back home, found my camera, and walked a block to Collett Park to take these photos. My photography skills were, charitably, weak, but I think these photos turned out all right.

I came upon this young oak near the horseshoe club’s pit. The tree must not have been too strong, given that it was propped up like that. But its leaves were awfully tenacious, still clinging to the tree well into winter. Even the ice storm’s strong winds couldn’t break these leaves free. Instead, the ice conformed itself to the leaves.

collett-park-young-oak.jpg

The mature trees, having long ago lost their leaves, glowed in a quarter-inch coating of ice.

collett-park-tree.jpg

The ice weighed the branches down, making them hang low.

Branches heavy with ice

The nets on the tennis court glistened, frozen stiff.

collett-park-tennis-net.jpg

I was tempted to try this slide, but I wasn’t so adventurous in my youth.

A very slippery slide

This fence looked like a Photoshop “unsharp mask” effect had been applied to it in real life — except that nobody had really heard of Photoshop yet.

Chain link fence at Collett Park

The storm also left ice appearing to drip off the clothesline and power lines in my back yard.

Ice along a clothes line

I took these photos with a Kodak VR35 K40 that was my main camera then. It was a so-so point-and-shoot.

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