ICE STORM JOURNAL - January 8 - 17, 1998
By Barbara Karl
Jan. 8, 1998 Thursday Day # 1
On Wednesday Jan. 7th, the weatherman had said to be prepared for an ice storm of severity
Up at 5 AM, had coffee, walked out on basement deck to greet the day and heard the cracking and crashing of trees and branches falling, encrusted with ice. It's a frightening sound. I started to get our emergency supplies ready. Pulled out the generator and the direction book, realizing we had not reviewed any of the operation directions for the generator since we bought it over a year ago. Frank and I reviewed the generator instructions and it started in spite of the fact that we had neglected it all year. The generator is wired to the water pump, oil furnace, refrigerator, some lights and outlets on the second floor. Within moments the power was gone. Little did we know how severe and devastating this would become. Trees, branches, power lines and poles continued to fall for up to three days. Later in the AM, I called Laura (Williams) and we arranged for her to spend the night with us and that we would pick her up by 4 PM (daylight) because it was so slippery on the ground. The rain came down and froze as it hit surfaces, though the temperatures remained at 30 F.
Power came back on around 7:30 PM and we were celebrating, knowing full well that it was a stroke of luck and not expecting it to last long. Short lived glory. The power went out an hour later with pops and flashing lights and smoke coming from my new tape-cassette player! How foolish that we hadn't thought to unplug that and other appliances, and even the main circuit breakers. I guess we always keep hope alive. Oh well, another lesson learned, I hope. The electrical surge went right through the surge protector and burned it out, as well as our first floor GFI outlets. Oh boy! Stark reality was setting in. All seemed so rosy and well prepared for before that. We could function just fine, so I thought.
We ran the generator two to three hours each time and about four times a day. This schedule pretty well maintained 24 hours operation on 5 gallons of gas. Frank was able to fill our gas containers by driving to Riverview gas station where only emergency quantities could be had together with $10.00 worth for the truck. Route 3 was barely passable for one vehicle, trees and power lines hanging down or threatening to fall at any moment. Tractor trailers were plowing through the low hanging power lines and snapping them. Stores were running out of essential items; batteries, fuel, bottled water, food, Coleman fuel, and lamp oil. Gas stations were unable to pump unless they had auxiliary generators. Lines for gas stretched for blocks, in Saranac Lake, for those few stations that could pump. These stations soon ran out within the first few days before supplies could get through on the highways. Water soon became a priority because pumps wouldn't work without electricity. People had to haul water for themselves as well as for their animals and livestock. A number of rural people have many animals needing care. With the generator, we can pump and run water, keep warm and take showers. We are so fortunate. We are in contact with our kids frequently, as long as the phone operates. We did lose phone service for two nights, but it would come on again in mid morning. A generator was being used to run our sub station in Onchiota.
So the first day passed.
Jan 9, 1998 Friday Day # 2
It was around 4 AM that Frank informed me that the circulator wasn't running. He had stoked the fire and we both tried to go back to sleep for awhile as we were warm enough and knew Laura was because she had the warmest room in the house. Got up at 5:30 AM and turned the generator on. All day Friday, we basically ran the generator, hot wired the circulator and maintained, filled the wood rack, and stoked the fire. It's good to have Laura here. We are good company for each other. We gave out a minimal amount of items from our own supplies, jugs of water, candles, mantels and Coleman fuel and were grateful that we had it to give. Went to bed pretty early both nights. We've been comfortable.
To get back to the actual situation - in the oldest person's memory an ice storm of this magnitude had never occurred here. To look outside, it is unbelievable. It looks like a war zone, broken, scarred trees. So much that one cannot get through areas. When I look into The Woods I see the gaping wounds on the trees and it makes me sad, like Mother Earth is wounded and bleeding. In walking outside, the smell of pine sap permeates the air from broken trees. I do feel initial sadness, but Bobbie, my daughter, said to me and as I truly know, Mother Earth is cleansing herself. We have abused her so much.
The appearance of The Woods surrounding us is an ever changing, surreal phenomenon, at times gray and eerie, the popping and crashing of trees, the tinkling of the icy branches as they fall, white birches of 8 to 12 inch trunk diameters, bent to the ground, weighted down with inch thick sparkling ice. Then another time we look out and the sun is sparkling through the crystalline forest and it is a spectacular sight of beauty. Then again, it will darken, the wind will pick up and it looks so ominous. There has been some thunder and lightening. The awesome power of nature.
A funny sight to see, if any of this can be considered funny, is to watch those red squirrels scurry across the ice encrusted snow, when their tree top habitat crashes to the ground. Our forest and woods will never look the same.
This evening around 9 PM the road into Loon Lake and Inman was finally cut through and cleared to let one vehicle pass. Don Vorrath and Chris Rock worked from dawn till 9 PM to clear it, as well as others working from the other direction. Many people, some elderly and in poor health are isolated without phones. Families from out of town have been calling with concerns. Most of the people are OK, managing for themselves and taking care of neighbors and friends. Volunteers have come and offered to help. Guys would just show up with chain saws and ask where they could be of help.
Jan. 10, 1998 Saturday Day # 3
We were up at 5:30 AM starting the generator. Don came over at 6 AM to wire switches on the transformer of the circulator so we could operate the zones manually. Don came at that early hour because he was working with the Highway Dept. from dawn till dark every day and some days past dark. That was a terrific help. We all then had a nice special Wolferman's English Muffin breakfast, Don, Frank, Laura and I. Laura brought the English muffins with her, from her freezer, which had been a gift from her daughter. We had to grill them and found out they taste wonderful done that way. Another casualty of the power surge was my oven electrical panel. After it brightened up outside around 10 AM, Laura and I went over to her house to start up the wood stove, shut off the main breaker and clean out the refrigerator and freezer. I left her there to tend the fire and came back over to unload and rearrange my freezer to handle her stuff. Surprisingly, everything fit. As Laura and I were returning home we met Millie Vorrath whose car was blocked in with downed trees, branches and power lines down in close proximity. Millie borrowed Laura's car to go to town for emergency supplies for a few people. Laura and I snapped a lot of pictures and had lunch, as we were famished. Son Mike called and will be up tomorrow with the new truck we had ordered and more supplies.
It is 10 PM, am just warming up the house before shutting the generator off for the night. I am so grateful for having planned ahead, as much as we could have. There is really no way we could be completely prepared for a storm and devastation of this magnitude.
Jan.11, 1998 Sunday Day # 4 of the "BLACKOUT of 98"
Started with the same routine- get up, start the generator, warm it up, turn on the AC current, and turn on the circulator switches. It was cooler this AM and I snuggled in for a little longer. Last night was a spectacular moonlit night. I moved my car to the end of the driveway. The wind had picked up and the trees across the parking lot were weaving back and forth and I was a little concerned about those ice laden heavy tree tops, toppling on to my car.
Jan. 12 & 13, 1998 Monday and Tuesday Days # 5 & 6
We have ourselves in sort of a daily routine, if that is what we would call it. Tuesday night is bitter cold with a big wind chill. It was minus six at 6 AM. The temperature in the upstairs bathroom was 36 F, the coldest I ever noted. I blew the bathroom breaker as I had the coffee pot and bathroom heater running at the same time. I reset the breaker, shut off heater and left coffeepot on. There are priorities. Most nights Frank runs the generator at some time mid way through the night. I get up at 6 AM and fill generator with gas if needed, check the oil, stoke the wood stove and burn it hot for awhile to clear the chimney of creosote buildup. Jerry Harwood has been helping Laura with draining her second floor water pipes. The phone kept ringing and it was important to be available to direct messages and to answer questions or give out information. Frank was usually on the road, helping with the road crew, or checking on remote locations and bringing needed supplies, such as drinking water, gas, etc. He didn't open the Town Hall office till mid week, until after the power was restored.
For the first few days people were allowed on the roads only for emergencies and to obtain needed supplies. It was to assure the efficient and safe restoration of power and not to interfere with the people working on those crews. On Routes 3 and 30, though cleared, the devastation was immense. The ice has remained and the trees and bushes still sparkle in the reflected sun. An artist's dream and a homeowners' nightmare. Our first mail delivery was Tuesday, the 13th. Celebration! And the paper too.
Jan. 14 & 15, 1998 Wednesday and Thursday Days # 7 & 8
Today, up at 5.45 AM and did the usual generator routine, which is running rough. Frank has been doing the middle of the night shift with the generator and heat. Wednesday afternoon, most of Onchiota was returned to power, but not us. Wednesday is a gorgeous, sunny, sparkling day and today, Thursday clouds all day with storm warnings. The snow started hours before predicted and by bedtime we had about ten inches. Frank plowed with our new plow on his way home around 6:30 PM. Back to the life in the "war zone". People have been lending their generators to others as their power came back on. How wonderful. Loon Lake and the other outlying areas... Union Falls, Franklin Falls, Rock Street and Alder Brook are still in blackness. Some have phones, others nothing.
Thousands of workers are here from all over the country, power and tree crews from NJ, PA, NC, FA, LA. Poles are being transported from WA and OR by the thousands. A truck can carry five main transformer poles and twenty regular poles. Hundreds of miles of cable is coming from PA.
Jan. 16, 1998 Friday Day # 9
I got up at 5:20 AM, did the generator thing and it is running smoothly. Thank you God! We really don't know how much longer we will be without power. The snow is deep and still coming down, close to a foot, temperature 10 F. "Another Day in Paradise"! I just can't deny the stark beauty out there, at the same time feeling such worry and concern for those who are struggling just to stay warm and save their homes. I can only think the deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning will increase as blackout continues and homes become more at risk to freeze up. I can certainly understand why people refuse to leave... but at the same time they may be risking their lives.
It is 6:30 PM, another day over and still in the dark. We received around a foot of snow. Temperatures moderated some today, around mid 20's. It made it easier to keep the house warm.
Jan. 17, 1998 Saturday Day # 10
Generator on at 5:30 AM and outside temperature is 10 F. indoors around 60 F. The generator seems to be running better. Voila! Nimo promised power today, we shall see. Today is Janet Goff's baby shower. The phone is ringing a lot It is 3:30 PM. The power is on!!!. Wonderful. The work is just beginning.
Town of Franklin
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