The Ice Storm Cometh

December 23rd, 2013 by Eric

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This was all supposed to leave by 9am Sunday…it continues to add ice as of now at 10am Monday, and they say it may not clear out until tonight…or later…

Our power went out yesterday around 3pm but came back on at 7pm…it’s now begun to flicker again, and if it goes out it could stay out for a while given how wide the iced area seems to be. We will have light and heat without grid power but we have stored as much water as possible in buckets and jars…the cows drink about 30 gallons a day…

Day 2
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We are warm and well fed. Our cows still have half their water left. We have light at night. 100,000 other Maine homes are without power today, and we hope they are just as well off. We know it’s just a matter of waiting for the power crews — who will undoubtedly be working through their Christmas — to reconnect us. In 1998 that was 11 days, but so far it does not look AS bad outside. The difference is that after the ice storm then, in late Feb, we got warmer weather that allowed the trees to shed ice right away. Now as the blue sky FINALLY reappears, we are going into the deep freeze with an inch of ice coating the trees. How and when they shed that ice is unknown, and how many more limbs and trees collapse before then (on repaired power lines no doubt) is a concern moving forward.

Friends in Belfast have offered showers if necessary (they also got hit, but with less ice), and Alison’s studio will offer power, heat, and ‘Net. We’ll be fine, if only a bit inconvenienced until things turn on. I’ll keep th’Site updated when I can.

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Day 3 — Christmas Day
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After a brittle brutal night of below zero temps and a steady wind tinkling the remaining branches, the sun appeared at dawn. Crazy, right? We haven’t seen the sun in about a week, though, so this is a change. Now that the temp has dipped severely I’ve had to drain the pipes in the barn because there’s no way to easily heat the tiny space where the pipes enter the barn below grade. I woke up at 4am thinking of this, and calculating the cost (and likely the wait) for fixing burst pipes and decided it was worth getting up to drain the pipes. It helps that we went to bed around 9pm…Alison got up as well to build and light a fire so after I finished working in the barn we enjoyed a big mug of Kashgar tea in front of a roaring fire in our masonry heater while we listened to the BBC World Service broadcast on our wind-up radio. Then the sun appeared over a glittering horizon.

On the local news breaks we heard that now “only” 70,000 homes in Maine are without power this morning, but the two power grid companies have pushed back the estimated date for getting power restored everywhere another couple of days. I imagine the crews working nonstop since Saturday might want a break for a nice Christmas gathering, and they should get that at least. Last night I tacked up a 12V DC LED light in the kitchen to supplement the solar powered lights we regularly use in the living room. Small victories!

Aside from worrying about water, we have been toasty warm and well fed. Yesterday I also defrosted a leg of lamb and then marinaded it overnight in a fragrant mix from the new Ottolenghi cookbook called “Jerusalem” which we are roasting right now in the masonry heater oven and plan to enjoy with fresh baked pita bread and Turkish carrots with yoghurt sauce. AND some special wine.

I was very excited to see the sun because we would be able to gain back some food the battery power we’ve been using…but of course the panels are covered in ice, fans Alison will not hear of me climbing on the icy roof to try to clear them…win some, lose some. Overall we’re fine, and thankful on this beautiful Christmas morning.

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Day 4

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Improvised DC kitchen lighting.

A beep in my office woke me up just after midnight. I looked up to see my office light was on, and the clock radio blinking. “The power is back.” I said to Alison before I got up to turn off the office light, the hall light, the kitchen lights, and the colorful LED lights that always turn on after an outage.

After going back to bed, I spent a satisfying morning (hot water to wash my face!) cycling up various electronics (WiFi router but still no Internet; TiVo works; remove quilts from chest freezers) while the dish washer ran.

It’s interesting to note that the items of change for us with the power out were hauling water in buckets and carboys and conserving that water (limited personal washing, limited flushing), and limited lighting everywhere but the living room. Obviously we use SO MUCH water in everyday life and until you lift and move every ounce of that you don’t realize the miracle of modern plumbing. We never even had to contemplate washing clothes…

And you don’t realize how controlled we are by light until you live with dim lighting for a while — especially around the winter solstice — and begin to go to bed earlier and earlier.

So, what to change before the next ice storm? More solar powered lights are the cheapest and easiest: a set in the kitchen, and a set in the bedroom. Linking the water pump to the solar batteries is a much more expensive proposition (our water pump is 240V, and it would require a larger set of batteries and more panels to charge them…) but if you gave me a choice –E especially at age 49 and beyond — of improving only one system, it would have to be water, even without the cow demand. Water is *heavy*, man, and the best water comes deep out of the ground.

Next Christmas ask me what Santa got us…

3 Responses to “The Ice Storm Cometh”

  1. bookmarc Says:

    Pictures are beautiful, but I’m glad I’m here in Reno sunshine.
    Is ice on top of the snow that you can walk on like the time in our New Hampshire time-share?

  2. Eric Says:

    Yes, ‘wicked’ crusty out there with the inch or so of ice settling on top of the 1+ foot of snow we got a week ago. When you’re out in the open you can walk on top, but as soon as you head in the woods (or even cross under a tree) you break through the thinner surface when most of the ice settled on the branches and not on the snow.

  3. Doc B Says:

    Would it be cheaper/more feasible to swap out yer 240V water pump for a 120V one? Perhaps even sell the 240V one to recuperate some of the cost?

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