Dysmey Post Archive > Pages for 2005 > Ice Storm 2005 Edition

Ice Storm 2005 Edition

Indiana has been hit very, very hard by an ice storm. It began the morning of the fifth and raged for two days. It knocked out power early on in the storm and lasted for three days. My computer was down all that time, so I wrote down the following entries.

6 January 2005

Indiana has been hit very hard by an ice storm that raged from yesterday afternoon to just after dawn.

It has bad enough when you look out the window of the Bracken Library to see the trees take on a glazed crystalline look as the supercold rain freezes on their branches on contract. I had to avoid Wheeling Pike and take the interstate to and from work.

It got worse in the evening when the electricity went out. The folks and I had to fall back on kerosene lantern and candles. We have a small generator, but that was used to run the sump pump to keep the basement from flooding.

I have a wooden votive candle holder I bought when I was a teenager. It was made to appeal to the hippie market and looks like something that would fit in the decor of Bag End. It never got much use until a couple of years ago, when I dug it out of storage. Now it lights my room in the evening.

Anyway, I woke up to a hissing noise. I realized the noise was coming from my clock-radio. There is a nine-volt battery in the radio, which I thought only kept the clock's settings. But I found it runs the radio as well. What a surprise!

Indiana Public Radio (an NPR network based in Muncie) and WLBC-FM (an old radio station that now plays mostly crufty music) were off the air. I had to hunt for radio stations until I found a local country-music station WCJC-FM. From that I learned there was no power through most of central Indiana; that Delaware County was under a state of emergency; and that Ball State was closed. Obviously I don't need to report to work.

There is a distinct lack of radio stations of interest to me. Even the nearing working NPR station, WFYI-FM in Indianapolis, is broadcasting hours of Senate hearings to confirm some myopic idiot for Attorney-General.

I heard ice and falling branches through the night. When I woke up I found everything glazed with ice. There were fallen branches everywhere. One branch nailed the television cable.

I got dressed, ate breakfast and took a walk. I saw the same thing throughout town: Stores and the two banks closed due to the lack of power — even the post office was closed. The phone company was open, but only because its crews were out restoring downed lines. The creek was five feet away from flooding.

Vickie lucked out with only one branch lost from a pine tree. I found Tina outside cleaning out the chimney of her wood-burning stove. As for ourselves, the three trees in the back and side yards shed ice-laden branches through the day. Although the cable TV line is down, we still have phone service. The electric line is safe (none of the branches near that are heavy), so we will get power when it ever returns.


The juice is still out and it promises to be very cold tonight. The weekend is supposed to be a lot warmer.

Madre gave me an oil lamp. I had to fish out the wick from the reservoir. The light it puts out is greater than from the candle, so I can write in it.

The yards around here are littered with branches, which continue to fall from the trees. Out in the country utility poles have snapped from the ice both on themselves and on the wires they carry. The local electric company (AEP) has been working hard to restore power. There is no word yet on when juice will be restored in this area.

The loss of power and ice-laden transmission towers have forced the silence of IPR and WLBC in Muncie. This is difficult for me, as IPR is my main source of news short of the Internet. With both missing, I have to rely on local stations (esp. WCJC-FM) to find out whether Ball State is open.

7 January 2005

Tina had to drive Erin to Indianapolis to see Erin on her way back to college. Tina then stayed in a hotel overnight. I volunteered to stay at Tina's to stoke the fire in the wood stove and keep the cats company.

I managed to keep the fire going through the evening until after I went to sleep on the futon bed near the stove. Naturally the fire went out, although I tried to restart it at three o'clock in the morning.

The first thing I did when I woke up was to throw on my coat and walk back to the folks' to wash up, test my blood sugar and eat. Then I came back to Tina's, restarted the fire, and waited for Tina to return at about noon.

The power is still out, although there is word that Fairmount will be one of the first areas to get its juice restored. When that will be is still up in the air, given that many power lines and utility poles are down.

Power is also largely down in Muncie. IPR is broadcasting again, but direct from its own transmission tower southwest of Muncie because Ball State (where IPR's studios are) still has no power. Its broadcasts are limited to classical music, local news and the NPR feed from WFYI-FM.

The bedroom is very cool at 10°C. The rooms downstairs are heated from the kitchen stove. Padre got some people to wire up the furnace to the generator in the garage, so that we can heat the house. The room is becoming bearable.

The forced closure of Ball State by the ice storm and the resultant blackout makes this the third week that I've worked three days. It is not as if I'd lost the days, though: The six days I lost will simply be made up later.

I have gone for two days without the use of my computer and television set. The TV I don't miss too much. I have lots of books to read. The computer is harder to miss, though. I don't get much e-mail, but the accumulation of three days will be interesting to see.

I've already got a library search application to work with PHP/YAZ. Now I want to set up something that works for mobile devices.


8 January 2005

It is Saturday morning and there's still no power, here or most anywhere else. IPR still broadcasts direct from its tower and uses a signal feed from WFYI-FM.

I unplugged everything in my room, and the fridge outside, to help lessen the load on the electrical grid when it comes back up.

At first I left the switch to the ceiling lamp on so that I would know right away when the juice back on. Later in the evening I decided it was too much and plugged the bedside lamp back in.

At 10:15am BSU got its power back, and IPR is broadcasting again from its studios on campus. I assume that means I will be going back to work on Monday.

No power, of course, means no clothes washing. I had hoped that the local laundromat was forward-thinking enough to run a generator and open its business, so I walked over there to check. No such luck: The place was closed. Now I will have to drive to Gas City to buy some clean clothes.

The postal service has been closed since Wednesday, but restarted delivering mail today. We got our mail this afternoon, but all I got was junk mail.

I drove to Gas City and bought some clothes at K-Mart. Unlike the rest of Grant County, Gas City has its own electrical utility, which is remarkably efficient. No more than a fifth of its citizens were without power at any one time, and their power is restored quickly. Gas City was running while the rest of us were in the dark. Not that I'm complaining: As long as it has power, I have somewhere to get food (Lance's), clothes (K-Mart), and banking services (MFSB).


Another evening writing by an oil lamp. I hear that other towns have their power restored, but not Fairmount.

9 January 2005

At one hour before midnight the power has been restored. Everything is plugged back in, and the generator has been turned off.

However, the ceiling fan in the family room circulated what exhaust had leaked from the garage into the house. The exhaust in turn set off the carbon-monoxide (CO) alarm. Padre went to the fire department to report this. Some firefighters came with CO detectors. They found there was CO in the house, ranging from heavy in the garage and back porch to moderate in the living room.

In hindsight, that is what happens when you run an internal-combustion engine in an enclosed space. That generator should have been put outside with a tarp over it to protect it from the rain and snow. I knew something was amiss when my head was throbbing that afternoon, so I opened a window in my room to let the indoor air out.

Anyhow, just as the firefighter were summoning paramedics to test our blood oxygen, they saw smoke coming out of the redbrick cottage across the street next door to the Museum. Soon a half-dozen fire trucks were on the scene as thick smoke poured from the chimney, the roof and the back of the house.

The tenants — a family of three — managed to escape without injury, but they lost their cat and all their stuff. The firefighters had to rip up the tin roof to snuff out the fire in the attic, and the back end is trashed. But the house itself is intact. There is no doubt that it will be rebuilt, since (as the historic office of Dr. Patterson) it is part of the Museum.

Nobody knows how the fire started, but the cottage is very old, its wiring was substandard, and the fire did occur shortly after the power came back on.


The air has warmed up (3-5°C), and the ice is dropping from the branches and wires. It will be even warmer tomorrow. Soon the ice will be gone. There will be flooding — there was an usually heavy amount of rain — so I will have to take higher roads out of the county. I cleaned up the bigger of the branches on the back and side yards, piling them up behind the shed or next to Washington Street.

The power is back up in Fairmount. It will be a couple of days before businesses are running normally again. Ball State has its power back, so I will be going to work tomorrow.

Although there is power, there is no cable television because that cable is down. Madre called in the damage, but I don't know when the cable company will come to fix it. There is another problem with the cable TV: The company is in Blackford County, which was hit more badly than Fairmount.

Given the severity of the storm and its effects, we fared well. We were relatively well prepared. We were near a town with power, so supplies and services were not a problem. The house didn't get smashed by large branches. We only lost cable TV, unimportant in the overall scheme of things. And we were lucky to not get knocked over by the generator's exhaust.

When an ice storm and its resultant blackout occurs, please remember:

Copyright © 2005 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Written on 9 January 2005.