Ice Storm 2003

Ice Storm 2003 NY, USA Lessons Learned
April 03, Thursday, 2003 News radio people were talking about freezing rain coming. ** Lesson: When the radio people talk about weather, go immediately to buy groceries and gas up the vehicle. And the gas cans. Better than that is to keep groceries at home, and couple gallons gas in the shed.
April 04, Friday, 2003 Freezing rain. Went out in the morning, and had to scrape the ice off my truck. I have power.
Called my parents. Their power had gone out about 2 AM last night. Dad had put his big flash light on the kitchen table, and pointed it towards the ceiling for light. He also went to the cellar to wire the generator into the furnace. Dad got the generator out, and had it running for a moment or two. And then the motor jammed, and the pull cord won't pull. He decided about 6 PM that it was cold enough to need a fire in the fireplace, and about that moment the power came back on. ** Lesson: Run the generator every year, even if you're sure it works fine.
Got a call from Jason, a bachelor friend of mine who doesn't drive. His power is out. But the natural gas was OK. He was low on groceries, so we planned to go for lunch and shopping. ** Lesson: Keep groceries in the house. Shop before you run out.
I called a bunch of people from church, and other friends. Several people were without power, but they were all "doing OK". Radio news guys say about 50,000 people without power.
** Lesson: Call a few people and get the word out. But don't spend all day on the telephone trying to be nice to people. You're wasting your time.
I made several telephone calls. The diner Jason and I usually go to was without power, and I did manage to find a grocery store which had power. And an eat in cafe. ** Lesson: In storms, call to see if the restaurant and stores are open.
I loaded bags of salt and gravel into the back of my truck, figured that would be the major need. I took out my heating and AC tools. I drove to his place to take him to the store. The trip took about twice as long as usual, the traffic is running very slow. Many traffic lights were out. But regardless of anything else, the State Thruway had power, and was still collecting tolls. Hmm. ** Lesson: Travel takes twice as long in storms. And the State still wants their highway tolls.
The walk in and out from the parking lot was slow, the parking lot was very slippery. And we got freezing rained on. But it was nice to get him home with groceries. We got food that would cook on a gas range, the microwave won't work without power. He also bought four submarine sandwiches, which was a great idea. "no cook" food.
We got back to Jason's house, his dad suggested that he go to the firehall, they have power there, and Jason could be safe and all. I went home, expecting to find my power on. By this time, I was cold and tired from braving the weather, and I was tired.
I headed home, very slowly. Got home, and as I was coming into the trailer park, it sure did look darker than usual. I mean, totally dark. Arrived home 7 PM to find that the power had gone out at 5:53. ** Lesson: Just because you have power NOW doesn't mean you will have power LATER. Keep a written list when you make phonecalls to check on people. Leave lots of space next to or between their names on the list for updates Things change, and you will want to change your notes.
My neighbor Al was standing out by the street, watching everything. He had a 2D Eveready flash light which was growing very dim. I offered him a couple batteries, but he didn't want them. Al caught me up to date on the neighborhood news. There was a branch down behind our trailers, and we went out to look. The branch was balanced on the power wires. I realize that Al is the "Neighborhood Watchman" and is trying to stay up to date on who has power, and so on. ** Lesson: Most neighborhoods have a Watchman who wants to know everyone's business. This surprised me, I thought Ernie was our watchman, but he stayed indoors and out of sight most of the time.
Across the street, Kenny and his wife are doing OK with a couple burners on the stove. Kenny wishes he still had his kerosene heater. I pondered the question, but the Spirit said it didn't matter if I offered to loan him one of mine. I have two.
Ursula, elderly and frail, was very cold. She was worried about monoxide from the burners on the stove, but more worried about it being cold.
Ernie, on the other side of me, had a coleman lantern, and was doing fairly well.
Skip, the truck driver, wasn't home at the moment.
I went home to work the phone. Everyone seems to be OK. One gal I talked to, Sharleen, started a sentence "if it gets too cold" and I expected she'd say "you can come over here". But to my disappointement, she just reminded me that we had a couple church meetings tomorrow, and I could go to the church to warm up. Dan's house is covered in ice, and so he's out in the garage assembling the generator they bought in March 1999. Needs something to do. ** Lesson: Not everyone out there welcomes you, and wants to invite you over. Remember who invites you over, they are your friends. Remember who calls YOU, because they are your friends.
More telephone calls. I reminded a lot of people "have generator will travel" but no one was interested. ** Lesson: Don't waste a lot of time on the phone offering to give your services away.
I lit my kerosene heater, and went to bed. I listned at the back door for a few minutes. The darkness combined with the sound of branches cracking and popping around the neighborhood. It was spooky. ** Lesson: No matter how comfortable you are, Mother Nature is still very powerful.
Saturday April 05, 2003 Woke up to the sound of branches popping. I looked out the door, and realize that a lot of the noise was pieces of ice falling off the trees. It was 60F in my bedroom. Not bad, at all. I use my setback thermostat to run it down to 64 at night, so I'm used to that. Got up, and pour the bath tub full of warm water, and warm up that way. Natural gas water heater is wonderful. Breakfast. Still have milk and some ice cubes. ** Lesson: Ice cubes and refrigeration are wondeful. In the winter you can put your milk out on the back step.
Radio says 67K people without power. Someone found a creative way to warm the house. He hooked a garden hose to his laundry sink, and snaked the hose around the floor of his house. Ran hot water through the hose, and into the bath tub. The hot water hose helped warm the house. Very clever. Must remember that.
I had breakfast, and decided to try to find something useful to do. At about 7:30 AM, the tree guys came down the street. Saw up branches fallen, and feed them into the chipper behind the truck. One of my neighbors had a branch fall through the back window of the son's car. I had no damage to my trailer or vehicles.
I talked to Skip today. He had a battery radio, but no batteries. He also has a gas range, but no pots or pans. I went home, and got him a pan out of my camping kit, and some batteries for his radio.
I mentioned gasoline to Skip, and he told me which gas stations had power today. The van was low on gas, so I threw two gascans in the back and took them along. I found that if a gas station had no line of cars at the pump, they had no power. Any working gas station had long lines of cars. I got in line. At 1.73, I was able to fill the two gas cans, and then put some in the tank before the pump shut me down at $50. But it sure is nice to have some gasoline. But fifty bucks! Wow!
I made a few more calls. Paul had borrowed a Honda generator from his brother, to run the sump pump and the furnace. His brother was out of town, they were watching his brother's house. The generator refused to start. Went there, to help out.
It started with a shot of ether, on the air filter. So it would draw ether vapors into the air intake. He insisted to put new gasoline in. We drained the old gas, and he said it was OK to pur into the gas tank of my truck. He sent his son with the truck, to buy more gas. His son came back ages later. As he says "there was a long line of cars." The generator ran fine on old gasloine, and runs fine on new gasoline. No surprise. Can't kill a Honda. It was very quiet, too.
** Lesson: Stock several cans of ether starting spray at home. You may need it.
I learn that the reason he was pursuing a generator is because the cellar had flooded without a sump pump. About two inches water. They were able to move some of the water by buckets, but that was a very slow process. Another friend had a 12 volt sump pump which wasn't doing much good. The fire department came down the street at that moment. They let us plug into their generator for a few moments to run the sump. Finally, we did get the sump wired into the generator, and that helped a lot. They also have a Bissel carpet cleaner which we used to extract much of the water out of the cellar carpet. The carpet is a total loss, no surprise.
While in the dark cellar, I blew the bulb on my 2AA minimag. Had to find my way out of the cellar, and up to the truck to get another bulb. I've been considering the Opalec conversion, to make my mini mag work on LED light bulbs. What I really needed was a strap on head lamp. So I could work and have both hands available.
I also wired a plug into the furnace wiring, and they can now run the furnace on the generator. ** Lesson: Even if the home owner has tools, go get your own tool box. Sure is faster if you know what tools you have, and all the wirenuts and parts.
About this time, some friends came over. They had half a house with power, and the furnace is on the dead side. I went to go exchange a couple breakers, and put the furnace onto the powered leg. Help warm the house.
We did get a dinner invite with one of his sons, whose family has power. That was much appreciated.
I came home and tried to see by the light of a fluorescent lantern that takes 6 D cells. I learn that cheapie carbon batteries are near to useless, the only last a couple hours. Resolved to buy only alkaline batteries in the future.
Sunday April 06, 2003 Decided to go to the city to attend church. One of the buildings had power. Many traffic lights are without power. People are mostly courteous, and treating them all as four way stops (as the law requires). Stopped at my parents to use the computer and wash laundry. I made a couple phone calls, and it turns out my lunch invite had been delayed. The Spirit said to visit a couple friends. I did, and found them cold in the house, it was 40F indoors.
Radio says that up to 145,000 people are without power. Three or four counties have been declared "state of emergency, no unnecessary travel".
Went to my dinner invite, which was wonderful. And then went home to get my generator. And no big surprise, my generator wouldn't start. I'd bought it in early 1999, and had run it, and then put it in the box and had not run it since then. I gave it a shot of ether. It started for a second or two. Several shots of ether later, the carb diaphram shook loose, and started to deliver gas.
Went to Scott's and wired the generator into his furnace. About an hour's run time, and the house came up from 40F to 69F, which was major improvement.
I got home about 11 PM to find my own house about 47. I lit the kerosene, and it was about 52 in my bedroom by the time I went to bed. I tried to heat the house by running the shower on full hot with the bathroom door open. Set off the smoke detector, and had to take the battery out for about an hour. It is a 2001 dated battery, I've got to change that some day. 52F is a bit too cold for me.
Monday April 07, 2003 Woke to find it very cold in the trailer. I decided if I could run the generator for others, I could run it for myself, too. I got my box of electrical tools, and wired the furnace. I put the generator out on the porch, and chained it to the railing. An hour of generator allowed me to check my email, and warm the house.
I went to ask the neighbors if they would like me to wire into their funaces, and warm them up. Al had a kerosene heater, and said his trailer was warm from end to end. I notice though that he didn't at any point ask if I would I like to come in and get warm. Ursula said no. She doesn't sound like she has much confidence in my abilities. Ernie said he had a generator coming from the firehall, and he was OK. He was going to run a portable space heater off the geneator. Heat part of one room with 1500 watts. I suggested wire it into the furnace, but he wasn't interested. Skip had gone to go find a warm mall or store to visit.
The generator runs for about an hour and a half on a tank of gas. It was long enough to warm the house, but not that it was running all night.
Scott didn't have telephone service. I considered whether to drive up, the Spirit said that it was personal choice, but not needed. So, I drove through snow and ice, about 25 MPH through on the 65 MPH freeway. Check, see if he was OK. I found a note on the door, they had gone to a shelter, and weren't home. Well, that explains the promptings. They went cause the baby was cold.
I pulled out the cell phone, and made a few more calls. Didn't find anyone else who wanted use of a generator. Went home, and powered up the furnace for my night sleep.
Tues April 08, 2003 This AM, decided to go to the bank, and a couple stores. I found the Dollar Tree had sold out of D, and AA batteries. But they ahd plenty of 9 volt and C cells. ** Lesson: Keep batteries at home. Also, buy some flash lights that run on C-cells, since they don't sell out as fast. Mag and Kel have lights that run on C-cells, and American Science and Surplus used to have C-cell flash lights ( www.sciplus.com ).
I had left the furnace plugged into the extension cord. I had a sense that I oughta plug it back into the house power. I got home, and was about to pour gas into the generator when Skip came home and cheered. He noticed before I did that the power is back on. I plugged the furnace back into the power, and got back on the computer. I shoulda left the radio in the kitchen turned up loud, so I'd know when the power returned.
This writing is public domian, and may be copied, distributed, etc.
Christopher A. Young
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