Ice Storm 2003
April 03, Thursday, 2003
News radio people were talking about freezing rain
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
Christopher A. Young