The calm after the ice storm

There were all sorts of blogs I wanted to write — things I wanted to say, people I wanted to recognize and little “did you see this” tidbits I wanted to share in the days immediately following the ice storm of a week ago. I just didn’t have time.

If you have ever heard the phrase, “You’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off!”, you will have a descent mental picture of how I felt last week, doing my part to ensure our newspaper had broad coverage of the spring ice storm.

Reporters scattered to cover so many different angles, and our rolling blackouts here at the newspaper office allowed us precious opportunities to regroup.

 As devastating as the ice was to our trees, to our beautiful surroundings here in southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa, at least we had our buildings — our homes, our work spaces and our garages to protect our vehicles from falling icicles. Nearly everyone I interviewed in the last week said it could have been much worse. A tornado would have wiped out more than just the power. An ice storm in the middle of January would have made farm life even more miserable.

Still, Wednesday makes it Day 8 for some of our rural residents without power, my parents included. When you reach Day 8, it’s not fun anymore. Actually, it wasn’t any fun on Day 1, but by Day 8 it’s a long haul. My folks, though, are hanging in there, refusing to come and stay with me in town despite the offers. There’s no place like home, no matter how rough it gets.

My folks finally bought a generator on Friday — it’s operating their freezers and refrigerator, and occasionally the toaster when they decide they want toast for breakfast.

They call it a night by 9 p.m. or earlier because it’s dark in the house and they’re tired of the candlelight. The days of sunshine have helped take the chill from the house, but dressing in extra layers and covering up with blankets is a necessity.

I drove out to the farm on Sunday and it didn’t take long for me to gather a couple of blankets to cover up with. After less than three hours, however, there I sat with a cold nose and hands I couldn’t wash after scratching my puppy’s belly. As a chronic hand-washer, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was ready to go back home to hot running water and an operating furnace.

The power outages I remember as a kid growing up on the farm never lasted this long, although, I always thought it kind of exciting when the power went out. We’d get to light candles after dark, and in the daylight, we brought out board games and puzzles. Mom has already put two puzzles together, and probably has another one going right now.

Fortunately, my folks don’t have any livestock to tend to. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if this happened when I was raising goats and sheep on the farm. We likely would have attempted to crank the old pump in hopes of getting water, but with the ongoing drought, I’m not sure we’d get so much as a drop out of that spigot.

My folks, like many of the farmers I talked to on Monday, are certain their home will be one of the last to get power. That way of thinking isn’t all bad, I suppose. At least the end is in sight, and if our farmers get power before Friday, well, they will be extremely happy.

Thanks to all of the line crews who are working so hard day and night, through all of the weather conditions we’ve faced, to get power restored across rural Nobles County. Thanks also to the community groups and organizations who have come together to prepare food for the linemen. It’s wonderful to hear that through such adversity, people can still muster up some Minnesota Nice.

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