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Remembering The Storm of 2013

“A huge winter storm pounded the East Coast on Saturday, bringing one of the most populated stretches of the country to a near standstill as the snowstorm reached New York City and left over a foot of snow in the nation’s capital.

Weather emergencies were declared in at least 10 states, including in New York and New Jersey, and the storm has disrupted travel throughout the region, with thousands of flights canceled and public transit shut down in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Jersey. In New York, bus lines were scheduled to be suspended at noon Saturday.”

With a storm of the century pushing up the American eastern coastline this weekend, my thoughts turned to Christmas three years ago when a power failure left several hundred thousand people without power.

It was a Christmas that most people, where I live, will remember.  Freezing rain and frigid overnight temperatures put a coating of ice more 2 cm thick on trees , bushes, cars, homes, just about everything that soaks in a rain.  The added weight of the ice broke tree limbs that fell onto power lines which stressed more than 300,000 people who were forced to cope with no heat, light or hot water, except for those whose water heaters were powered by natural gas.

20131222_165426It was about 5:00 AM when we lost power.  It is curious how the ambient hum of the CPAP machine beside my bed isn’t audible until it is off; the silence in the room raised the alarm.  The furnace wasn’t working which is the traditional, formal notification of a winter power failure. There didn’t seem much point in leaving the warmth of my bed, but once awake, falling asleep again was unthinkable.

The next 12 hours passed rather uneventfully, as we waited for the power to return, because without television or the computer what is there to do?  I asked Vera if she would like to play cribbage, but she declined, to which I teased “you only need to count to 15 to play,” which failed to spark her curiosity.  

Vera is a brilliant person who needs to do something with her hands as she relaxes.  Usually, that means chatting on her computer while watching television, or sewing, or texting on her smartphone.  She can’t just sit.  And playing cards isn’t enough intellectual activity but, in a power failure, there isn’t much else to do.  

She decided to do some shopping, which appeals to her competitive nature.  Her mantra, probably inherited from her father, is “never pay regular price,” even if that means going to several stores to find the best deal.  Most places were closed, but a few missed the blackout, more by luck than Providence, so she was able to make a few purchases.  As she drove home, she passed an elderly man who had fallen on the sidewalk.  It appeared that he had broken his nose and blood was everywhere.  He lived two blocks down the street, so she drove him home.

She managed to turn her day, lost for all intents and purposes, into a useful opportunity.  Vera always manages to turn famine to feast.  We found an old transistor radio, put in fresh batteries, and listened to CBC Radio One from Toronto.  There were news and weather reports about the storm which was followed by a talk show in which people were encouraged to call about their experiences in the storm.  One man called to suggest that people could heat their homes by a candle.  He explained how to do it, which prompted Vera into action.  

She located a stainless steel serving dish in which she put 3 small candles, over which she placed a small steel grill and over the grill she inverted a clay flower pot.  Just as the man on the radio had predicted, the clay pot became so hot we imagined cooking an egg on it.  Next, followed the Stuart McLean programme, from Ottawa, which I later discovered, my friends Dawn and Ron attended in a live performance.  

We thought how ironic that we were rescued by yesterday’s technology.  Having been a broadcaster in my youth, I have fond memories of election campaigns, weather emergencies, and days when the 800 watt radio station lost its signal.  I lived on a shoestring and coped with fragile living conditions, but the experience was wonderful.


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Professional. Retired. Canadian.

1 reply

  1. Hey Geof,

    You would have been ecstatic during the Ice Storm of ’98 in Kingston!

    Ron was off at the base tending to a multitude of matters as the Base hospital never lost power and became the centre of operations for the entire base. It was the hub of all things military and because the civilians were having such a difficult time, the military was tasked to help out the community. I still get a lump in my throat when I think of the afternoon that I answered the front door and there was a young corporal standing there. He was in full winter gear and looked like a giant green snowman. He asked me “Is everything alright Ma’am? Do you need anything, anything at all Ma’am?” I was so touched by this young fellow trudging through the ice and snow and checking up on us. The military had been tasked to do this throughout the city and I will never forget his kind and caring face. I wished that all Canadians could have seen this young man doing his job that day. This, of course, followed the whole Somalia inquiry during which the media was so tickled to paint the military with a universal bloody brush. Thus, it was a particularly poignant moment for me.

    A transistor radio was our one true lifeline. The old fashioned radio and not the latest greatest computer, was the source for all things including which stores still had candles or batteries or generators. It had tips and talks and info of all kinds. My favourite was an announcement that Schneiders’ Meats from Kitchener had sent a transport truck to a school parking lot in downtown Kingston and had set up barbeques and were cooking supper for anyone who needed hot food. It stayed there for several days! What a beautiful thing!

    Ice storms are like rainy camping trips…they make for good stories after the fact! So, be careful what you wish for!

    Love, Dawn:)



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