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Ice storm
by Judy Eichstedt
2008-01-09 09:51:54
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On Monday morning December 10th, I woke early and turned the heater up just a bit. It was very cold and had been raining ice. My thoughts were focused on Christmas and I was a bit sad that one of my sons, who lives in South Dakota, and my only granddaughter, Zoey, would not be here for the holidays. I was feeling sorry for myself that all my children would not be with me on Christmas.

I started to make breakfast for myself and my four children who I live with when, without warning, we lost power. Great, I said, I guess breakfast will have to wait. Little did I realize just how much we all depend on our electricity and and take for granted the modern appliances in our homes. I was not concerned and thought in an hour or two the power would be restored.

As I went about cleaning the house I had to stop and get a sweater to put on for it had began to get colder in the house, without heat that happens. I realized hours have passed and still no power. We had lost power before but never for more than one day. My daughter called and reported the outage to a recording so I still had hope at any time now we would once again see the light.

I looked out to my back yard and saw ice hanging from the power lines and trees. In fact everything was covered with ice. This is not good I thought to myself. I walked outside and it was beginning to grow dark and with no lights anywhere it was a little scary. Well I am sure by tomorrow we would have power, I hoped. We had some sandwiches and potato chips for dinner and as it grew late we all got ready for bed. We all dressed in two outfits apiece and grabbed some extra blankets and decided to call it a night.

In the morning, around six a.m., we were so cold we had to get up and move around. We were using flashlights to move around the house and yet still bumped into one another or the furniture. Let's go to Denny's for something warm to eat, I suggested. Good idea, my children agreed. We could sit there till it got light. The restaurant was full of people like us. I wondered how many people were without power. An elderly couple told me just about everyone in Tulsa had lost power. That can't be, I replied. This must be worse than I thought. Then I remembered the poor and low-income people who, more than likely, could not afford to go out to eat. This would be so hard on them. How would they be able to afford the things to survive this ice storm?

On our way home we stopped at a convenience store and I found one package of batteries that I could use to listen to the radio. The store in which my daughter works had no power, in fact the whole street where her work is located was without power. My son’s factory also had no power, along with many businesses in the whole area. I now began to worry. Perhaps we could learn something from the radio as to just how bad this really was.

I found a station and as I listened learned that many were very worried about the power outage. One woman said she had heard 300,000 people were without power. The numbers would later climb to about 500,000 without power before this all ended. Many alleged that our Mayor Kathy Taylor not only had power but was also showing off her beautiful Christmas display at her home - that did not sit well with the people. Not having access to a computer to check it out, I would just have to take their word for that fact.

I retuned the station and it bothered me a little that not too much was said about the ice storm. When something was reported it was very laid back. Things like we know its cold out there so stay warm and listen to the music. What I needed was to find out what we should do in case the power remained off for a long period of time.

I believe we need to go to the store and get food and candles I told my children. As we got ready to go we heard a cracking sound and looked to see the tree in our front yard split and a heavy branch fell on my car. Then again we heard the sound and my neighbor's trees all began breaking under the heavy load of ice. As we watched this sight we heard a noise from our back yard and rushed out there to discover the power lines all broke and pulled off the box to which it was attached. We reported it to the power company and this time we got to talk to a live person and were told they would report it but could not tell us when help would arrive. Okay, now I was not only worried but scared as well.

We went to a store and got some things we would need but found the shelves pretty bare. As we were checking out the cashier told us we could not buy the cheese or milk and any meat. We were shocked. Why not, we all wanted to know. We were told they had lost power and the food may not be any good. Everyone in line went silent and looked at the cashier in disbelief. If this does not scare the hell out of you nothing will. We were not able to buy food. I was dumbfounded, as were the others who had never been told they can't buy food.

We spent that whole day finding stores that were open and that could sell food, plus trying to find candles, batteries and all the things to help us survive. We were exhausted by the end of the day. Some places would only except cash, most people only use plastic and had no cash on them. Many places had you wait at the door and as you told them what you wanted they got it for you and brought it out to you.

At the end of the long day we drove toward home to a mess that was unbelievable. There were so many trees in the road blocking our way home that it looked like a war zone or as if a giant had passed through knocking down trees, power lines and car-ports down to the ground. Some places we could not get through and so we just kept going from block to block till at last we made it home.

I am not sure of the temperature but it seemed to be around 28°F (-2°C) at night and a couple of degrees warmer during the day. All I know is we were all so very cold and in spite of burning around thirty candles and wearing a lot of clothes we were cold and could see our breath while in the house. We decided not to burn candles at night because of the danger of the house going up in flames and with us in it. We had to throw most of our food away, including our turkey for Christmas dinner. It just was not safe to eat or practical to try and keep it frozen. It hurt to lose all the food. We tried to eat out as much as possible but it really hurt the wallet.

We found an Arby's open and found the line of people went all the way to the parking lot. In our area I never saw a truck from the power company or Cox or anyone else for about four days. When they did come we were told we had to replace the box and that cost us $350. We waited and waited and yet on day five we still had no power. That night as we slept, my daughter yelled that someone is looking through the window with a flashlight. We all jumped up and ran to the back door but saw no one. My son told me looters were looking for empty houses to rob.

I was stressed beyond measure. I did not want to get robbed on top of everything else. As we looked outside everything pitch dark, no city lights or house light just darkness and ice. You really felt helpless and all alone.

On day six, a Sunday, I was about to give up hope of ever getting power back. I broke down and cried a bit. We spent more money than we really had and it would be hard to catch up when this nightmare was over. We called the power company who told us they were hoping by Monday the power would be on in our area. All Sunday I looked out my window at the workers trying to restore power in Tulsa. I am ever so grateful to each and every one of them. They worked long and hard for us all.

However, I learned some things that I should have known but maybe didn’t want to know. In my opinion Oklahoma was not ready for this at all. They were not prepared. What if it had been a terrorist attack? I have heard stories about the budget being cut and trees not trimmed so they would not fall on the power lines. There were motels charging more for rooms than before the ice storm, places were over-charging for gas and so on and so on. I still am not sure what is truth or rumor. I just know it was a real mess and something horrible to experience.

Yes, in my opinion, our leaders in Oklahoma were not swift in taking action right-a-way. When it was near the end they did move like gangbusters to restore what had been damaged. However, I did not write this piece to blame or find fault, but as a message to everyone to be prepared. In times such as these we had better all know how to take care of ourselves. We can’t depend on anyone else. It may sound awful to say but, nevertheless, a truthful statement.

What ever happens we must ourselves be prepared to face it and learn how to survive? Perhaps help won't come for whatever reason and we need to all be ready in case that happens. Over the years we have become a people so dependent on services that one-day may not be there for us.

Seven days without power was over on Monday evening. We all rejoiced that we had heat and we could cook, well once we got more food. It was a thrill to hear the refrigerator humming again. It was wonderful to have light to see and not to feel so afraid in the dark.

Photos by Daniel Eichstedt

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Sand2008-01-09 12:17:34
Undoubtedly it was a terrible time but it struck me as peculiar that the freezer food would become dangerous when the cold was available all around and could be kept safe by merely placing it where the natural cold could preserve it.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-09 13:26:28
Indeed, Ms. Eichstedt, one becomes painfully cognizant of one's taken fo granted blessings only when they are suddenly lost. I can fully relate to your experience having gone through ten days without power due to a hurricane two years ago. It did however improve my calligraphy since I resorted to a pen for writing. And than Marshall McLuhan insight hit me: the medium is indeed the message and electronic messages are qualitatively different than conventional messages written with a pen. Musings!

judy2008-01-09 15:24:05
sand, yes my children said the same thing. however it scared me to think that if we ate the food and the cold did not preservr it as i hoped we would all become sick. so better safe then sorry.

asa2008-01-09 15:40:49
From what you said, it sounds as though somebody would have stolen any food left outside.

Jack2008-01-10 00:37:48
As your neighbor to the north (Kansas), I have endured several ice storms too, spent days without power, little food, in the cold so I know somewhat what this must have been for your family. I think your's was far greater than any I've seen in some 55+ years of living here.

Your perseverance and abiliity to remain hopeful amid such destruction is to be complimented. That Pioneering spirit lives, still yet, in the West.

Jack2008-01-10 00:40:03
Daniel: those were some awesome pictures my friend. The are of immense help to the article, even though begin there must have been indescribable.

daniel2008-01-10 23:51:46
thanks jack for the comment on the pictures.

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