What the Ice Storm Taught Me

Ice Storms are dangerous things.  If you’ve ever been in one you know what I’m talking about.

In the South, ice is more common than snow.

My first experience with an ice storm was in 1983.  I was expecting my son in two months.  We lived WAY out in the country…in an old double wide trailer. We had a propane tank that fueled our stove and central heat.  And, we were on a well.

We’d been married about 5 years and living away from familiar folks and family for about 3 years.

The ice storm hit…I’d never seen anything like it.  The ground was a solid sheet of ice.  Trees were coated in over an inch and a half of ice.  Power lines (those left attached to poles) were bowed low by a coating of thick ice.  Everything was encased in thick ice.  Our front door was iced shut.  Our car was encased in ice.

Without power there is no water (electricity runs the pump that pulls water from the well and pushes it into your house) and the central heat doesn’t work.

The temperature in our trailer dropped to the upper 20’s and stayed that way for several days.  We’d been told by neighbors to draw up “a little” water, so I had done so, though I wasn’t sure why.

I quickly found out why.  When the electricity goes out you go with the water you have and that serves you for whatever needs you may have…flushing toilets…brushing teeth…drinking…bathing….  And, when it gets below freezing indoors…whatever water you have available will…freeze – even what’s in the toilet.

When the cold became unbearable, I would turn on our oven and leave the door open. (Dangerous to heat that way, but it was our only option and thank God, it WAS an option.)  We put on many layers of clothes, stocking hats, gloves, coats…piled blankets on the bed and crawled under the covers to snuggle (as closely as we could with my big pregnant belly between us).

Daylight provided us light for day.  When the sun went down, we called it a night.  Without lanterns or candles we had no other choice.  The flashlight was conserved for emergency use only – no spare batteries.

Fast forward to the middle of February…three weeks ago.

We were in SC.  Hubby’s dad’s funeral was scheduled and an ice storm was forecast.  With no way to head for home, we could only hunker down and ride it out – whatever “it” became.

What it became was a mess!


Hubby’s mom lived in an old double wide trailer with electric…everything.  When the lights went out she had nothing.

Across the yard lived Hubby’s Aunt Annie.  She had a small ceramic propane heater that was not affected by the lack of electricity.  Bless her, she welcomed us all (Hubby, Hubby’s mom, Hubby’s sister, our son, me) into her house.  And, there we stayed until the ice melted and we were able to head home.

In another post I’ll share some tidbits about the SC ice storm, but for now let me leave you with a few things the ice storm taught me.

  1. Get out before it hits.
  2. If you can’t get out and head for the hills, get out and get whatever supplies you think you might need if you’re without electricity for 7 days.
  3. In the country, on a well, when electricity goes out, so does your water. Store up way more water than you think you can ever use.  You will need/use way more than you will think possible.
  4. In the city, if the electricity goes out to the pumping station that serves your neighborhood it stands to reason that you may lose water or water pressure…just saying.  It pays to be prepared water wise.
  5. You can’t store up too much water…it’s good to have a backyard pool handy (flushing toilets).
  6. Keep ready to eat foods on hand…enough for 21 meals per person (that’s 3 meals for 7 days).
  7. Generators are nice.
  8. Generators need fuel….
  9. Grills work well – charcoal or dry sticks will cook a meal…heat water for dishes…heat water for bathing necessary body parts….
  10. While the coals are hot use them…cook, prepare food for the next meal, heat water, boil water to drink…make coffee….
  11. Keep disposable dishes, eating utensils, cups on hand.
  12. Propane/gas ceramic heaters are wonderful and warm!
  13. A lantern is a good things to have – solar powered, battery powered, kerosene. Two are even better.
  14. Candles – can’t say enough about them.  It’s amazing how much light those little things can give and how long they can burn.  And, you can take them from room to room as needed.
  15. Matches – strike anywhere matches – or a lighter…gotta have one or the other to light fires (grill, candles, lantern, fireplace)
  16. Water…can’t say enough about having water on hand….
  17. The refrigerator will eventually warm to the temperature of the room it’s in.  Keep the door closed and only open to remove food quickly.
  18. The temperature outside may keep foods better than the temperature inside the refrigerator.
  19. If food is placed outside make sure it’s in tightly sealed in very heavy containers if you ever want to see it again.
  20. When walking on ice, lean slightly forward.
  21. Kitty litter works well on icy walk ways.
  22. When the ice melts, kitty litter becomes clay…clean it off as soon as the ice melts enough to break up and sweep away.
  23. If you lose water when you lose electricity, there needs to be a rule…no toilet paper in the toilet until the electricity is back on.  Place a plastic bag in the trashcan and place it beside the toilet.  All paper goes in the bag…no matter!
  24. If you go outside, don’t walk under trees.
  25. Tree limbs fall when they are loaded with ice.  Small branches falling from only 10 feet up can stick into the ground 10 inches deep. (See #24)
  26. Pine trees sound like the report of a big gun when they crack.  When enough of them crack, pop and fall it sounds like we are at war with bombs falling…the ground shakes from the impacts.
  27. If you didn’t take time to trim the trees/tree limbs away from your roof/carport/house/porch/driveway/power lines…you won’t need to worry about them during the next ice storm.
  28. The effect of ice storms is permanent.  Just drive along and look at all the permanently bent over saplings.
  29. Didn’t think to get ice to put in the cooler to keep refrigerator/freezer things cold when the fridge/freezer begins to warm?  Not a problem.  There’s plenty of ice outside.  Gather as much as you need and fill your coolers and encase your thawing things in it.
  30. You need coolers – several of them by the way…the larger the better.
  31. Sun melts ice from rooftops and roadways.
  32. Stick a bucket under the downspouts to gather water to flush toilets as the ice melts.
  33. In rural areas it can take many days for all electricity to be restored after power outages.  In large cities it can take weeks.
  34. Going outside and opening car doors every few hours keeps the ice from fully encasing your car and preventing your car doors from opening. But, eventually you have to sleep.  And, it’s not like you’re going anywhere anyway.
  35. Keeping your car doors unfrozen allows you to turn your car on, plug in your cell phone and recharge it.  Keeping in touch with the world around you is important.
  36. Having a full tank of gas is a good thing if you’re going to rely on your car to charge your electronic gadgets.
  37. A good LED flashlight is worth whatever you pay for it.  And, so is the son with the forethought to bring along an extra one.
  38. Having a car is not enough to charge your cell phone – you also need a car charger made for it. (Again, enter son and his resourcefulness.)
  39. If you think you can’t…think again.  You might find out you can with a little hard work and thinking things through. Necessity is the mother of invention.
  40. Expect the worst and hope for the best.
  41. It’s better to be over prepared than under prepared.
  42. Plan ahead.
  43. Start now to make sure you are prepared for the next ice storm…tornado…power outage…disaster…emergency.  Create a Bug out Bag…store up essentials.  Be a survivor, not a victim.

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