|The Shute Home, Midcoast Maine|
My wife, our three-year-old son and I had survived the ice storm of 1998. We spent twelve days without power, so when the local weather forecasters started to hype an approaching winter storm with freezing rain just before Christmas, I wasn't too worried.
A snowstorm earlier in December left our region of mid-coast Maine with up to 20 inches of dry powdery snow. The cross-country skiing was fantastic and I was selfishly concerned that the predicted ice storm was going to ruin the perfect conditions on the local ski trails.
Sunday the freezing rain began as predicted.
The ice built up Sunday night into Monday. There was a bit of a lull in the freezing precipitation on Monday morning and we were feeling confident that it wasn’t going to be too bad. Just the same we planned for a period without electricity. In rural Maine power outages are a regular occurrence. We filled buckets with water and pulled out kerosene lamps, candles, battery powered lantern and headlamps. Monday evening as we were eating dinner the lights went out. There was a bit more freezing rain predicted over night and then the forecast called for warmer temperatures on Tuesday. We went to bed on Monday hoping for the best.
Tuesday dawned with a freezing mist and then several bouts of heavy freezing rain; as ice accumulated our birch trees bowed down and formed an archway over our walkway.
|Jack on Crusty Snow|
|Iced Sugar Maple Leaf|
We spent Christmas Eve at the kitchen table playing Banana-Grams by the light of headlamps. We listened to what sounded like rifle shots outside as limbs on pine trees near the house snapped under the weight of the ice, and fell to the ground in an avalanche that sounded like breaking glass.
A brilliant but distant sun rose on Wednesday morning, Christmas Day, however the temperature didn’t get above 20 so no melting took place. Our birch trees remained arched over with their tops now touching the ground. Neighbors down the hill were in Florida for the holidays so we made regular trips to stoke their wood stove to prevent their pipes from freezing. We went to the town sand shed and loaded our truck and sanded the drive and walkway of our elderly next-door neighbors.
|Jack After the Snow|
Thursday was cold and a quick moving storm dropped 4 inches of light powdery snow. At 5:00PM the lights came on and we all let out a sigh of relief. With the iced trees now loaded with snow I didn't want to take any chances. The furnace was turned on to heat up the basement and I refilled all of our water containers. In less than an hour we were again back in darkness.
Friday dawned sunny but still powerless. We decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at the Alna Store whose power was restored on Thursday. As we sat down at the counter we were soon surrounded by several of our Head Tide Hill neighbors. It seems we all had the same idea. Over plates of eggs, pancakes and endless cups of coffee we speculated about when we would get our power back. We also shared stories of past power outages, tips about the best generators and how to keep freezers, filled with the fruits of productive summer gardens, from thawing. Just as we were leaving the store six utility trucks from western Massachusetts pulled up. After stopping for a quick cup of coffee they were headed to Head Tide Hill. After 5-days with out electricity on Friday afternoon our power was restored, thanks to these line workers from southern New England.
We really had it pretty easy during our week without power. We live in a snug passive solar, Cape style house that is easily heated with 2-3 cords of wood per year. Our cooking range is fueled by propane so we had no problem cooking tasty meals. Our only limiting factor is the amount of drinking and flushing water that we are able to stockpile. When we run out of water we can melt snow, of which there was plenty for drinking water or snowshoe across the field and then down through a twisting trail through the hemlocks to the Sheepscot River where we can fill our buckets with icy river water.
We made occasional trips to my wife’s work place in the nearby village of Sheepscot for showers and to charge our electronics. We stayed in touch with family and friends with our smart phones. I learned to lengthen the battery of my smart phone by plugging a USB cable into my fully charged laptop. Although a bit inconvenienced we survived our week long Christmas “Unplugged” quite comfortably and our dogs and cat took it all in stride. I appreciate the challenge of needing to live with less that the ice storm provided. In times like this I am also reminded about what is truly important, time with family, our wonderful community in the town of Alna, and during this week the unselfishness of a utility crew from western Massachusetts who postponed Christmas with their own families to assist those of us in Maine who needed a helping hand.
About the Author
Greg is Chewonki’s Director of Outdoor Programs. He received his B.S. in Outdoor Recreation from the University of Maine at Presque Isle in 1982 and started work at Chewonki in 1984. A Registered Master Maine Guide he serves on the board of the Forest Society of Maine. Greg is chairperson of the State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Camp Trip Leader Program. He is a founding member and former co-president of the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization and a member of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Advisory Committee.
|This photo of the author is from our archives. The other photographs were provided by the author.|