Friday, December 27, 2013

Power to the People -- Or, From Merriment to Mass Chaos

Christmas 2013 will be a year we never forget.

It all started out well enough with early Christmas Eve (Dec. 20) with the traditional cookie decorating.

This is one of my favorite happenings of the year -- after our special dinner, out come the cookies and the frosting.

Kevin, of course, always manages an obscenely enormous cookie which we make him eat at least a bit!

The next day, my friend Barb and I returned to Grand Oak Herb Farm for high tea.

It was their last event of the season with a menu that included Yorkshire pudding, scrumptious desserts, delicious breads, beef, chicken, creamed peas, potato casserole and delicious lime-minty carrots. And of course, lovely tea!

That was Saturday, the day the ice storm started. By 5 a.m. the next morning, our entire region and a good deal of the state (600,000 homes) would be paralyzed by a massive power failure. And we would be entranced by a winter wonderland that was dazzling.

The roads were a mess; power lines downed everywhere. Rick lost power in his house and the adjacent duplex he owns. Worried about the boiler, he went to the lake to bring back a kerosene heater, only to discover that power was required to plug it in.

On our "Christmas Eve" (Dec. 23), he and Kevin drove to his aunt's to pick up a generator. He was one of the lucky ones -- trying to get a generator in this town was a losing battle. When they got back, we did presents with the kids, who then took off to the next house.

Did I mention the ice? Michigan is on different power companies, with different repair schedules and different support.  As I write this on the morning of the sixth day, Rick is still without power, as are 2,600 Lansing homes and another 18,00 or so, give or take. (The numbers are fluid and contradicted in various reports.) There are plenty of power lines down and while we were lucky with tree damage, it was significant.

Snow, too. You get snow on top of ice that hasn't melted. More branches down, more power lines in jeopardy.

On "real" Christmas Eve we found ourselves too organized! So after some shoveling...

...we went shopping (for nothing in particular!) and to lunch. It was so relaxing! Of course, everyone in the bookstore was charging cell phones and checking email on their computers.

"Real" Christmas Day was lovely. Rick and I did presents, then we were joined for dinner by good friends -- all of whom had been without power for four days (one of whom was staying with us, a powerless nomad!).

Of course, Christmas crackers made it all the merrier with silly jokes, prizes and paper crowns. Does anyone else think Rick looks like Jughead of Archie comic book fame?

Even my Cosi girl Lizzie was pretty cozy!

So, we are on Day Six of Ice Storm Aftermath. Power is coming back on for some; estimates for our neighborhood are "over the weekend" which could be seven or eight days.

Meanwhile, the temperatures are pretty darned cold (in some cases inside and out) and the weekend is scheduled to be even colder. People are hunkering down as much as they can.

It all causes much thought. First and foremost, I am most grateful that my power was OK. We had a warm place to be, space to offer to others and could prepare a lovely feast to share with friends. We were able to save Rick's house thanks to Aunt Carol and her generator. True, no phone or cable yet, but I have internet and heat and really, that's the best. (Update: cable back; phone can be used for calling out again; now I can continue my Comcast Hell experience to get calling-in back, something that started Dec. 17.)

I've heard nothing but wonderful stories about how people are helping others. One of our local coffee shop chains that planned to be closed on Christmas opened their doors so people could warm up, check mail and charge phones.

My Facebook feed has been filled with posts saying "Stop in to warm up" and "We now have an open bed if someone needs it." The generosity of spirit has indeed been heartwarming. Not surprising, perhaps, but heartwarming nonetheless.

The power workers are tireless, it seems. This is extremely dangerous work and they are working round the clock on 16 hour shifts in very cold conditions. They are doing their best and we are all grateful for their work, particularly over the holidays when I'm sure they'd rather be with their families. But There are a lot of problems here, a lot of issues with the lack of preparedness by the power companies and the slow rate of getting things back in gear. Nursing homes and senior residency places have been running without lights and only generator heat. People are spending a small fortune in hotel rooms, unplanned transportation, spoiled food and much more and anticipating repairs from frozen pipes, among other things. After six days, people are becoming far more stressed. It stopped being "fun" or an "adventure."

It is hard to believe that something so dazzling, so beautiful -- one thinks of crystal necklaces draped over branches as they sparkle in the sun -- can be so damaging. We've heard of carbon monoxide deaths, houses destroyed by fire as families tried to stay warm and car accidents as people negotiate broken stop lights. And plenty of people are toughing it out in the frigid cold.

But we soldier on. We weren't leveled by a hurricane or a tornado. It will be comparatively easier to "come back." There will be costs, there will be damage, there will be a lot of grousing and a lot of it justified. Michigan doesn't get a lot of extreme weather -- we're not in tornado alley or near the hurricane-prone seaboard, we tend not to have the brush fires that plague the west or the floods that affect those near great rivers. So, for us this is a big deal.

But when all is said and done, life will return to normal. Snow in the winter, the promise of spring someday, far away.

For now, the days get longer -- minute by minute. We regroup and we wait. And we do it together.

And really, it will be a Christmas we will never forget.


Joanne Huffman said...

I'm so lucky to have power all this time. It's amazingly cold and I really appreciate my heat. I hope Rick gets his power on soon. Stay warm and make art.

Mae Travels said...

Your usual resilience and great attitude make this a wonderful post to read, though the content is quite grim! As you may know, we are vacationing in Southern California where the temperatures are near-record highs.

Global climate change and neglect of infrastructure in our country is definitely catching up with us and it's not pretty at all. Sad to think about. I hope the ice melts soon and all is back to normal in you and Rick's lives.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I so vividly remember ice storms from my Chicago days. I never minded snow, but hated the ice. I'm so glad you were cozy and warm with power and could help friends who weren't so fortunate. It sounds like a memorable Christmas all around -- with delicious cookies and food, a cozy fire and Lizzie on the hearth, Rick, family, friends, wintry scenes outside and people at their best, helping each other.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Jeanie,
What beautiful photos of the family and surroundings.

I hope your Christmas was full of joy. Wishing you the best in the new year.
Thank you so much for visiting and kind thoughts.

Luna und Luzie said...

Dear Jeanie,

I enjoyed much your family impressions!
Glad to see you so happy!
So much snow, real christmas weather!
We have springy weather here, storm, rain and a lot of flowering plants outside...really unusual for winter.

Barb said...

Jeanie, you look so lovely! I think you're getting younger in retirement! We've been hearing of the terrible mess in your state and accidents in other states due to weather. The holidays when people are on the move is a terrible time for these tragedies and mishaps to occur. I agree - we don't know how much we depend on electricity until it's gone! It's been very cold here in Breckenridge though today is sunny and temps might warm into the 30's. The resort is crazy-busy. Bob and I probably won't downhill ski again until New Years Day when everyone else is hungover and too tired to get out of bed! Hope Rick's power comes on soon. Hugs to you both.

Jenny Woolf said...

Truly unforgettable! Here in England, too, we owe a lot to the power workers. We didn't have ice storms but floods and high winds. Many people were without power. Your photos are beautiful and you look wonderful! what a lovely post!

Mary said...

Sounds like the best Christmas ever! Celebrated in the true meanin of the season. Giving, sharing, friendship and family. Your photos are gorgeous! Ice and snow are beautiful, but can be dangerous as you well know. Glad you all stayed safe! :)

Beth M. said...

It never fails to amaze me how people seem to come together in the face of adversity.

Though I was in IL during Hurricane Sandy, I saw similar Facebook posts daily of friends and neighbors offering a place to charge a phone and share some coffee while they wait for power to return and life to resume some normalcy. A good friend of mine owns a hair salon and spa in PA, and she generously opened her doors for everyone in town, even if they weren't customers. She set up phone charging stations in the lobby, and her staff served hot tea and coffee and bottled water to their guests. They even gave free wash-&-blowouts and free access to the spa showers (since a lot of people still didn't have power OR running water!).

I'm glad that your "adventure" is reaching a conclusion. But, for whatever it's worth, this entire episode is just another reminder that good people are everywhere. :)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

First off - you look wonderful in that photo! Retirement (and the holiday season!) suits you well!

I am so sorry to hear that people have been without power for such an extended amount of time - especially with bitterly cold temps! It is a beautiful scene, but what a mess. I am glad that you have power, but what a frustrating experience. I hope that power is restored for all soon!

The French Hutch said...

Wow Jeanie, I’m happy to hear you were able to enjoy Christmas in spite of Old Man Winter and what an ice storm he left behind! Of course living in the south if the weatherman speaks the S word (snow) we get excited and a very worried! We don’t know how to drive in snow or heaven forbid, ice! Nightmare......
Of course hats off to all the work by the power companies to get electricity back on. Looks like a good time was had by all in spite of the storm. Love the pic of you, Gorgeous! And, those baby blues!!!!


Jeanie said...

I love your picture and your positive attitude in what is something of a big mess. I keep hearing about the issues in Lansing specifically on the news here. I'm glad you were able to continue to make merry and provide some cheer for others. Looking forward to hearing of Rick's power being restored with no problems and that things are back to normal before the new year.

Cheryl said...

I'm frozen just reading that! I don't know how you manage living with such yucky weather... that is just to cold for these old bones! I hope your Christmas was filled with WARM memories to get you through til summer lol
big hugs,

~*~Patty S said...

News reports sounded so dismal with so many without power for Christmas...
Very happy you all were able to make merry and celebrate...
Thank you for sharing your lovely photos...
Ice is so brilliantly beautiful and brutal almost at the same time!
Wishing you and yours a Happy Healthy New Year dear Jeanie ♥

Bella Rum said...

Oh, golly. Your state has been slammed. You are the third blogger from Michigan I've read who has been affected. I'm so glad you kept your heat. The cable is annoying, but the heat is crucial. Sorry about Rick. You are right, after six days, it's no longer fun or an adventure. People get weary and angry. It sounds like everyone pulled together and helped each other. It's always reassuring when we rise to the occasion. I hope everything gets up and going for everyone soon. Take care and don't slip on a patch of ice. Careful. Bella

Friko said...

“The Great Freeze of Christmas 2013”

you’ll be able to tell grandchildren about it and how you all pulled together and coped.

It may not have been very cosy for some but it was certainly different!

Hope all is well again.

Happy New Year, Jeanie and better days.

Marilyn Miller said...

Thanks for the report.
Glad that gradually heat is coming back and power is restored. How
wonderful to be able to share your home with others that needed a warm place to go.

I need orange said...

Sending warm thoughts! Even a day or two is no fun -- worrying about frozen pipes and so on....

With you 100% with gratitude for power company workers who labor day and night in every kind of weather to restore power!

Hope everyone is back on line by now.

Arti said...

Yes, I heard about the ice storm in the eastern states and in Canada. Toronto is hard-hit. Thanks for your first-person reporting here... beautiful photos. Looks like you're coping well and staying cheerful and warm. And we're all counting down: only 7 days to Downton S4! Have a Happy New Year, Jeanie, and all the best in 2014!

Shane Pollard said...

Our hearts go out to everyone effected by the dreadful storms over your way Jeanie.
We have had snippets on our TV news - I can't imagine living in that cold - but without power and warmth it takes it to a whole new level.

Sending loving thoughts to everyone - not much I know but there's not much we can do being so far away but pray ti all comes right very soon.

Take care on those icy roads

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeani! Oh, the ice storm sounds pretty scary! Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas time with your family! Looking forward to blogging next year with you and stay warm.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I was so sorry to hear about all the people without power. Glad yours has stayed on! It's truly remarkable and heartwarming to hear about how people help each other during times like this.

Linda Jo said...

What a mess! I'm glad you are okay and that I can follow you on Facebook! Be safe and warm. We had ice one Christmas for about two days....nothing like this!

Vagabonde said...

Your photos are lovely – snow and ice and sun. In a way I feel guilty sometimes to live in the Deep South, where it is 51 F today and no snow yet, and maybe none this year again. We have had power failures too, but they are usually in summer after a tornado. We had one in winter, years and years ago, and had to cook on our fireplace. I see you are holding up well with all the good people around you. I hope you will have a great New Year – drinking a couple of glasses of Champagne will keep your warm too! Bonne et heureuse AnnĂ©e !

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow. This was a very compelling read, celebrating the beauty and detailing both the joy of finding that people do come together and the personal trials that will continue and wear on many folks. I think of you when I decorate our tree, and yesterday I posted a photo of the lovely hand-made ornament you sent me a couple of years ago. Happy New Year, and may it be memorable only for good things!

shoreacres said...

I have to smile, just a bit, at the folks who say, "See? SEE? It's this climate change that's causing this!" Whatever climate change is or is not doing, storms like this were such a part of my childhood - 60 years ago!
I remember how I used to quiver - not when the ice was forming, but when the melt began, and the terrific cracking and thwacking of the falling ice created a terrible racket.

That's when kids usually were hurt - playing too close to houses and getting hit on the head with icicles - that scene in "A Christmas Story" is pretty true to life!

I'm so glad that you were spared the worst of it, having heat. And it is a fact that such experiences often bring people together. Your description could very well be someone talking about life after a hurricane. The biggest different is you need power for heat (and etc.) and we needed power for AC!

I've been so out of the loop I don't know if you're in line for the next onslaught of terrible cold. I hope not. We're feeling pretty miserable down here with temps in the upper 30s and low 40s - but of course we're whimps!

Jennifer Richardson said...

Oh the glories
of electricity!
I'm glad you stayed well
during that dicey time
and that Christmas was a beauty
Such a beautiful work of art,
all that ice, but so destructive.

Kirsten Steen said...

Those cookies look fabulous. And how I LOVE a High Tea! What a most eventful holiday! Hope all is warm and safe and cozy now.

Sally Wessely said...

Jeanie, you look younger since you retired! You are absolutely radiant in your Christmas portrait. What a Christmas you had! I'm glad you came through it so well.

My Christmas has been a mixed bag this year. I hope to get it written about soon. Hugs. Happy New Year!

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