Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ice Storm 09 (part 1)

Hey everyone...
Just wanted to let you all know that we're ok. If you've watched the news lately, or live anywhere near me, you know about the ice storm that came through a couple of weeks ago today.
We actually have power now, and the house is ok for the most part.

Here's a quick rundown
Monday January 26th... We brace.  Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel is actually in downtown Paducah, and telling everyone that this will be the storm of the century for us.  Everyone knows that this can't be good.  When the WX channel is in your town, you know it's about to get bad.   At work, we know pretty early it's going to get bad, so we had people work ahead as much as they could.  We all went home to try and get a good nights rest.   Here we go...

Tuesday January 27th... It's here, and starting to get bad.  By the afternoon, EVERYWHERE is out of power.  Running generators where we have them at work.  Brooke stuck at home calling me to tell me limbs and trees are coming down.  The ice is just cracking the tops of trees left and right.  By the end of the day, there's one tree on the roof at home, looking like it's ready to bust through the kitchen window, and limbs/branches down everywhere. treedoor

We stabilize everything at work as much as possible with our one good underpowered generator and the two other antique workhorses.  Brooke and I end up staying with Nikki and Doug for fear of the tree to come crashing though the sliding glass door.
Wednesday the 28th... I swing by the house to find another tree in the back has fallen on the house.  Doesn't look like a lot of damage, and they somehow are at rest.   We now turn our focus at work on keeping the generators running, because we know it's going to be a while until they get to the studio.  Disel fuel is at a premium because no gas stations have power to pump.  FEMA is coming, and the entire state is officially in emergency/disater mode.  AT&T cell phones are not working, luckily I have a Verizon work phone... but everyone else is out of touch too, so it's not like you can call a lot of people.  Basically just listening to a battery powered radio to get any kind of info on what's going on.  It's getting colder, and no power or sun for a day doesn't equal comfortable sleep.  So with that thought in our heads, we slide on back to the house where we can at least lay a couple of matresses down next to the fireplace and keep somewhat warm for the night.  Looks like we're in it for the long haul.


From here on out the days start to mix together, and events start getting jumbled.
Things do eventually start to get better.  Cell phone service picks back up after a couple of days, and places start to get power within 48 hours.  So there's food, gas, and heat in select places.  Shelters being set up to help people in need in every county/city.  Things are starting to patch up at least.  Nikki and Doug ended up getting power 4 days afterwards, so we stayed with them for 3 more nights until we got power back on Wednesday afternoon. (Feb 4th)  We consider ourselves extremely lucky, because even today there are thousands in the area without power.   And even though life is no were near normal yet, atleast there is now light at the end of the tunnel.  Both trees are off the house, and the limbs and branches are picked up for the most part.  We were very lucky to only see slight damage done to the roof.  Several gutters will have to be replaced, and our fence is demolished.  (Not necessarily a bad thing with our fence) And our yard is pure mud from the equipment used to get the trees up off the house so they could cut them down.  Insurance will be coming out soon to look at the damage.  So I'll know more then about just how bad everything is.
Work is starting to get back on track as well.  We ended up having to get 2 replacment generators brought in by EOC, but now we have power at every site except one in Illinois.  (and it's a long way off)  The biggest damages were to tower sites actually... not because of trees, but because of the massive amounts of ice that broke free from the tower and come crashing down on our buildings.  The roof in Illinois is destroyed and even came through the building and hit the actual transmitter.    Again, we consider ourselves lucky here too because we stayed on to inform people of exactly what was going on outside their homes.  It's times like that, that make me remember why I love radio and why it's such a great community service to people.

I've spoken with several power crew workers both from here in Paducah as well as some from other states that have come to help.  And I'm hearing them compare the damage to trees and power lines as devastating as a large tornado, or Katrina.  We see the damage, but I haven't ventured out into the real rural areas where trees are everywhere and people are trapped in.  So I can only image the other destruction this storm has cause to make this a disaster area.  It's a strange site to look at these trees that used to tower over everything.  As a co-worker described it, there's not a tree over 50 foot anymore.  Like someone just came through with a buzz saw on a chopper and cut all the tops down.

If you take nothing away from this other than knowing our saftey... think about the people out in the rural areas that still don't have power, and won't see it for days, weeks, or even months in some extreme cases.   Power companies from everywhere have come in to help, and are doing the best they can.  The damage is just THAT extensive.  Kudos to all the workers who are putting in long hours to get everyone back to normal.