Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Freezing rain and power outage

We are having some crazy weather here in Fairbanks, and the rest of the state as well. Above normal temperatures and humidity have our snow melting and turning to slush - not something I would have expected before next April. The temperatures climbed into the mid thirties yesterday. Fog hung thickly as icy rain drops fell throughout the day. Everything is coated in ice, the ground is slushy with a crunchy topping. Dried blades of grass, raspberry canes, trees and fencing are all sheathed in glass. The ice hangs so heavily from the trees that even the tallest strongest Birch trees are bowing over under the weight. You have only to step outside for a minute to hear the sound of ice laden branches snapping and splintering, then crashing to the ground.

We don't usually have weather that shuts down town. In my four years of high-school here, I recall school shutting down a couple times, never because of heavy snowfalls or the cold - (directly) , but because of the ice-fog that prevented visibility that resulted from the extreme cold temperatures. In my four years of college, I don't ever remember classes being canceled due to bad weather. Yesterday and today the public schools are closed as is the University. Also, all state jobs, public pools, the library, city meetings, everything is closed. All because the roads are coated in a sheet of ice, making driving treacherous.

Yesterday we took advantage of the conditions to stay home, roll huge snowballs, suck on icicles, (we rarely have snow wet enough for snowballs nor icicles), and I cleaned out the chicken coop, as it was warm enough that the bedding was soft and mushy rather than a glacier of hay and manure. We were feeling thankful that we had no need to leave the house. Content to be isolated from the rest of the world with enough wood, food and water to stay warm and well fed for months if needed, (so we'd run out of fresh fruit and shower less).

Last night we were curled up on the couch watching the new Robin Hood, and the power went out. We don't have many power outages, and when we do have an outage it is usually caused by a summer storm, and remedied within the hour. When the power went out last night I was thinking of all the ice heavy trees and ice heavy power lines everywhere, and if electric crews would even venture out onto the roads before the conditions improved. We lit some candles and Dustin busted out this little energy bank - I don't know what he calls it - I think of it as the red magic box, anyway we plugged the vcr and tv into it so we could finish our movie. At the time we were feeling a step ahead, ha ha, we can still watch our movie. In retrospect, if we had thought the power might be out for a day or two, we should have saved the energy for a higher purpose.

As the night went on without the power coming back on we started to go into emergency mode. The power flickered on briefly a few times and D filled up pitchers of water from the sink. We stopped using the toilet, and enjoyed going outside for some fresh winter air, looking up at the canopy of bowed glass trees and listening to branches splinter and crash in the surrounding woods. D built a fire before coming to bed. I woke several times throughout the night to the sound of frozen rain hitting snow. In the summer I welcome the sound of rain, but now, the foreign sound of freezing rain is ominous. Losing our insulating cover of snow at a time when it could be thirty below tomorrow, is dangerous for the plants and animals. I can't help but feel sorry for the trees, struggling to remain standing under the weight of ice.

Our power came back on around seven a.m., just about the time I was laying in bed thinking I should take the three gallons of milk out of the fridge and put them outside. The fridge is full of food that would spoil, but all I could think of were my gallon jars of raw goat milk and how maybe I would have to use it all today. I heard the dog growl, followed by voices outside sounding amplified the dark winter night. Then the motion light came on outside, I heard the fridge kick on, and little lights flickered on, blinking throughout the house. I am thankful for electricity. It would have been a peaceful day without it. I would be emptying the fridge into coolers and clearing a path to the outhouse this morning without it, but there are plenty of extra chores today as it is.

When I hear of winter storms, freezing rain and power outages occurring, it is usually elsewhere in the country, east coast or somewhere else far away. And I'm usually like, whew, glad I live in Alaska. We don't have hurricanes, tornadoes, freak storms, floods, or other weather conditions that shut down power or close down the town, we mostly just get some serious cold temperatures, but we prepare for the cold, expect it and continue our lives regardless. Well, we've got serious snow to shovel around here as both roofs slid during the night. If we don't shovel today, it is going to freeze solid and we'll be chipping at it by the end of the week.

I'm looking forward to our own cured and smoked bacon for breakfast, working on a knitting project after I'm too sore to shovel anymore, and rolling some more snowballs today while the snow lasts, or before it turns to ice.


Buttons said...

Wow!!!! I like the Robin Hood movie, LOL. I would have watched the end of it too. I would have also been disappointed at myself for wasting power on it.
I am glad your power is back on.
We have not had winter here yet. It is going to be either good or bad not sure anymore. Take care.

Camilla Leila said...

oh my goodness your life is out of a story book for me. as a san francisco girl i've never experienced anything like what you're writing about. i got goosebumps just reading it!

but we do have earthquakes....

Emily said...

Camilla, we have some serious earthquakes here as well, although, since we don't have too many tall buildings and big cities, generally there is little damage, so I find them exciting more than life threatening.

Buttons, we would have watched Robin Hood much sooner if not for how long it was, we try to watch shorter movies so that we are not up way later than the kids. Take care, Emily