Ice storms defy rules of equal opportunity

Frequent practice has made Michiganders proficient at digging ourselves out of snowstorms. Most people possess a snow shovel, have access to a snow blower, or know someone with a plow truck or tractor. Sometimes all of the above. So heavy snow coping means marshalling resources or calling in markers when it comes to snow removal.

For many of us, digging out from under snow represents do-it-yourselfing (DIY) at the most primitive level. Pull yourself up by your winter bootstraps and get busy slinging snow. Within reason, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re out moving snow for the health of it. Except those times when a foot or more is unceremoniously dumped on us within 24 hours and removal shifts from health benefit to heart attack hazard.

It helps that neighboring folks possessing more advanced snow removal technology are usually happy to help, if not out of the warmth of their hearts, from the promise of cold cash after the job is completed. The barter system is also alive and well. Neighbors would reward my dad and his loader bucket tractor with a fifth of scotch. Too bad he didn’t drink the stuff.

Ice storms are a horse of a different color, rearing their ugly heads at the most inconvenient times (when would be convenient?!). There’s little if any DIY you can perform following an ice storm, except maybe to toss salt on your front steps or to break your snow scraper gouging a pair of eyeholes through the thick layers of ice on your vehicle windshield for a quick trip around the block to gawk at everyone else’s shellacking.

Otherwise, you’re helpless outside of clasping your numb hands together and praying Godspeed for the crews of linemen from Consumers Energy to come to the rescue and repair the power line damage ice storms delight in leaving behind.

In my estimation, winter is the crappiest time to lose power, unless you were to ask me again in the heat of summer immediately following a damaging electrical storm, when I would insist summer is the crappiest time to lose power. I tend to be deferentially fickle to whatever elemental butt kicking I am receiving at the moment.

While snowstorms unleash equal opportunity wrath by dumping pretty evenly on everyone in a particular geographic region, ice storms seem to play favorites, or more accurately, LEAST favorites. You find yourself without power while your neighbor across the road who gets his electricity from a different substation has the heat cranked and lights blazing.

With any luck, you were on good terms with him before the weather hit the fan. I’ve heard trading a bottle of wine for use of the toilet and offering to leave the door open while you take a shower are two sure-fire hospitality inducers. Such gestures may also generate a little body heat to further stave off the cold. Those with more integrity and less desirable physiques will need to consider investing in a mechanical generator.

We were not ready for losing power at 10:25 PM last Sunday night. Despite hearing the freezing rain against the windows and the wind howling loudly, we didn’t draw any water ahead. Why, I don’t know. Denial is a funny thing. Not being able to flush the toilet isn’t.

The kids and I used leftover iced tea for tooth brushing the next morning, as we had 8:00 dentist appointments in Kalamazoo. We wasted the rest of the morning keeping warm in stores with no intention of buying anything, followed by lunch at a restaurant chosen for its comfortable restrooms. The afternoon saw extended time in the basement of the Portage Public Library with other heatless families. The kids romped and I wrote.

My husband called with periodic updates. His last dispatch was, “Sorry to keep bugging you, but the power’s back on.” In the time it took us to buy a replacement snow scraper and to attend a funeral visitation on our way home, the power had gone back off for a couple of hours, then come back on again.

Whew! Spared me having to test on my neighbor the questionable charms of Boone’s Farm and my flannel sock monkey pajamas.


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