Fire and ice

I’d have to say the most exciting part of the day was definitely when the yard was on fire. Though the burning branches hanging from the electric line across the street would be a close second. We’ve been through a lot of ice storms in the past few years, more than I can ever remember having had before, and this one didn’t seem any worse than usual, but the destruction in our part of town is incredible. (Drove down into Albany before and from about river level to 50 feet above, there is no sign of any storm at all. Up here, death and destruction.) And we never caught a break – the ice was followed by wet, heavy snow, which was followed by blustery wind, and tree limbs have just been falling all day. The sun peeked out long enough to make you think it might melt something, then hid itself away again.

We were all huddled up on the couch watching the best show on television, Celebrity Rehab, when there was an ominous, bass-y “wubba wubba” sound, which we knew from experience is some kind of problem on the power lines, as interpreted by the computer’s subwoofer. As I went one way to turn the computer off, Hannah went the other to find that there was billowing smoke out in the yard, which soon turned into billowing fire; a powerline in front of the house had snapped and was lying on the ground, sparking and flaming in various places. The fire department said they’d be here someday but it wasn’t as if we had the only fire in town, but once they were able to get some people here they dutifully deployed orange traffic cones and watched the fire burn out. As the air was filled with smoke and we expected to lose power at any time, we drove out of the neighborhood the long way, the main route being closed, and headed to the Panera along with a number of other refugees squatting in booths and nursing a non-bottomless cup of coffee. When we got back, things were no better or worse; though the main fire was now out, there was now a dangling wire that put out a hell of a flame every so often when it arced to the ground, and the branches in the wires across the street were smoking nicely and occasionally lighting up.

As we sit here, there’s still power, and a very nice woman from National Grid is sitting in a truck outside until someone else comes along who can actually fix the problems. And it’s like this across several counties, with a couple of hundred thousand people out of power entirely.

The weird thing about ice storms is that they’re incredibly beautiful – it’s like the world was suddenly coated in glass, and when the sun comes out everything shines like an imaginary crystal world. And then a giant ice-coated limb smashes through your roof or your car and all that pretty doesn’t count for much.

If the power stays on, it’s Buffy marathon night. No reason, it just is.

Update: Saturday morning. Buffy marathon, successful. National Grid’s person watching the wire, still out there.

2 thoughts on “Fire and ice

  1. J. Eric Smith

    We bailed from our house after two nights in the freezing cold, and as of Saturday at 10 PM, there’s still no power in our neighborhood. On Thursday night, when the power went out, I thought we were having a lightning storm, because the substation a couple of blocks from us was arc-ing and exploding over the course of 15-20 minutes or so. The ice storm took also turned out backyard into a fallen-tree strewn wasteland . . . it’s gonna take a long time to chainsaw through all of that. I’m glad you’ve got a Nat Grid observer on your downed line. We haven’t seen any Nat Grid crews or staff in our neighborhood yet, so I’m thinking we’re gonna be one of those statistics: last neighborhoods restored or the like. As you note, though, it is all horribly beautiful. I will post snaps on my blog when I’m back in my house.

  2. Carl

    You should be getting taken care of by now; as we drove out the Thruway to my sister’s last night, we saw the herds of trucks from Michigan and Ohio arriving in the region. Grid got a crew to us last night, so about 34 hours after the line snapped, and they were quick and efficient. I did note that they did NOT take down limbs that had gotten tangled up in the cable lines — not their problem and not a risk, I suppose, and if they cleaned up everything they’d never get all the power back up. Just about as soon as they’d restrung the line, they had our juice back on. It’s been on and off since, but intermittent still means you can keep up the heat, so it’s not been too bad.

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