Friday, December 14, 2007

Anatomy of an Ice Storm

It is Monday evening and a major ice storm forecast looms. My backup front wheel drive 1987 model car is ready for my ninety mile route. With studded snow tires in front, it is better than four-wheel drive on ice.

Tuesday morning it is raining steadily. The temperature lingers at freezing. I am not sure I have seen an ice storm begin with so much water run off. By noon it is running over the low water bridge at Deer Creek. Slowly the temperature drops and ice begins to accumulate on trees, fences and electrical wires. Trees bend more and more under the weight. Lines must be going down as the radio reports lost electricity.

Low night temperatures and a thick coating of ice give way Wednesday morning to limbs, mainly Elm, lying under trees. Several times I hear a sharp crack and see a limb go down. Hardy cedar tree limbs simply bend to make a tent of ice forming a house underneath for rabbits and quail. Pines bend but hold. Oaks with leaves still attached have an extra burden. I saw one large branch loose the battle. With pastures frozen over, cattle stand at gates waiting for a bale of last summer’s hay. Geese honk as they follow the Wakarusa Valley. Are they thinking of turning south? I would not blame them.

I had company on the roads. Douglas County, Clinton and Kanwaka townships are busy blading and throwing sand. I wonder if they have been out all night as many roads and all bridges and steep hills are treated. A rancher with a big bale heads for the pasture. Along with me, brown, yellow and white delivery trucks bring holiday orders. It seems everyone else smartly stays home.

Thursday dawns beautiful. There is no other word to describe the ice covered world under a clear sky and sunshine. Branches encased in ice radiated like stars or prism-like spectrum of colors. Ice on metal mailboxes melt from the inside out. A drive under a tree results in a barrage of ice falling like rain. Squirrels and turkeys, run about excited to feel the warmth on their backs. As the sun warms, steam rises. Birds, especially finches and sparrows fluttered in cedar branches. Hawks use warm updrafts from the melted fields to soar low looking for prey. Cattle spread out over the same fields grazing contently.

Three days, the ice storm is history. In our area, most have electricity. Trees survive although some still bend as ice clings on northern exposures.

The forecast? Snow tonight and tomorrow.



Pictures of the ice storm

1 comment:

Linda@eriesargonaut said...

Wow, I just looked at your slideshow. You really did get a big ice storm! When I first moved from California to Erie, PA they had an ice storm and I woke up to a winter wonderland that was shockingly beautiful, like nothing I'd ever seen before. Each blade of grass was an icicle, the trees were dripping with icicles and it sparkled. And it was so cold the air glittered with ice crystals. Amazing. We haven't have one since. We did get freezing rain tonight but it just turned to rain and tomorrow we will have snow. Quite a lot I hear. I'm glad you made it though OK. It has to be scary driving in that stuff!