The Winter Storm of December 2004: Disaster, or a return to a simpler time?
On December 22, 2004, a winter storm hit the Midwestern US with a vengeance. Here in Southwestern Ohio, the storm hit a few hours before rush hour, turning the interstate highways into parking lots. The rural towns East of Cincinnati not only received snow, but also a heavy coating of ice. It was only a matter of time before tree limbs were drooping and breaking under the weight of the snow and ice. Of course, the tree limbs took numerous power lines with them, and soon thousands were without electric power.
I am no stranger to power outages. Spring and summer thunderstorms bring down power lines all the time, and here in the country, it takes the line crews take a bit more time to get the power back on. But this time was different. It was winter, just a few days before Christmas. It was cold, and the roads were treacherous. Luckily, I was well prepared. I have a woodstove to help heat my home, and I could pull out the propane camping stove to cook with. If the power was out for very long, we could take food from the fridge and move it to the back porch to keep the food from spoiling.
My parents live in the home next door, and I walked over to their place to check in on them. They were as well prepared as I. However, my mother had just got off the phone with my cousin who lived a few miles away. Without power, the temperature in his home had already dipped into the 50’s, and they were running out of ways to keep the family warm. Because of the icy roads, his car really wasn’t able to get the family to a warmer home.
So the decision was made. My brother and I both drove four wheel drive vehicles, so we made the trip over to my cousin’s place and picked up him and the family. Everyone (including my family), headed over to my parents place to tough out the crisis there. The wood stove wood keep the living room and kitchen warm, and if need be, we could all sleep in that room if the power didn’t come back on.
After getting everyone settled in, I took the kids sled riding. My parents home is build on a steep hill, making the front yard one of the greatest sled runs in the world. We spent more than a few hours on that hill. While I always seemed to be the one pulling the sleds up the hill for the kids, I was also the designated sled-driver for the younger children. There were many wipe-outs at the bottom of the hill, but that gave me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the fine art of snow angels.
After a few hours of the snow, the kids were ready to go inside and warm up. As she always did during the winter, my Mother had a kettle of hot water on the wood stove. Soon there was hot chocolate for the kids, tea and coffee for the adults. While we sipped our warm beverages, my dad got out the board games that had been in the house since my brother and I were children. While the older kids played Monopoly with my cousin and mother, my father demonstrated the use of the Simon game to the younger kids, as only a seasoned pro could. It was about this time that I started to think that this “crisis” was not all that bad.
As the shadows of afternoon began to lengthen, dinner became the next order of business. A “breakfast-dinner” seemed appropriate. While my mother fried diced potatoes and eggs on the wood stove, my father and I fired up the camping stove to cook sausage and bacon. By sundown, we were eating what seemed to be the greatest dinner on earth, all by the light of a few oil lamps.
After dinner, my father entertained us with his stories of growing up during the depression and World War 2. He explained to the kids that my Grandfathers home was only one room, the only source of heat was the wood stove that my grandmother cooked on, and there was no TV. He went on to explain that what the family was experiencing today is that way that every day was back in the 30’s and 40’s. Most of the time, the kids don’t pay attention to his stories, but I think for once, his tales had meaning and significance.
Around 10 pm that night, the power came back on. Everyone headed home, and the following day, things were back to their normal routine. While news reports referred to the storm as a crisis, I thought of it differently. The loss of power had brought the family together….really together….for a day. There was no interference from the Xbox, the TV, or the computer. The day was similar to what I remember winter days were like as a child. Sled riding, board games, stories….it not only made the day tolerable, it was fun. I was happy that my kids, and my cousin’s kids, got to experience this. Ever since, there is a little part of me that prays for a power outage every time we have a storm.
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