When this branch was attached to its black cherry tree, some forty feet above the ground, it didn’t look so big. It didn’t look heavy enough to smash part of my garden fence and take out one of the blueberry cages. We were in California visiting family when the February rain, which in Michigan should have been snow, froze on contact with it, becoming an unbearable weight of ice. All across southern Michigan branches, limbs, and entire trees fell, crashing into wires, roofs, and each other. The next afternoon was sunny and warmer. The ice all disappeared, leaving runways, freeways, and parking lots ice-free and dry for our drive home from the airport. It looked like nothing had happened. 600,000 people were without electricity.
Including us. No heat and, since we have a well, no water. Also no internet, which is why this post is late. We huddled in front of the fireplace, swathed in sweaters and wrapped in blankets. I lured Zerlina under the covers to warm my hands.
DTE (Detroit Edison) had made little progress on restoring power when another, slighter ice storm blew up the following day. There was very little left for it to knock down, but it did what it could. On the positive side, I was home to see the beautiful ice-twig effects, which are impressive if not comforting. Definitely not comforting.
Seven powerless days later Doug and I were sitting out in the very sunny back yard – warmer than inside the house – when a wonderfully hopeful sight appeared: two DTE linemen in hardhats walking under the miscreant wires, three houses away and getting closer, heads up, checking power poles and connections as they went. “Yay,” I said when they were close enough to hear. ‘Won’t be much longer now,” they said. Yay again. Seven days.
DTE said it was a 50-year ice storm, but six years ago we had a 5-day power outage caused by some other kind of storm. How many kinds are there? Maybe DTE should spend more resources on tree trimming, line maintenance, and a better emergency plan instead of whatever else they’re doing with the rate increases they keep scoring. They should have to count the woodsmoke from power-failure-fireplaces against their zero emission goals. We had to throw out everything in the fridge and freezer, another waste of resources.
Inspecting the garden, I found a sign of early spring: last fall’s scallion seed sprouting in the open coldframe. Indoors, Zerlina resettled happily on her favorite cushion, the nearby heat register back in business.