Well, it hit all over the state, and almost everyone was affected in one way or another. Everyone will have a story to tell about the Ice Storm ’09. It will be a story we reminscise about for years to come. Amidst all the rumors swirling around about who was hit the worst, and when the power will come back on, all I can relate is my own experience.
We began the ice storm saga by heading to Marion Monday evening for an unscheduled grocery run to stock up just in case, which means that later on that week, we now had a fully stocked refrigerator of food going bad, but that’s jumping ahead of myself. Tuesday morning we woke to freezing rain or sleet or something like that, and the rather surprising news that the church roof had caved in over the nursery and the nursery was now exposed to the sunlight! But that seemed kind of random–the roads and weather didn’t seem that bad at this point, so after a test run to the post office, we decided it was safe enough to head to Paducah for our scheduled photo session at Sears. That is when our fun began.
We pack up all the picture clothes and load up in the van. Clay ran back inside for something just in time to hear Sears leaving a message that they were closing early and we’d have to reschedule our pictures. That kind of floored us–we were looking forward to spending the afternoon in Paducah before gymnastics. We wondered if things were maybe worse than they appeared, but decided that it was just these Southerners freaking out. After all, we braved two winters in Northern Indiana and were old pros now. We decided to go to Paducah anyway to hang out. Off we go. Everything is fine until we get past Smithland (about 15-20 miles down the road). Suddenly we come upon two or three cars that are stopped and turning around: there is a large tree down across the road. Not to be deterred, we head back to Smithland to search for the road that leads to the interstate, which I’d been on one time before after dark and didn’t really know where it was. We decided that the cars in front of us were probably doing the same thing, so we’d just follow them. After driving awhile we realize two things: 1) we’re almost flat on empty and 2) this road obviously isn’t leading to the interstate. We have no clue where we are and there is absolutely nothing around, so we just continue to follow the cars. Lo and behold, they did know an alternate route–they had just gone around Smithland and ended up back on US 60 on the other side of the fallen tree! Score one for the ignorant Halls! Now if we can just make it to Ledbetter before we run out of gas. Oh no! Marathon and Chevron are both closed! The next chance for gas is Paducah, still about 10 minutes away. Putt, putt, putt, putt. Finally, we pull into a gas station and sigh a sigh of relief. But wait, what’s this? Oh no again! The transformer for the gas pumps is down! Have to keep going on some fumes and a prayer. Putt, putt, putt, putt. Here’s a BP! There are cars here getting gas! We pull up and start pumping. Five minutes later we look up to see that it has put exactly 6 cents worth of gasoline in our van. There were too many pumps going at the same time, everyone had to shut off and start over. Finally, finally we had a full tank of gas, something we would be very thankful for in the days ahead. We decided just to go to the mall anyway on the off chance that the picture people had changed their minds. We get to the mall and realize that we are there with a 5 year old, 3 year old, one year old, and four month old, and not a single stroller. Genius!! We decide to rent one, but they only take cash and they won’t hold Samuel’s seat anyway. While we were debating about what to do, the rental guy took pity on us and said that if we would carry Samuel, he would let us leave the carseat there as a deposit on the stroller, and we wouldn’t have to pay. Score two for the Halls! We finally get settled to walk around the mall, only to see store after store closing their doors. What is with these people?! Things are not that bad out there! The cookie place was still open though, so we spent our quarter collection on cookies!! Score three for the Halls! Finally, we give up on the mall, take the stroller back that we used for a whopping 20 minutes and head to Wal-mart to pick up our order there. Believe it or not, nothing went wrong during this segment of our day. As we’re heading back home, we get the call that Salem has just lost power. We consider turning around to spend the night in a hotel in Paducah (which would have done us a lot of good since they lost power too), but remembered poor Elliot. So we continue on until we get just outside of Burna and find a nice big Road Closed sign just before Dyer Hill Curve. Clay’s on the phone with Joey, so he tells us how to get around it on a back road, which miraculously was completely clear. We finally make it home in time to whip up some peanut butter sandwiches before daylight is gone. Our house is freezing. We layer on the clothes, snuggle on the couch, and watch 101 Dalmations on our portable DVD player from the van, which we amazingly had the foresight to charge up in the van on the way home. We pile the girls up all in one bedroom, and Clay, Elliot, Samuel and I pile up in our bedroom, for a seriously cold night. It was so eerie to lay there in complete silence, complete darkness for most of the night while listening to crack and crash after crack and crash as tree limbs crashed down all around us. I can’t describe that sound, and that night. We wake up, freezing, to Ted Gillum pounding on our door to check on us. They had a gas fireplace, so after a failed attempt to get propane for our propane heater, we packed a bunch of pj’s and sweatsuits, and food, and headed to the Gillum’s. We are so thankful to them for checking on us and taking us in. (Elliot wasn’t too thankful about the garage, but he survived. 🙂 ) Not long after we got there, the water went out as well, because, as we found out later, trees fell on the backup generators at the water plant. Thankfully we had a heads up on this, and had time to fill the tubs and lots of containers and cups with water to use. We were also very thankful for their gas grill, and we enjoyed warm food for dinner that night. At this point, we still were hearing all sorts of rumors about how long this would last. The next morning, the official word seemed to be 5-7 days, so we decided to flee to Somerset, which was only possible since we had filled up the tank on Tuesday, since there was no way to get any gas anywhere near Salem. It took awhile to get loaded up, but we headed out about 11:30. We had to drive an hour and a half to the closest restaurant with power. Starving, we get in line at Wendy’s drive through, even though the line goes all the way to the highway. We wait in line for an hour, order, and get up to the window to find out that they’re only taking cash, of which we have exactly none. With Elisabeth crying because we left without her “kickin and foo-fyes,” we had to drive 45 more minutes to Bowling Green to try again. We finally get lunch at 3:00. We drove our stir-crazy kids another couple of hours to arrive in Somerset with huge sighs of relief around 7:00. Score again for the Halls.
The stories and happenings over these two days were incredible. One guy told of a telephone pole down on his street, blocking people in, until they just packed snow around it and drove over it like a speed bump. Our rescuer had to drive to Murray that night to rescue his college daughter, and had to beg gas from lawnmowers, generators, and his workplace along the way. The parents of our hostess had a tree limb fall through the roof into the house they’re trying to sell. We had branches on our road that were only being held up by power lines, as you can see in one of the pictures I’ll post tomorrow. Our hostess works at the hospital pharmacy, which was running on half power from a generator and no water, and she told of the hospital high-ups fleeing to relatives and leaving them to pull all the extra weight. Poles were snapped in half all over the place. Trees were destroyed. Some looked like a giant had just stepped on them and flattened them. As far as we know, nothing was even able to be done about the nursery roof before everything went out and everyone just had to go into survival mode. We’ve heard all kinds of rumors and news since we left. Apparently ours was the worst area in the state, and the latest we’ve heard is anywhere from 2 weeks to a month until power comes back on. Who knows how long it will really be, though.
So that’s our story. We have much to be thankful for. We were safe, we were warm (eventually), we had food, our house was not damaged, we were able to get out, and we had someplace to go. We continue to pray for our friends who are still there in the midst of it, finding ways to get by. We are enjoying unexpected time in Somerset, but are eager to get home and clean up and resume the new life that we have been enjoying so much. If you’re in Salem and can somehow read this, we miss you and look forward to getting back on track. Hang in there. See you on the flip side.