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Ice-Pocalypse

2021 Ice-Pocalypse

Posted 01 March 2021

We woke up to some snow on Friday, February 12, about half an inch. We were excited, Portland holding its collective breath, will we get snow? Will it really happen? Back in the day, we did get at least one snowstorm a year, but now we are lucky to get a dusting. I was secretly hoping for snow, but since I am married to a mailman (a walking one), I have to be careful about how hard I wish. 

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We got our snow, but by the time I went out with Misha to try and play, all the snow had turned to rock-hard ice. From that point on everything that fell was or quickly turned to ice. 

We woke 10:30 p.m. to the crash of trees falling. Misha leaped off the bed to hide underneath and as he slid into the dark cave under us, a transformer down the block blew in a dazzling display of blue, pulsing bursts, the energy thrumming through my body making my hair stand on end. It seemed to go on and on, the crack of electricity joining in with the crack and crash of limbs. Then the house fell into dark silence as we lost power and all the tiny sounds that we take for granted, the refrigerator's hum, the whir of the fan that I use as white noise while I sleep, all the sounds ceased.

Ice pattered softly from the sky accompanied by the shotgun blasts of trees falling. I was nervous, but unlike Misha, I wanted out of the confines of our basement room. Kirk convinced me to stay downstairs, and I barely slept. I lay rigid as I listened to the cacophony of destruction and struggled with my overwhelming claustrophobia waiting to be crushed by a falling tree. I prayed for us, for the squirrels that I feed and for our neighbors. I am not a social creature, but I felt a deep sense of isolation. When we heard a chainsaw rev and whine as it bit deep into the wood of a fallen tree, it comforted me, just knowing that someone was out there.

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We woke up to a thick, frigid blanket of ice. Branches and trees continued to fall at a regular pace, one every ten minutes or so, a sharp crack and then the whoosh as we held our breath waiting for the crash of the landing so we would know where it fell.

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Kirk left for work after scraping and smacking the dense coating of ice with a rubber mallet, pouring warm water around the door seams. He was immediately stopped by a tree across highway 43, the first of many. He made it in, but the mail truck never did, so they sent him home after three hours. 

We drove to the gas station, but it was closed even though they had power. We drove around for a bit, but decided to go home since we saw trees, branches and large hunks of ice falling all around us. 

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Our house leaks air like a sieve and it was soon colder inside than outside. We dug out Misha's down jacket that is actually too big for him and was in a giveaway box. It was warmer than his regular coat, which he wears in the rain. 

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The cherry tree in the front yard kept snapping until it had at least five compound fractures. 

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At least four trees fell across our street. The neighbors would pull together to clear one and another would fall. 

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Just when we thought it couldn't get worse, a tree came up by the roots, snapping the power pole, pulling the power lines down with it and blocking us into our street. 

We were so cold. Our wood burning fireplace doesn't put out much heat, and our propane was running low for cooking. It physically hurt to go upstairs or to the bathroom. 

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There was damage everywhere!

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On the 15th, our third day without power, we woke up to sun and the slow melt began. Our cherry tree stooped to the ground, branches encased in ice, limbs dragging on the ground like the train of a white diamond studded wedding gown. 

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Kirk went back to work on Day 4 of no power. His route is on the other side of town. Sometimes the weather on his side of the hill is vastly different than the weather here, but his route had sustained the same damage.

It was hard to be alone in the dark,  huddled under the duvet with Misha, shaking with cold. I tried to ration our meager wood supply, and build a small fire in the morning to try and take the chill out of the room while I washed myself. Then I made a fire right before Kirk drove up. 

We didn't have great cell service, so we didn't have news, except for what Kirk heard on his route, which wasn't good. Ten more days without power, people said. How could I endure it? I started counting my blessings. (I had no idea what was happening in the outside world, or I would have counted as a blessing that I lived in Oregon and not Texas.)

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PHOTO BY

ROBYN SPEAKS

On Day 5 Kirk's truck broke down on the freeway exit when he was headed home from a thirteen hour day and he had to get a tow. My friend's fiancé diagnosed a failed fuel pump. (We are so grateful for his help.)

On Day 6, I went to the office, my heart breaking as I left Misha in the icy house. As I told my co-workers/friends my story (most people were without power for only a day or two), something amazing happened. They began to fill my needs with wood, propane, house-safe propane heaters and Duraflame logs. It wasn't convenient for any of them, but they did it. They loaded my car with warmth and love. 

I drove home exhilarated, overflowing with humility. 

And as I pulled into our street, I saw the first workers had arrived, after 6 days of no power. 

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We had so much damage that linemen from all over arrived in Oregon to help out. Wyoming, Nevada, Montana...Our linemen that worked in front of our house were from Seattle City Lights. I spoke to them and heard how hard they were working , what long shifts. Linemen are my new heroes, unsung most of the time. Annoyingly in the way so often. Not anymore for me. they are amazing. 

It took 8 days! Kirk and I were eating spaghetti that I made on the camp stove when suddenly I heard and felt the power come back. I began to yell and I couldn't speak, just shout out random words and partial sentences. I threw my jacket on over my pajamas and rushed into the street into the warm flashing lights of the work vehicles. The neighbors were popping out of their houses and we were all yelling with joy. One linemen looked at me, his shoulders slumped with weariness. 

"I will tell everyone," he said as I thanked him profusely.

He started to walk away, but turned back and asked, "Which house is yours?"

I pointed to my house which wasn't quite blazing with light yet, although it would be lit up the house, took showers, started laundry. But he could see the electric lights downstairs where we had been living. 

He took a long look, nodded with satisfaction and walked off down the street. 

The other neighbors and I pumped our fists in the air and yelled, "Shower time!" before we went back into the warming house. 

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We are coming up on two weeks since it all began and West Linn is still buried under piles of debris.

 

Misha and I finally made it out for a walk yesterday. Even after the power came on and the temperature rose, workers had our street blocked as they do again today. I had to pick him up and carry him a few times rather than to let him rush over downed lined. (While I know the lines aren't live, I just can't let him, just in case.)

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Misha and I went up on a woodsy trail on the hill above the house. Or should I say, we went to where the Palomino Loop Trail is now buried by downed trees and thick fir branches under which thick ice resides despite the rise in temperature. We went for it, climbing through and around trees, losing our way once on this trail that we walk almost every day. 

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I wonder how long it will take to clear trails when the city has barely begun to clear the streets. I wonder how much one Wilderness Chick and her beautiful side kick of a Beagle.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.     

Confucius