Death by Ice

February 15, 2021, Oregon City Oregon.

Gardening folklore chides us to trim our deciduous trees and roses on Valentine’s Day. Nature did it for us.

The thaw began this morning with a crisp blue sky and brilliant sunshine. Giant ice cubes fell in waves from the trees, pipes of tubular ice dropped from the maze of civilization’s wires overhead, the cacophony of thunderous crashes jangled my senses. Is that another tree shattering? Will it hit my roof, the fence, my car?

Ominous shards of ice dangled from the awnings. Damocles has returned for revenge.

This scene will play out across the country; we’re only the first of millions who will attempt to sleep in a cold car or frozen bed. Miserable for us; deadly for hundreds of millions of trees. It’s amazing how much the world can change so quickly.

The first morning of the storm was an adventure. I still had electricity. I was marveling at the beauty of it all. By midmorning the thrill was gone when the phone, internet and electric suddenly quit. Now it became a challenge to survive.

The first night wasn’t comfortable but it was safe. Buried under 6 blankets with 2 hot water bottles at my feet I slept intermittently. The thermometer in my bedroom dropped to 30 degrees.

The approach of the second night showed me how unprepared for disaster I am. After years of planning to survive a monstruous earthquake, a simple ice storm exposed my weakness. I was fucking freezing. I decided to camp in my car which still had plenty of gas. I’d make it through this night – but if the power outage persists 3 days I’d be in trouble.

PG&E brought in crews from Nevada that reconnected my house to the grid that night. I decamped my car and turned up the heat in the house to melt the chill from the walls and bedding.

This morning cars are backed up blocks from open gas stations and fast food drive thrus. Many homes are still without power. I drove over countless internet cables laying in the street. Yesterday’s silence when the roads were solid ice and no one could drive is replaced by today’s endless wails from ambulances and fire trucks.

Nearly every deciduous tree is shattered. The fir trees stood resilient. I saw a cluster of robins scavenging among broken limbs.

Later this week I’ll install a wood stove and purchase the biggest gas can I find.

I’m so thankful the Mega Earthquake didn’t hit this weekend.