Monday, February 10, 2014


Edge Hill Road at the entrance to my preserve after the ice storm
My preserve was smack dab in the center of the recent Mid-Atlantic ice storm that caused 715,000 customers in the counties surrounding Philadelphia to lose electric power for days on end.  After an 8-inch snowfall Tuesday night into Wednesday morning (February 4-5), the precipitation changed to sleet, which coated everything and caused the havoc.  Our electric power went off at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, and power was not restored until Sunday afternoon, February 9.  We were without heat, water, and lights for 105 hours.

Kali and I "camped out" in the living room near the wood stove for the duration.  We brought the two cats (who don't like one another) into the room with us, along with our parrot (in his cage, of course).  We all got as close to the stove as we dared.  Despite our tribulations, though, we had it better than many folks in the area because at least we had a stove and firewood; many other customers just shivered in their houses, some of which got down very near freezing day after day.

This storm was second only to Hurricane Sandy (August 2012) in terms of the number of electric customers affected.  Utility crews from all over the eastern United States and eastern Canada descended onto us in an effort to restore power.  Our service was restored by a crew from Georgia Power (who had just come from their own ice storm nightmare two weeks ago).
Some of the non-native firs and spruces in the preserve held up fairly well to snow cover

A white pine just inside our driveway that, like most of the white pines on the property, suffered many broken limbs
Having been largely housebound for nearly five days, Kali and I decided to walk two of the trails in the preserve on Sunday afternoon after the power was restored to get an idea of the damage.  It wasn't a pleasant walk because the snow was covered by a sheet of ice, which made walking very difficult.  In addition, the trails were interrupted end to end by downed branches, so we had to detour repeatedly.
A trail runs down the center of this allee of white pines
Kali detouring around a fallen tree blocking the trail
Though there was a lot of damage, whole topped trees like the fir in the image above were actually pretty uncommon - certainly far less common than they were in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Most of the woody debris consisted of large branches and limbs that cracked off the canopy of the trees, but the majority of the trees themselves were spared.

If storms like Hurricane Sandy and this ice storm continue to strike the preserve with regularity, there won't be anything left to preserve.  The trees will be damaged or killed, and then sunlight will stream into the woods and allow invasive vines to overwhelm the forest.  It's all very discouraging.


packrat said...

Very depressing to see how your preserve has suffered recently, Scott. I understand that the Atlanta, Georgia area is bracing for another ice storm. Sure is crazy weather, and I, of course, lean toward human-made climate change as a leading cause, but I'm biased against human behavior.

Scott said...

As I mentioned in my post, our electric power was restored by a crew from Georgia Power. Since electric power has now been restored to 99% of customers in this area, the Georgia Power crews have probably headed back south--into another ice storm! They must be exhausted. mI hope the overtime pay makes up for it.

I was talking to one of the local electric crew members. He said to me he just wanted to crawl into bed with his wife to get warm and sleep. They really did a yeoman's job.

We're forecast to get 6-8 more inches of snow beginning Wednesday evening into Thursday through mid-day. It could end with a period of rain and/or sleet. This is really getting tiresome.

Mark P said...

Wow. I haven't come around for a couple of days, so I didn't realize how bad things were for you. I'm glad the Ga Power crews were able to help. We now have Florida Power crews on standby near Atlanta for what they expect to be a severe ice storm. Fortunately for us, it should all be south of here.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: I can sympathize with the damage around your preseve. Even now, many of the fir trees of various species are bent with ice that still hasn't melted here on Roundtop. And now, it looks as though another foot of snow will fall starting tomorrow night. I may not be ready for spring, but I would happily be ready for a little bare ground!