In Joplin, Missouri, we know tornadoes…and ice storms. Last week we had our third in the last 6 years.
The evening was cold and wet. It had been drizzling for the past ten hours and maintaining a steady temperature between 30 and 32 degrees. We were sitting in the living room interacting with our multitudinous digital devices when we heard a great crash.
“Whu THA?!” Chandler our two-year-old daughter says when she hears a sound she can’t identify.
Someone needs to investigate. The deck was so icy that Nicole didn’t want to walk out onto it, so she went upstairs, out onto the balcony, and observed verifiable truth that guardian angels directly influence women’s driving. If they didn’t, well, you know…
She had taken my SUV on a brief errand earlier in the day before it was too bad to drive and had parked it where she typically does her vehicle. After getting out, she reconsidered and moved the car over one parking space. The loud crash we had heard was the sound of two 25 foot ice laden sections of our beloved river birch trees falling precisely where Nicole had parked it before being prompted by the heavens to scoot it over a bit. It was so close, in fact, that the driver’s side door was pinned by the bent smaller branches.
The drizzling continued through most of the night. We awoke that Sunday morning with the glorious sun a-shining. It looked like the land of Narnia while in the midst of its perpetual state of winter. The deck was covered in ice and the birch branches were bent within two or three feet of the deck and looked like they would snap at any moment.
I looked over at my vehicle and noticed a slight, unnatural bend in the 70 foot sycamore just beyond it. Precarious was the word that came to mind. Between the fallen branches, and the ones weighed down by ice, there was no way I could move my car, but move it I must! I now knew my mission for the day. Let Operation Yukon Rescue begin!
First, Nicole and I decided it would be a good idea to try to lighten the load on the trees by melting some of the ice, thus giving the Yukon safe passage to the East. There are multiple ways to melt ice, and Nicole suggested spraying water on the branches with the hose, which had worked for her before. After locating a hose at the barn that wasn’t frozen, setting it up, ramming an oscillating sprinkler into the ground at an awkward angle, and turning the water on, Nicole and I sat back and watched.
“Is it melting the ice?” Nicole asked.
“I can’t tell,” I responded. “It’s pretty darn cold outside, you know. It might just be freezing on the branches, thus worsening the situation.” (That’s a retrospective paraphrase of my response, but the intent is accurate.)
We waited longer.
Now we weren’t just cold, but the introduction of water had created mud in the flower bed, and Nicole had gotten sprayed in the face twice by the sprinkler as she tried to set it up properly. What?! It was her idea, so I figured it would be best for her to attempt to execute it!
“CRACK!” went the section of the tree we were trying to salvage.
“Abort! Abort!” I ran to the faucet and turned off the sprinkler. It seemed we were indeed making the situation worse. Time for Plan B.
“Fire usually melts ice,” I thought. “And there is a fire pit on our deck. Why don’t I start a fire in the fire pit on the deck and see if it melts some ice off of the trees?” Sometimes we initially overlook the obvious.
Do you know what it’s like to fear triggering an avalanche? I do now! I spent half of the afternoon treading lightly on the ice covered deck, constantly tense as the entire canopy above me seemed as if it could collapse at any moment. Any time the breeze picked up, the branches above would crack and I would run for cover. If I were a smoker, I would have chain smoked all afternoon just to ease the tension.
Did I mention that it was cold?
I can handle working outside in the cold. I’m pretty rugged, you know. A friend of the elements, you might even say. I do have a weak spot, though…my Achilles heel in chilly climes. You get the point.
While the rest of my body remains quite warm, my fingers, regardless of how thick the gloves, pretty quickly get cold. I blow warm air into my gloves, shake my hands, stick them under my arm pits, (which does absolutely nothing!) anything I can think of to get Jack Frost to stop nipping at my, um, fingers. Nothing works! And shortly after they get cold, they just plum start to hurt. That’s when I typically throw in the towel. It’s why I’ve often mentioned that I wish I had chubby digits. A friend with whom I work outside has, well, chubbier digits than I. His fingers never get cold! I’ll be doing all the above mentioned things to warm mine up, and Captain Chubby Digits over there isn’t even wearing gloves!
I really wouldn’t want them all the time, though. I like the appearance of my fingers just fine. But it would be nice to have them on occasion. I’ll have to sit down with Santa next year and see what he can do.
I finally got the frozen logs burning well (after the 4th attempt) and set out to release my Yukon from its cage of icy limbs. I began with hand tools because both the kids were taking a nap, but soon reached a point where something more powerful was necessary.
The kids were up now, so I went down to the barn and grabbed the big daddy…the largest chain saw on the property…the Echo CS-600P. It had a new chain on it so it cut through the trees like butter. It was a little overkill, I suppose; but sometimes you gotta take control (or something along those lines). Anyway, it was one of the more enjoyable aspects of the afternoon.
I cut up the branches and dragged them into the grass, all the while glancing above me to make sure I wasn’t about to be crushed by falling branches. The car didn’t have a scratch. Thank you, Nicole’s automotive guardian angel!
We maneuvered my car out from under all of the trees, and by the time the evening was upon us, I had three roaring fire pits on the deck. The next morning, things were slightly better and by the following day, the sun was out and the ice falling off of the trees sounded like you were in a hail storm. No more major branches broke, fortunately, and although there was a good bit of cleanup after it was all over, it was not disastrous.
Hopefully we’re done with ice storms for a while, though.