Friday, February 06, 2009

Ozark Ice Storm: Images of Ice

and I'm driven from my bed..."

As electrical lines are slowly being reconnected throughout the Ozarks, friends from my hometown of Salem and surrounding areas are beginning to send me beautiful photographs, lovely scenes of crystalline destruction.

This first image comes from Jeanie Oliver (née Scott), who also writes:
I sit here tonight hugging my computer as if an old friend had walked into the door.
I'm tempted to make some witty but inappropriate remark advising Jeanie to tell her old friend to walk with eyes open wide through the doorway next time, but I'll be serious because the circumstances are:
Winter has hit us as a freight train of ice and snow over the last week. The whole area has been devastated as if ripped by a bomb set off by mother nature. Our local electrical cooperative still has over 15,000 people out of power and the prognosis is for some of those people to be out of power through the month of February. As most of you know, my knowledge of the details of the coop [aka "co-op"] is quite intimate as Eddy has been been an employee there for over 30 years. They have brought so many crews in from so many other places that Eddy has lost track of the count. He moved today to Pineville to oversee crews from Texas as that endeavor had to have the most experienced foreman because the lines cross the river. They came and got my power on so Eddy would have lights and hot water when he came home at night. Since I had only been seeing him for 2 or 3 hours a night that was a nice change. He is now sleeping from midnight to 4 am. Then going back in for command meetings and back out to work. They will work these hours and 7 days a week until every single person is back in power.
That sounds really serious if they had to call on Texas for help! We Arkies generally prefer not to inflate the Texan ego by requesting help. But good to hear that Big Eddy Oliver is getting more rest . . . on a full four hours sleep per night. Meanwhile, Jeanie parents -- Jim and Barbara Scott -- are handling their isolation well:
My mom and dad have all kinds of camping equipment and dad is the ultimate throw-back to frontiersman so they have been making it okay. They don't have power, though, and no clue when the coop [aka "co-op"] will reach them. The saddest aspect for them is the fact that so many of their beloved shade trees have been destroyed.
I figured that if any individual would know how to survive midwinter on an Ozark farm cut off from the world, Jim Scott would be the one.

The scope of the disaster is made clear in a link sent to me by my old friend Herschel Ducker concerning the efforts made by the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative to restore services:
The number of additional linemen and ground crew members helping to restore North Arkansas Electric Cooperative's power grid swelled to 700 on Tuesday following last week's ice storms which left thousands without power, plunging them into cold and darkness.

Mel Coleman, NAEC chief executive officer, said the co-op normally has about 75 maintenance and installation crews. Some 21,000 consumers on the 35,000-member service grid in Baxter, Fulton, Izard, Sharp, Stone and Marion counties remained without electricity on Tuesday, he said. (Frank Wallis, "NAEC calls on 700 workers to restore power," The Baxter Bulletin, February 4, 2009)
Note the statistics: 21,000 people without electricity in the middle of winter. No lights, cooking, or heating until the powerlines are back up . . . unless people can improvise. Herschel has been having a few ice-bound adventures of his own:
I've had some "adventures with neighbors" trying to keep warm. Thursday was especially exciting (as far as adventures go). One of the old ladies decided lighting off the charcoal grill in an unchimneyed, wood-ceilinged, unvented commons area of the apartment building was a good idea . . . . [W]hen I entered the commons area, well, "ballistic" is a pretty fair description of where I went . . . . [T]he local fire chief showed up a bit later advising everyone that there had been "a number" of confirmed CO poisonings with a few fatalities. To my added relief he mentioned that lighting charcoal or wood fires in unvented buildings would be treated harshly.
Herschel was entirely correct in forcefully expressing his alarm, for as this link shows, the consequences can be deadly:
A massive ice storm last week which caused thousands to lose power and heat resulted in the death of a Gassville man who died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning, authorities said. The body of Nathan Johnson, 47, of 625 Magness St., was discovered over the weekend by the Gassville Police Department.

Baxter County Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Lewis said Johnson was believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Johnson apparently was running a generator in the garage, with the door open into the house, according to an incident report. (Armando Rios, "Officials: Carbon monoxide kills Gassville man," The Baxter Bulletin, February 3, 2009)
I hope that my kinfolk are being careful with the generators that they have running.

While I worry about that, take a look at the next four images, posted to me through two poorly-formulated links in a previous blog comment from Ruth Skrapates but also sent via email by way of both Herschel Ducker and my brother Tim Hodges. Here are two links, now properly done, to Ruth's many photographs. I recall Ruth well from my teenage years when she was a little girl nicknamed -- for some reason or other -- "Boobie" . . . though she now signs her rare comments here with "Skrap." Maybe she can clue me in on this old mystery of her nickname.

Icy Destruction, Downtown Salem, Arkansas

Driving south on North Elm Street, Salem

Icy sign, lines, trees, and slope of Salem Knob

High up on Salem Knob, looking higher...

The next two images -- as with the very first one -- come from Jeanie Oliver, who lives on a hilltop in the Ozark countryside.

Iconic Tree of Icy Knowledge

Fire and Ice

That last photograph might very well be a sunrise, but it has a setting-sun quality to it, an appropriate final image that also reminds me of Robert Frost's fine poem:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
That's "Fire and Ice," published in Frost's 1923 book of poetry New Hampshire and first taught to me by Mrs. Deshazo in her 8th-grade English class during the winter of 1971.

Fire or ice, take your choice.

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At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should anyone click the link for "Pineville" then scroll down to where census data lists, "Cities" - that can be a bit misleading.

Jeff may be able to correct my understanding of what a "city" in Izard County is properly designated by, but I think a "city" means a town with more than one gas station. Pineville has one while the neighboring Calico Rock has four.

Calico "qualifies" as a city. However last Thursday (during an ill-conceived trip to the nearest liquor store) I discovered only Pineville - where incidentally many of my ancestors are buried: probably cold - actually had the ability to pump gasoline.

So whether Calico or Pineville should be declared a "city" is open to some debate.

Izard County is a so-called "dry-county" meaning one has to drive to the adjoining county (Baxter) to buy beer or find Baptists cashing paychecks. Usually both "beer buying" and "paycheck cashing" occur in close proximity. (However, Baptists don't apparently recognize fellow Baptists at the liquor store.)

The liquor store incidentally was operating under extreme duress - no electricity - which meant that the cashiers were tabulating (by candlelight) "amounts owed" with paper and pencil.

(To give some idea of how dire the circumstances were - I've never seen pencil erasers so worn, in ALL my 21 or so years.)

Actually there was an unusual upside, ALL the beer in the store was ice-cold.

Herschel D.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Ah,ice cold beer! it can't get any better than that...
I didn't mean to make the co-op into a chicken coop and thanks for correcting that for me! I am famous now with my words and pictures being immortalized by the gypsy scholar and I can't wait to direct my friends to see them on what I consider a "respectable" blog!
with much appreciation,
Jeanie O.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Herschel, "Pineville" cannot be a city because it is obviously -- by virtue of its etymology -- merely a village, much like "Yellville."

But I'm not sure what to make of "Calico Rock" . . . though I do know how it got its name.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeanie, I appreciate the wonderful images. Thanks to you, really.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jeff,

I could pump gas in Pineville.

I could not pump gas in the "city."

Running on fumes in a city is a lot less desireable than obtaining a full tank in a village.

As I stated, "What do I know about the difference." However, I stand corrected (or at least I will in the morning).

That's why I come to Gypsy, superior intellectual knowledge of the workings of stuff like the US Census Bureau.

Herschel D.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, Herschel, what's a Gypsy Scholar for if not for providing some rambling knowledge?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In facing winter's fury, are Arkansasians? flinty like Chicagoans or wimpy like Washingonians? We Virginians also lie on the rain/snow line and see more icy than snowy precipitation.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Flinty, I think. People use chains on their tires and go on with their business. Schools might close during snow and ice because the dirt roads can be impassible.

I recall one January when we scarcely attended school because the ice remained so long on the rough, steep dirt roads.

By the way, are we 'Arkansassy'? We locals used to call ourselves "Arkansawyers" . . . but the standard is "Arkansans."

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I might ( as an individual) add Sonagi92:

occassionally it happens that people watch for reports about this time of year, and pay attention. And so methods for obtaining heat and such are laid by aforehand.

It's kinda like preparing a shrimp salad. If one knows one is gonna have guests over who enjoy shrimp, it's best to have the shrimp before "time for dinner hits."

I'll JPEG a warning to Jeff, (picked up from the NWS) - (previous to the recent) but of course I placed it into "Word" highlighted the important stuff and red-texted what I considered the "naughty-bits." The NWS warning came well before the Ozarks version of "Fan-Death" But as they say in Jeff's neck of the woods, "WTH" does he know? ("Heck.")

Jeff, if he so wishes, can post what I was seeing, not that it matters now. I've still got people "p'd" at me for not - oh heck.

I did hand it out to each and every tenant incidentally.

Herschel D.

At 2:50 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

"In facing winter's fury, are Arkansasians? flinty like Chicagoans or wimpy like Washingonians?" -Sonagi is illuistrated by the Main-Stream Media's failure to highlight the Federal Govt's massive failure in managing the diaster as they did during Katrina. In other words, Arkansans...unlike New Orleanites...saw what was coming and prepared. After the fact, we took care of ourselvews and our own and complained very little about ti.

Recon what Kanye West has to say about it?

Sorry, Jeffery...couldn't help myself.

At 6:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No problem, Daddio.

I think, generally speaking, that farmers and rural folk are usually better at coping with this sort of thing than urban dwellers are. If the power went out in Seoul, we'd have enormous difficulty dealing with the consequences, for city life is a lot more complicated, requiring interdependence among strangers.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But a WHOLE lot less Fan-Deaths.

Just looking on the bright-side.


At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm gonna disagee (only to a point) with Daddio's description:

Arkansans are not really "flinty" (much as I like that word) but the really descriptive one is "granite."

From the info I'm receiving, the native Arkansans - those living here for longer than their retirement (from places like Chicago) have been less frequently found sitting in their Lazyboys dead from carbon monoxide poisoning - than the "ignorant" Hillbillies have.

Hillbillies, it seems have somehow stumbled upon the fact that if one is burning something to keep warm, they must let a bit of fresh cool air to infiltrate in order not to be listed in the obits as a "dumb hillbilly."

It's one thing to be called an "ignorant hillbilly" - quite another to be labelled a "dumb hillbilly."

Daddio-al-Ozarka is a legend in these parts (don't email him and direct him to this comment) partly because he probably qualifies as ignorant - as I PROUDLY proclaim myself to be - but mainly because he has all his teeth (which I cannot proudly proclaim, thank God for crowns).

Anyway, I'd recommend clicking on his site, you may not always agree with everything he says but after all, he's a hillbilly. (Except for the fact he doesn't have a tube of silicon in the bathroom next to his dentures soaking in moonshine.)

If you do click to him, check out the link, "EIC" or "Exploring Izard County."

As to the Viginians (in general -provided their not located in the immediate vicinty of the District of Columbia) I once knew a doggone qualified hillbilly girl from Charlottesville.

But that's enough typing for now.

Herschel D.


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