Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ice Storm '94 memories bittersweet

We all have memories of the ice storm of 1994.  Here are mine.

I had three kids at home, a show horse in the back yard and a mother, dying of cancer.

After being dismissed from school, we all came home to a warm house heated by firewood.  I started sewing a horse show outfit for Hayley, put on a crock pot of spaghetti sauce, and then realized that we were in for more than I'd expected.

We moved my parents from their home in town to our house, then at Westwood on the outskirts of Senatobia.  Mother was in the advanced stages of lung cancer, had Parkinson's disease and was almost blind from macular degeneration. She required oxygen.  When trees started snapping and light poles started falling, the fire department brought me a small generator to keep her oxygen going.  Then they realized that we were experiencing not just inconvenience, but disaster.  The required every generator for the hospital and nursing home.

She really did well without her oxygen tank.  The first night we ate spaghetti and filled the living room with sleeping bags. Mother and Daddy slept in the girls' twin beds, right off the living room.  We were all warm.  We sat by the fire and listened to Daddy's endless tales of his life out West, of horses and life experiences.

Howard broke ice for Hayley's show horse to have water.  In the house, we did not have water.  As morning came, we heard mother take her first fall. She had fallen between the bed and the wall.  Jason, a senior in high school, scooped her up and put her back to bed.  She was remarkably unhurt.

Then we all looked outside and were amazed by what we saw.  Limbs and trees down everywhere.  We did have phone service and could stay in touch with other family members.  We listened to our clock radio, powered by its nine-volt battery for weather updates.

Our fireplace insert provided not only heat, but a cooking source. We baked sweet potatoes and made salmon croquettes in a iron skillet on top.  The ice began to drip, but no power would be restored for two more days.

We spent another night in the living room. My children say that the night we all slept together was the night they realized that I snored.  I'm sure they were mistaken.

Howard and Daddy were finally able to get out and go to the farm, 10 miles from town, where we now live.  When limbs fall, fences go down, and cows and horses get out.  They made the most crucial repairs to keep the livestock in.  By noon that day mother took her second fall.

She lost her balance, took a step back into the door frame.  Her force against the wood made a loud crack, and she slid to the floor.  Again, she was unhurt but sore from the fall.

Later that day, the lights came on in the city of Senatobia, and we were able to take them back to their house. Relief! She was more comfortable there and able to get around better in familiar surroundings.  After getting baths at Howard's mother's house, we came back to our dark house for another night.

We cooked on the grill and played games.  By this time, we were really getting concerned with predictions of electricity not returning for days.  We were lucky, and did get restored power by the third full day.  Others were not so lucky.  Those in rural communities faced days without power.

Clean up efforts began, and Senatobia and Tate County gradually came back to life thanks to volunteers and great emergency management.

Mother died one month to the day after the ice storm hit.  Did her death come sooner because of the circumstances?  We'll never know.  But without the storm, we wouldn't have had those nights around the fire.  I'll take that.

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