Jewel McHale of Route 115 in Yarmouth cuts up one of the many trees that broke under the weight of the ice at her home. Although beautiful to look at, the ice storm caused a lot of damage to trees, wires and homes in the state. Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald

When I think of the ice storm, two things come first and prominently to mind.

First was enduring a week without running water. Having no power was a nuisance. But since we had two wood stoves fired up, we at least had heat, no fear of freezing pipes and a modicum of water heated on top of the wood stove for sponge baths. But because we had a deep well for water, the lack of electricity meant no water out of the tap to flush a toilet.

We could manually flush by taking off the porcelain toilet tank lid and pouring buckets of water into the toilet tank. But that procedure meant filling many plastic gallon milk jugs at the town’s outdoor freeze-free spigot and conveying them back to the house over ice-covered ground in the cold and dark – after working all day. Hanging around the town spigot, filling jugs, was like the old days of conversing with neighbors at the town dump or sand pile.

Second in my mind was the hellish cannon-like crashing sounds that occurred night after night. Our house was in the woods, surrounded by trees, with the snow-covered ground completely caked in a heavy layer of ice. The trees were also heavily laden with ice, more ice than I had ever seen before. All night long we would lie in bed listening as the trees fought valiantly to stay alive. A small branch or larger limb would give up the fight, sometimes with a cracking sound. Seconds later, after the wood fell down from many dozens of feet in the air, there would be a very loud crash as the ice-laden limb hit the ice-covered ground. This went on all night long, eventually killing a few of our many trees by stripping them of branches. Added to the crashing sounds was the never-ending banging of gas generators off in the distance, running all night long for the lucky few (not us, then or now) who owned these excessively loud and dangerous machines.

The trees that suffered the worst were the birches who had grown straight, thin-trunked and tall over years in their efforts to get at life-giving sunlight. I had seen these trees many times bowed over by the weight of ice in their small crown-tops, sometimes bending to within 8 or 10 feet of the ground before the ice melted and the trees sprang slowly back to an upright position. But in the ice storm, these birches were weighed all the way to the ground, where their crown-tops became welded tightly to the ground ice. Day after day they were locked there, straining to get upright but with no escape. I managed to free a few birches with my ax, chopping their crowns free from their ground-ice prison, to let them rise back to the sky.

Remembering the havoc caused by the ice storm makes me keenly aware of the tremendous suffering going on right now in Ukraine, where untold thousands of men, women, and children are in the dark, with no water, enduring the ravages of a freezing winter and a merciless enemy.

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