Ice, Snow, Devastation, and a Kazoo Band

13 Apr

There are moments in your life that you never forget. When I am old and wrinkled and more gray even than I am now, I will remember this week with tears, with smiles, and, possibly, with laughter.

My son asked me if, like with hurricanes, they name Midwestern Ice Storms. I told him that we didn’t rate that high on the weatherman’s scale.

“But it’s so bad!” he pointed out.

“Yes, it is,” I replied with a wry smile.

It really is so bad.

April usually is a time to anticipate bulbs poking out of the earth, to dig out asparagus recipes, to watch the daily progression of the leaves on the trees, the birds returning to the upper Midwest.

Not this year.

For those who don’t know, Tuesday night, April 9th, 2013, Worthington, Minnesota and the surrounding area experienced a terrible ice storm which left about 1.5 inches of ice on the trees, followed by 8+ inches of snow on Wednesday night. I live out in the country on ten acres of trees and stream and farmland. We lost electricity Tuesday night. Still don’t have it back as of Saturday afternoon. We have a generator – a reliable one – as of Friday night. The one we had, which came with our house 8 years ago, had never been put to the test before. Sure, we’d used it a few times for a few hours – but nothing like this.

It failed the test.

So finally, last night, my husband forked over $700 for a brand-new (and much quieter) one, so that we can have heat and toilets that flush and food that won’t give us food poisoning.

Can’t wash our clothes. Can’t run the dishwasher. No internet. No TV. (My son’s comment on these terrible facts: “Mom, what did you and Dad DO all day when you were kids?”)

But all of that pales in comparison with what’s happened outside of our windows.

Total tree devastation. It’s a war zone, a bombing site, an unrecognizable horizon.

And no, I have no photos for you yet – not until I get power back and can download all of my photos onto my PC. I’m in town right now, at my favorite hang-out, BenLees Café. It’s a refuge here from the sadness out my window.

My kids have named all of their favorite trees. There’s the Hosanna Tree, so named because its leaves resemble the palm fronds on Palm Sunday. (I think it will survive.) There’s the Shady Tree aka the Climbing Tree. It’s our favorite. My girls and I cried yesterday when we stood in front of it. I don’t think there’s any way it will survive. And then there’s Mr. and Mrs. Maple Tree – Mrs. Tree is doomed. Mr. Tree might make it – but it looks like he got a terrible hair cut.

And then there are 100 more trees – give or take – which have suffered the indignities of a very angry giant stomping through our yard and tearing twigs and branches off and throwing them willy-nilly all over the yard.

At least that’s what it feels like.

And sounded like.

Oy, vey, the sounds of the crackling ice when you stood outside in the silence of zero electricity. It was almost like running water, only then you realized that everything was frozen and it was just the constant crack of ice on trees as they blew in the wind.

And the sounds indoors: nothing. Utter, unimaginable, silence.

Until the generator goes on!

But there have also been sounds of laughter. Of a fire in the grate, of games played, of a Kazoo Band, and of 30 year old cassettes wallowing on my 30 year old tape player. (“Turn it off, Mom! It’s creepy!”)

And then there was the sound of tree limbs tearing, of thunder smashing right overhead, of a little girl learning to tie her shoes, running to tell Daddy when he walked in the door and his exclamations of pride.

Yes, I will look back on this with tears and smiles someday.


PS – I will have photos for you – probably more than you could ever hope for – as soon as I can. I’m sure I’ll write more about it, too. There is so much to process – to think through and put into words – I know I’m not yet finished.


15 Responses to “Ice, Snow, Devastation, and a Kazoo Band”

  1. whatimeant2say April 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    That is so sad! I am sorry this happened to you. And the poor trees. I had no idea the storms were that bad. But I am glad that your little girl learned to tie her shoes! That is definitely reason to celebrate.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      Yes, shoe tying is a gift, for sure! It’s been crazy – but I guess that every part of the country has it’s weather issues, doesn’t it? I HOPE that I don’t complain about the heat/temps. this summer!

  2. soshemarriedafarmer April 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    It certainly is something we will never forget. Well written.

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots April 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    Gretchen, dear Gretchen. It is the trees, I knew, that would mean the most to you. Their loss leaves such an empty space on the prairie, where every tree counts. I am sorry you have to deal with this, but thankful you are at least managing. Thanks for the update, because you know me well enough to realize that I was worrying.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Yep, you’re right. The trees. Just looking at the photos makes me ill. Things look a little better around town now, but still…not the same and never will be. yes, on the prairie, trees are so valued!

  4. Hotly Spiced April 14, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    I’m so sorry to hear this. You really should be enjoying the beauty of Spring at this time of the year. I keep hearing about how late the arrival of Spring is. I’m sorry to hear how awful it must have been for you to go without heat and internet and every electrical convenience. What a difficult time you’ve been having. May it all end soon and my Spring finally arrive xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Spring has become a joke here, that’s for sure! It’s 22 degrees farenheit (sp?) today and they say it will be 70 this weekend. Bizarre.

  5. Clyde of Mankato April 14, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    We lived on the North Shore from 1969 to 1997. Our power came 134 miles down from Ely, through the Superior National Forest, and along the Shore. The line up from Two Harbors ended 1/2 mile away. They finally put us on that line. We got to be experts on managing power outages. All those miles of forest and all those different areas of different weather! There are zones which get heavy snow more than others and zones that get more freezing rain. Usually we made it fun. Often had neighborhood parties. In 1976 the highway department had to truck in massive front-end loaders to clear Hwy 61 in front of us. 20-foot tall impacted drifts. We were blocked in and without power 5 days. We had a wood stove and stockpiled water and food before storms. One neighbor still had a pit toilet. You could keep food safe in the garage most of the time. Our kids loved sleeping together as a family in the living room by the stove. It was like camping, which we loved. In the years we lived there we lost every tree in out once quite forested yard because of wind, freezing rain, and disease.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      That is one wild power line you had! My husband’s good friends have a cabin on the north shore probably near where you were – they’re south of Two Harbors a bit, too. Can’t remember exactly where. It’s so beautiful up there. Great story – thanks for sharing it! 20 foot drifts – that’s insane.

  6. Kari Bukowski April 14, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    First and foremost, glad you are all safe and surviving somewhat pleasantly, as in being able to stay warm, cook, be together, use the facilities. Nature has a power that is awe-inspiring though that awe sometimes causes us to cry over beauty lost. Our youngest said to me, just last evening as she looked at the moon out the van windshield (we were driving back from Chicago), “The moon looks like it’s smiling, mom.” And it did – that little slice that looks like a smile in the sky. Then she commented on how amazing it is that she can see the same thing from our home even though we were 80 miles from it and that somehow it reminds her that we are really rather small in this bigger picture of life – part of something much grander and bigger than we can ever truly take in. Her final philosophical comment…”I think God meant for it to be that way.” I was rather struck, not because she’s so young – she’s not – but because it was such a different sort of sentiment than what I often hear coming from the mouths of middle school teens. God is always there, even in the times when beautiful things are damaged or lost, and his power, along with his love and grace is sufficient to make something beautiful come even from loss, once we have passed through the in-between – and he’s there in the in-between, as well. Hang in there!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks, Kari! Yes, it’s great when we can find beauty in…ruin, I guess. And be philosophical about it! thanks so much for your comments – gave me something else to think about!

  7. Laurie (Morrill) French April 15, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    OK, I’m totally ashamed of myself for sniffling about 2 inches of snow that came and left the same day!!! How horrible for you and God’s creations outside!! I HATE it when the power is out. No running water is the worst part. And a generator is annoying. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Hope you have power by now. Prayers for thawing are coming your way. I can’t wait to see the pictures. I can’t even imagine!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      thanks for your prayers, Laurie! It was crazy, but we survived – horray! And, I suppose, we’re stronger for it all, right? ha! 🙂

  8. julie wellnitz April 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Gretchen, Love this post! Looking forward to your photos!

    Can you either reply via email or call me @ 507-295-5345? We are questioning the rescheduling of the meeting, wondering when you might be able to make it and when you would suggest we have it.

    Take care!

    Thank you,


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