Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Blog (http://blueridgeblog.blogs.com/)
When I saw the rhododendron leaves tightly curled up in elongated rolls, I knew they were preparing to cuddle up for warmth. They do that, you know. My dad used to tell me the rhododendrons will let you know when the cold's on the way, and this Christmas eve, the clusters of those beautiful slender leaves rolled in as tightly and closely to each other as they could announced the arrival of a thick coating of ice long before it arrived.
By Christmas morning, I awoke to what sounded like transformer explosions, only to find out that the noise was the deafening snaps of large - really large - tree branches all through the woods. The red-lit numbers on the clock radio beside the bed were non-existent, and although I could hear my mom up and about in the kitchen, I didn't sense the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting down the hall. Within minutes, the phone began to ring--calls from family members and friends to inquire if we had "lost power" as well. Yep, before daylight, it was obvious this Christmas Day would be one for the memory keepers.
Stories of everyone's situations began to circulate. Miss Hal and family were bringing in snow to melt by the fireside to use to flush the toilets...Mrs. Bessie Mae Hicks called to let us know she was OK...Worried about the spike in Uncle Frank's blood pressure, Aunt Lera called to see if they could come over to the Shook Shelter...Aunt Audrey's phone was out, so we just had to assume Bill and Sylvia had taken care of her...Aunt Mildred (only about 4'10" and less than 100 lbs.) called to say she went out in the snow and ice to clean off her car and couldn't move once her feet sunk down in the snow, which was above her knees. Fortunately, her feisty nature surfaced and she lumbered slowly back to her house...Uncle Bradley and Aunt Mabel were stuck at home and couldn't begin to get out until someone broke open the road to their house...ad infinitum...Over the course of the last two days, some 30,000 people in Watauga County have been left in the dark.
Fortunately here on Russell Drive, the power came on later in the morning long enough to fix a pot of coffee. People became a bit more verbal and less moody as a result. When the electricity went off for the second time, we waited about 5 hours until it returned. We definitely were some of the lucky ones.
During the outage, Petie and I summoned Papa's spirit to build a fire in the fireplace, and before long, the den was hotter than my Grandpa Hoyle's living room in the middle of winter. We warmed up some leftovers and a pot of frozen soup Petie had in the freezer. Actually the soup came to a boil as fast on the hearth as it would have on the stove! I took a walk to make sure there were no branches compromising the roof / gutters / cars and did the best I could at shoveling ice off the walkway.
Two days later, the area does look like a war zone. The pine trees suffered the greatest hit and brought down many power lines. Their branches become really heavy with ice, and their root systems are shallow; hence, if it were prior to decorating season, everyone in this part of the country would have had greenery to spare for his/her houses. Higher up in the mountains, there didn't appear to be such extensive damage. At least over toward Pigeon Roost, the breakage seemed less stark.
It's been about 24 hours since I've heard branches snap around our house. Hopefully the 3-day inconvenience of an 8-hour storm will be soon behind us all. Tomorrow I hope to get out and take a few photos of my own.