Reflections from the River

Southern Illinois ice storms or Be Prepared

January 22, 2024 Bill Enyart
Reflections from the River
Southern Illinois ice storms or Be Prepared

Southern Illinois ice storm or  Be Prepared! 

I can’t see it, but I can hear the ice as it hits the tree outside my second-floor home office windows. Our yellow lab went skidding across the ice-covered patio when she went outside before dawn this morning. She was more cautious going out the front door to retrieve the morning newspapers an hour or so later.

Schools are closed or on electronic learning days, even the courthouse, which almost never closes, is closed today for the winter ice storm. The weather projections call for fifty degrees on Thursday. January in Southern Illinois.

With the brutally cold two weeks we’ve had, the farm ponds are frozen, small creeks and rivers frozen over and even the Mississippi is floating chunks of ice downriver. Each time we pass by one of the ice-covered ponds the story begins again: “I remember when…” and the story of well-loved, once well-used ice skates starts.

Those childhood ice skates, housed in the original, decades-old box, sit on a closet shelf in the basement. Unused in the forty years of our marriage, but too precious to girlish memories to let go. The garage likewise holds cross-country skis dating back to the early days of our marriage and trips to Wisconsin, Vermont and Michigan, as well as the occasional great snow fall here in Belleville, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. And then there’s the snow shoes brought back from mountain trekking in New Mexico.

With Zoom and the internet and laptops there’s no worry about getting to the office, so long as the freezing ice doesn’t bring down power lines. If the power goes out, we can use the laptops and cell phones until the batteries die, then we’ll be forced to retreat to the living room with its gas fireplace where we’ll contemplate life without electronic distraction. Also, life without coffee, hot chocolate, popcorn or warm cookies. With no power and an electric stove, we’re reduced to fasting or room-temperature food and drink, unless we want it cold. Cold we’ve got.

The good news is that we’re city folk now and unlike our grandparents, we don’t have to feed and milk the cows, feed and water the pigs, nor feed the chickens and gather their eggs. No, we just need to feed and entertain ourselves until it’s safe to go out without the risk of falling and breaking a limb. 

Were it snow rather than ice, we’d be out and about, slipping the Jeep into four-wheel-drive and goosing the accelerator just to feel it start to slide as Annette yells at me to stop. 

As I glance back out the window, the misting ice is visible now. The power lines sprouting two-inch icicles are beginning to sag under the weight.

I’m beginning to wish that I’d paid a little more attention to the Caterpillar generator sitting in the garage. I remember the manual says to start it up once a month to ensure it operates. Hmmm, let’s see, the last time I fired it up was in the summer two years ago, not long after I bought it. “Well, it’s a Cat. It oughta start,” my reasoning goes, even if my maintenance schedule of it has been woefully inadequate. 

If I need to fire it up to power the house my neighbors will hate me. Not for the noise of its gasoline-powered motor, but for the fact that we have power and they don’t.  We never worried about electricity going out a few years ago, before the sisters tore down St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and the city tore down the downtown fire station, and the Catholic Church closed the six-story Meredith Nursing Home. 

All were within a few blocks of our home and served by the same electric substation. The power company always restored electricity immediately to those critical pieces of city infrastructure. Today that infrastructure is gone but we’re still here. I wonder now about power. That’s why I bought the generator and the gas can full of fuel. Be prepared. 

If this ice really sets in, will we run out of food? There are enough squirrels robbing the bird feeders and rabbits marauding the back yard to feed us for a while. That is if the shotgun shells will still fire. Some of them date back to my father-in-law who passed away forty years ago. Even the new ones are more than fifteen-years-old. When you don’t go hunting anymore there’s not much need to buy new shells. Just don’t care to kill God’s little creatures anymore. I reckon we’re going to have to get awfully hungry before those neighborhood squirrels and rabbits have much to fear. Like the Boy Scouts say: Be prepared.

Sure hope the power doesn’t go out.

© William L. Enyart, 2024

Reflections from the River,

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