Only a week ago, Tuesday, January 27, seems like such a long time to those who have suffered through the worst ice storm in memory. I was on the phone checking on my ninety-year-old cousin, Helen Moore.
Fairly early in the evening, her television service was already off and the streets were almost impassible. She did tell me that two friends, Phyllis Sykes and Hazel Todd, were going to come and stay with her if the power went out, as Helen does have two gas heaters. Even while we spoke, the electricity failed and has yet to come back on line. She was lucky that her telephone lines remained unbroken through the entire crisis.
When I checked back the following morning, Helen did have the promised company. I was relieved because she has major problems with her heart. They had slept fitfully through the icy night while as Phyllis phrased it,” Branches and even trees breaking sounded like rifle shots.”
They awoke to find Marion in crisis. Even the hospital was closed. Only days later would the ER open. One of the groceries would partially open, letting a limited number of people in by flashlight for ten minutes to get what they absolutely needed, before letting the next group in for their emergency shopping. A local school gymnasium was opened for a shelter for what was estimated as four hundred people. A number of people, those who could afford to, packed and came south, many of them to Clarksville. Relatives came and got some people; for instance, Hazel’s family came and took her to Franklin, Tennessee, to stay with them.
Life had many unforeseen difficulties. Phyllis would go outside and dig out buckets of snow and ice, thaw it on the hearth by the gas heater, and use it to flush the commodes. Helen wanted hot soup, so she put cans of soup on the hearth to heat, but after two hours it was only barely warm. As the weather warmed, the foods in refrigerators and freezers started to spoil.
One week after the storm…
Tuesday, February 4, 2009, a week in the life of a town on the edge. Phyllis answered the phone with, “There is a God.” McDonald’s had gotten a large generator, so they opened on the one-week anniversary of the ice storm. Helen and Phyllis had hamburger and fries, such a luxury! At the Dollar Store, still closed, management would take a small order for essential items for one person in line, go and get the items, them tally the total using a simple hand calculator. Phyllis stood in the cold a long time to get more flashlight batteries, afraid to warm up in her car lest she lose her place in line.
Tonight it is cold. Helen and Phyllis are fairly lucky. They have the water back on. The telephone works. The gas heater in the living room throws out some warmth. The candles flicker against the walls as they read, although they’ll go to bed very early.
On Friday, January 30, I still hadn’t been able to reach my brother David Brazell, who lives in the country not far from Eddyville, Kentucky. Thus it was quite a relief when the phone rang that day. He had had to go to Cadiz to even use his cell phone. At their home they had no electrical power, no water, and no phone service. It didn’t take much to convince him to come down on Saturday after his wife Linda finished work at the Eddyville United States Post Office to head to Clarksville.
My brother’s family arrived late Saturday afternoon: David, Linda, their fifteen-year-old son Andrew, and even their dog Precious. Bless their hearts. They hadn’t had a shower since Monday night, so that was Linda’s first priority. Andrew’s first priority was the television after days of deprivation. David’s first priority was confirming what I had found out for him, that Home Depot was expecting another shipment of generators at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Home Depot was opening at the special time of 6:00 a.m. to facilitate emergency shopping for Kentuckians.
We went to the Golden Corral to dinner and the restaurant was so packed that we got the last remaining table in our section. The waitress said that a good portion of the crowd was from Kentucky. A table for eight sitting next to us turned out to be electrical workers from the Kentucky border with Ohio, sent to help restore power in central and western Kentucky. After dinner, when we returned home, Linda did laundry until 3:00 a.m.. No one slept much.
I got up at 5:30 a.m. to accompany David as he went to purchase the generator and accompanying supplies. We went to breakfast at Arby’s and spoke to a lady out who was walking her dog. She was from Madisonville and had been in Clarksville since Wednesday; however, she was returning home because she had also purchased a prized generator. Inside, we struck up a conversation with a couple heading to Paducah; returning from a Florida vacation, they had stopped in Birmingham to buy a generator to deliver to their son. What a marvelous souvenir!
David Brazell’s family is returning to normal. Monday he returned to work at the steel mill where he works in Calvert City; it was down from Tuesday to Monday, so there was an economic impact. Who knows when Andrew will return to high school? As a good student and a social young man, he is anxious to go back as soon as possible. The generator is helping. They can hook it to their camper and take hot showers and can cook. Again, they are luckier than many.