The Ice Storm of 2013

ice1-104After 3 days of steady rain the outside temperature on the ground was stuck at 32 degrees and warm air was still sandwiched aloft causing the precipitation. I was nervous and so was the Weather Channel. I checked the icicles on the wires outside my kitchen window regularly - they are my predictor. My lawn was covered with birds out heavily feeding - not a good sign.

Maine was on the verge of serious trouble - perfect conditions for a severe icing event. By noon on Monday ice was collecting on top of the wires but the hanging icicles were still growing longer. That changed by early afternoon. ‘It’ was starting just as they predicted. The temperature was dropping and the icicles started to flip-they no longer hung straight down. Ice formed on top of the wires, freezing instantly and no longer dripping. Ice was forming the minute it hit any surface. When ice forms just on the top of wires it grows quickly heavy and the hanging icicles weighing less, literately flip. My icicles had rotated more than 45 degrees. This is so not a good thing.

Everything became encased in over an inch of heavy, clear ice. The weight of that much ice is more than anything can tolerate; electrical wires break, trees bend, limbs snap bringing more limbs with them and roofs collapse. It was too dangerous to leave my home and too dangerous to stay, but it’s didn’t matter anymore. I was staying with the ship.


During the ice storm of 1998 we were without power for 17 days. Some places in Maine had no electricity for months. For days I huddled around a wood stove listening as limbs fell every 3 minutes. Two limbs came through my roof and one through my skylight. We watched the sky flash blue and green as transformers blew across the frozen lake in a distant town. Falling trees and limbs sound like gunfire. It felt like a war zone. Was this about to be a repeat? I fretted more each hour as hard rain continued to pelt my roof. Ice storms are serious business.

I started to cook and clean my cabinets and closets; that’s what gave me some comfort during the last ice storm. If I did lose my power, I’d cook everything in my freezer and refrigerator on my gas stove. It wasn’t only about survival it was practical and distracting. I need to be distracted. So, that is what I did all day Sunday and Monday. I watched the power company reports as town after town lost electricity. Thousands of homes were without electricity in the winter and Christmas was 2 days away.

winterpantryI vowed to make every meal a feast to distract myself. I cooked things that I don’t usually make. I had no regard for time because I had plenty of it. There was nowhere to go and no way to get there. I learned that from the last ice storm. I made soups, handmade pasta, tortiere pies, marmalade, pasta sauces, croissant dough, breads, dog food… I planned my next meal before I had finished cooking the one I hadn’t eaten yet. It didn’t take me long to realize how much cooking makes me feel better. Even during a crisis or near crisis it makes me calm.

When I cleaned my kitchen cabinets, I found myself laughing at how much food I had on hand. I caught myself calculating how many days worth of meals I could create. If I was careful - 2 months. If I wasn’t careful - 6 weeks. I laughed more. I would have to stretch out the meat protein and budget my produce but I would dine elegantly. I would finally use all my cans of snails, the jars of truffles, that Spanish can of tuna belly, the bag of dried chestnuts, and open the package of haloumi cheese that was almost out of date in refrigerator. My list of ingredients grew long! I even worried that I would run out of eggs too soon and wished I still had chickens. I had saved all this food for what, an ice storm?

The branches were still hitting my roof regularly as my lights browned out but my power continued to stay on and here I was planning my meals for weeks? How absurd was this? In my defense, I had lived through an ice storm before and knew how awful it could be.

The temperature dramatically fell Monday night to 27 degrees in an hour and snow started falling. Big, dry snowflakes fell, the rain had ended, at last. My electricity was still on, my furnace was purring and tree limbs crashed to the ground less often.

When it was time for dinner Monday night it was a very special one. Celebrating a drop in the outside temperature, celebrating snow falling, appreciating how a little change can make such a huge difference and thankful for the food hording gene that I inherited from mother…


Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
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