Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Baldwin survives winter storm one way or another

February 6, 2002

We've all been saying we were going to pay for the warm winter we were experiencing. Boy, did we.

Surprisingly, the weather forecasters were right and Baldwin City and the rest of eastern Kansas got socked with a brutal ice storm. It started last Tuesday and by the time it let up Thursday, there was a thick coat of ice, surrounded by sleet, on everything.

Yes, that was really winter.

Although there were numerous households and businesses without electricity for days in and around Baldwin City, the majority had power. It was remarkable, really, especially in light of the horror stories in Kansas City and other towns close by that had the same sheet of ice.

Baldwin City's electrical department should be commended for a job more than well done. It wasn't without tense moments. Workers restoring power on ice coated lines and amid falling trees were in a war zone. Keeping the power plant engines running to feed Baldwin electricity wasn't a walk in the park, either.

But, everyone came through with flying colors.

Of course we can't forget the street crews and others who chipped in to clear the trees and limbs from all over. Baldwin's streets were never at issue. They were driveable the entire time. With ice, that can be really tricky. Throw in the trees and limbs and it's even more amazing.

Despite all the good fortune, it was still a matter of winter survival. With no school, that meant students of all ages at home. And for those without power, it meant finding alternative means of staying warm and eating. For some, that meant toughing it out with whatever means they had at home. For others, it meant seeking shelter elsewhere, either staying in motels or with friends or relatives.

Our house became one of those shelters. Although there was never a nose count that could be accurate because people came and went, I know we had six "regulars" whose homes were powerless. We were glad to have them.

Along with them and the four of us who actually live there, we also had an entourage of high schoolers just wanting a place to hang out. We enjoyed that, too. We tried to do our best as a defacto "soup kitchen." We fed as many as we could.

Entertaining was another matter. Whenever I would stop by to check our high-school homeless shelter, there was always the same question do we have school tomorrow? We would discuss the situation and I'd give my best guess and say I'd confirm it for them whenever Supt. James White would give me a call.

But, I'd ask them if they really wanted to stay home without cable TV or Internet service because both were down for most of the duration. It did give them cause to think about it, but they'd quickly say yes. They "made do" with video games on the TV and the computer. Resourceful? I'm not sure.

They were also ready for projects, which was nice. I think I had the best snow removal crew in town for my driveway. They also de-iced vehicles and helped around the neighborhood with tree limb removal. A couple of them would even gather up the massive debris in the house from pop cans and meals and actually throw it in the trash can. Remarkable. The trash crew Monday couldn't believe what I had on the curb for them.

It was also interesting to watch as the crowd thinned. Whenever one or two or three would regain power at home, they returned. By Friday, we were down to just two regulars one still without power, the other just in no hurry to leave the hub of activity.

As bad as the conditions were, it was nice to see Baldwin pull through both in work crews and community spirit. We'll all remember the ice storm of 2002.

  • **
  • What I may remember most about the storm is the new and old for me.

I used to be a chainsawing fool. I lived to run my chainsaw and could cut and stack wood for hours. I got out of that habit about eight years ago for whatever reason. So, when Saturday rolled around, I readied my saw to help John Fuller with his mass tree destruction. I quickly found out my best chainsawing days are in the past. I'm too old for that.

As for the new, it was the Internet and specifically the SpeakOut section of the Signal's Web site. It has been a hot-bed of activity for the past several months and I've had to monitor it like a hawk. When the Internet service was lost, I couldn't check it. I actually enjoyed the break, but as soon as service was returned, it was back to the new grind.

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