February 8, 2022

Ice Storm

Waking up to the sun rising over a crystallized world.

It's as beautiful as it is destructive. It's an ice storm, and we just lived through our very first one.

We have never experienced a freezing rain event... until a few days ago. It is just ending today in The Big Melt.

As we were going through 24 hours of icicle development, I wondered, "How does this happen?" because I didn't know. 

Once we got our power back two days later, I sated my curiosity and found out.

Freezing rain starts off as snow at altitude. When this snow falls through a warm layer, it melts into rain. 

When that rain passes through a thin cold layer of air just above the ground, it does not have time to refreeze into snow or sleet, and falls as super cooled liquid drops.

This rain then lands on things at ground level that are in the cold layer and are at or below freezing. The result is that the super-cooled rain freezes on contact with cold surfaces such as trees, power lines, roads, and everything else. 

I half expected to see the neighbour's dog out in the yard with one leg lifted and encased in a few centimetres of clear ice because it didn't pee fast enough.

While I did not see that, I did see things I have never seen before, like every surface (including blades of grass) encased in thick, clear ice.

Something we have already seen three times already this winter are power outages that lasted for many hours.

This time we had two days of living in the 1800s. I had to hand crank Linda's hospital bed, and do bed panning by candle light. 

We cooked meals on a single burner white gas camp stove, and flushed toilets with a bucket filled with water stored in our bathtub before the storm started.

It was below zero and got quite cold in the house. We wore all our warm weather gear, and covered ourselves with our down sleeping bags. 

Turns out being in bed at night was the most comfortable place to be.

The heroes from the electric utility came by our house the next afternoon and restrung lines that snapped under the weight of all that thick ice. 

We felt like running out and hugging them, and would have done so if it weren't still so cold out. The power came back on shortly after they left. 

It has taken a few days to get out house back up to a comfortable temperature because everything in it was about 10 degrees Celsius. 

Our heat pump looked like an ice cube, and was entirely coated in ice. It took an hour and a half and about 40 L of hot water poured over it before I got all the ice off and the unit working again.

After the power came back on and we had a moment, we had a chance to explore the icy world outside. 

It was amazingly beautiful, and something I may not ever witness again as long as I live. Our 65 year old neighbour who has lived here all his life had never seen anything like it before.

As difficult as it was, we are glad we had a chance to see this rare and wonderful display of nature.

The trees were especially hard hit, and some may never recover, but most of them showed an amazing resilience and went from doubled over to standing tall once the melt happened.

We can now say, "We lived through the Ice Storm of 2022", and figure we are tougher for having done so.

The trees aren't the only resilient things around here.


  1. We live in South Eastern Missouri and this is what happens in our winter. We only occasionally get snow that sticks, but we get the freezing rain. It is very beautiful and very dangerous. I'm glad you got to see it once.

    1. I can't imagine this happening often. Very disruptive. I would need a wood stove for sure.

  2. Here on the prairies ice storms are not all that unusual. What they leave behind, whatever chaos they create, is magnificantly beautiful. My middle daughter was born during an ice storm. I will never forget thr drive to the hospital in an ambulance - not because of emergency, but because a car would have never made it - and seeing all the highrise buildings in the center of the city encased in ice and shining in the street lights. Nature at her most beautiful is often at her most dangerous.

    1. Ice, ice, baby.

      It was a beautiful crystal world. I went outside and a there was a breeze. I could hear the trees clacking and clinking in the wind.

  3. I feel your pain. We had a incredible one in late fall 1996 in New Jersey. Had not even picked up all the leaves yet. But a large food storage area and a Vermont Castings stove saved our butts. The good news it's almost spring and food happens.
    Best wishes, Lee

    1. "Almost spring..." That is what is keeping me going right now.

  4. Anonymous2/15/2022

    Here in western Oregon, we get ice storms now and again. Last February was a doozy. We lost power for 4.5 days; one of my sisters had no power for 9 days. Thankfully they have a wood stove and kept warm. We have a fireplace for general warmth as well as a white gas burner, and a stick burning Solo stove for cooking. I'm grateful for all the camping equipment we have that kept us going. We put chunks of ice in the fridge and freezer to keep the food from spoiling. Living under large fir trees, the nights were particularly scary -- every so often a huge CRACK would be heard, followed a massive THUD as large branch hit the ground -- or sometimes hit the roof of the house. As we started to melt, the ice dropped off the trees in hard balls like bombs, crashing onto the roof and yard - I saw a squirrel with a bloody face that obviously had been "ice bombed" as he was trying to feed on sunflower seeds. It was quite an experience. And yes, our electric company workers were heroes for sure...working long long days to get the power back on. And we were pretty darn thrilled to get the lights, heat, and hot water on again. Certainly we can live without electricity, but it is darn nice to have it. - Mary


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