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Our power returned around 6am on Monday, after being off for 18 hours. Later on Monday, again on Tuesday, and twice again today, it cut off again for ten minutes or so. We are very much not amused by this demonstration of Why You Should Not Have An Above Ground Electrical Grid.

Since Sunday was cancelled due to a lack of electricity, and Monday did not get underway until after dark due to us both sleeping in after the stupidity of Sunday, I found myself doing a pre-holiday grocery run on Christmas Eve.

The one downside to our house's location is that there's no nearby supermarket. I don't particularly like walking along the main road (too noisy), so I tend to walk the side streets. My typical grocery run takes me through the "originally middle class but now upscale" neighbourhood to the east of us on the way to the health food store, and then north and west from there through an "originally upscale and now even more upscale" neighbourhood on the way to the small supermarket serving a dozen or so apartment towers a bit north of the subway station. Both neighbourhoods have plentiful front yard trees, ranging in size from small ornamental species to full grown maples.

So, I got to see a lot of tree carnage. I didn't see any large trees that had actually been felled, although one big tall old (maple?) tree that (IIRC) did not look in the best of health last summer, had lost essentially all of its leaf bearing minor branches, and all that was left were the trunk and primary branches naked against the sky. Most of the time the damage was more minor, but it was rare to see a tree that hadn't lost at least one branch, and in some of the more densely treed side streets the roads were completely lined with piles of fallen branches (which had presumably been in the road before someone moved them out of the way).

Darwinism in action: There are three or four paper birches along my route. Every single one was bent down under the weight of ice to little more than half its normal height... but none of them had any broken branches. The difference between being adapted for height and being adapted for resilience.

Christmas Eve was sunny but bitterly cold (more than 10 below freezing with wind chill on top). Now I've gone out in the aftermath of ice storms before, but usually when the ice is starting to soften and melt. This time, nothing had melted, and the cold had turned all that ice into hard brittle crystal.

So at one point in the "now even more upscale" neighbourhood. there was a fully treed block with no activity and no nearby cars. The wind picked up a bit, and I heard something I don't remember ever hearing before. The sound of thousands of brittle ice-covered tree branches clacking against each other and creaking and cracking as they bent in the breeze. It was beautiful, and unnerving. I was sorry I didn't have time to go find a bit of forested park where I could listen to it better... but at the same time I was very glad I was not in a forest with no place to be that was not under those branches.

By this time my fingers were turning blue inside my gloves and I was questioning whether we really needed the cheese and wishing I had not gone out, or at least had not decided to got to two stores. And then I turned a corner, and saw the (ridiculously early) sunset, pink and orange sky and a golden halo of fire fringing every branch of every tree. And I stopped grumping about the weather and decided it was a good thing I had gone out after all.

Ice storm

Dec. 22nd, 2013 09:56 pm
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The ice is half an inch thick on the trees. It looks like both the old cedars in the corner of our backyard are bent and broken halfway up. The radio says there's 300,000 people in Toronto without electricity. Our power went off for an hour yesterday evening, then came back. Today it went off again in the early afternoon and has been off now for 8 hours and counting. The radio says power could be out for days, since this isn't a single point of failure but rather thousands of individual fallen trees and downed lines creating a huge patchwork of little blackouts.

So, it's a bit weird. Some streets are fully lit, others totally dark, others lit here and not there. Outside our front door, all the houses are lit, but since we're on the corner, we, along with everyone else on the side street, are without power. Since Morgan's mobility is so severely restricted, we can't really go to one of the city's warming centres, and as it became clear this evening that this could last for days, we started to get very worried.

Fortunately, we thought of asking our neighbours, who do have power, if they would let us borrow some of their electricity. After a bit of mutual incomprehension (they're Italian and have extremely limited english, and I have zero Italian), they called their son, and I explained our request to him, who explained it to them, and they said yes. Such wonderful kind people cannot be thanked enough.

So, currently we have our hundred foot weed wacker power cord plugged into an outlet in their laundry room, strung out their basement window, around to our backdoor and in under the door. We have a little space heater striving to keep the temperature tolerable, a couple of lamps plugged in so we're not totally in the dark, our iPad chargers, and of course, the modem and router. When necessary, I turn off the space heater and plug in the microwave.

Naturally it took an hour online with tech support to get the Internet working again, but (knock wood) it looks like we may be able to survive now without having to call 911 and ask them to find a way to transport Morgan somewhere warm.

Next up, deciding how much of the food in the fridge needs to go on the back porch.

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