I didn’t like what I saw on the National Weather Service’s map—ice storm warning.
Snow and sleet can be pesky winter time pests, but freezing rain in my old brain is the worst type of frozen precipitation.
Freezing rain glazes all surfaces with a coating of ice, and it does not take much of a coating to reek havoc.
The worst of that havoc is for trees and power lines.
As the rain drops fall they freeze when they hit that 32 degree or below surface. Each little drop continues to add to the thickness of the ice. That build up of ice adds extra weight.
At some point, the tree or the power line can’t handle the stress of this seemingly harmless clear coating of ice, and they snap. When tree limbs and power lines decide to snap, the outcome usually isn’t a good one.
This was to be the story for Richmond starting on the evening of Thursday, February 11.
First, the storm gave us a cold rain. This was followed by a round of sleet, and then the sleet converted to snow. A few inches of snow piled up before the snow stopped, and the freezing rain took over.
All day Friday into Friday night, and late into Saturday afternoon, the gentle rain and mist provided its coating of ice.
My wife and I knew that our pretty tree lined neighborhood was well known for losing power in all kinds of weather environments. Once the remnants of a hurricane toppled a massive oak in our front yard. From that fall, we were lucky— no loss of life or injuries, and property damage was minimal.
So through Friday and into Saturday and Sunday, we were on edge just knowing that in a quick blink we would lose power. A couple of times, we experienced the fearful flicker, but surprisingly, we never lost power during this storm.
In our own yard, we heard the crackle of two large magnolia limbs fall from our east side neighbor’s tree into our backyard.
On Sunday morning, we heard the sound of the quick whoosh and thud of something bigger than a tree limb falling. We scurried to different windows to peer into the glazed gray and white landscape, but did not see a fallen tree.
Our oldest daughter and her family in Summerfield, North Carolina lost power. She sent pictures of fallen trees and crews working to clear trees and raise power lines back to their normal height. That included a couple of photos of our two grandchildren bundled up in their 50 degree house.
Local media gave the same accounting here— auto accidents, trees down, power lines down, internet out, and no heat.
And in those miserable conditions, utility crews are using their expertise and training to safely restore power. Safety is the key word for them.
This is dangerous work even in good conditions. And while customers grow impatient with the inconvenience, these workers know their protocols, and they know— shortcuts are not an option.
I waited until Monday morning to clear off our cars and to remove snow and ice from our driveway and sidewalks. I was amazed at how thick the ice was on the snow covered cars.
I used the handle of a broom to crack its surface. And that thickness of the ice glaze could also be seen on tree limbs and shrubbery.
For sure this crystal glazing was pretty, but it is an unwanted disruption too.
With the cars clear, I walked up to Trinity to check on the church. The walk down Stuart Hall Road didn’t reveal much. Near the creek and off into Francisco Road I could hear the hum of generators.
The church held up well—a couple of large pine branches had snapped. Luckily, they fell and landed harmlessly. Without a doubt pines and magnolias struggled with the extra weight of the ice as did all kinds of green shrubbery.
Sometimes like pine and magnolia trees in an ice storm, you, me, we, us struggle with extra weight. That coating of additional weight can wear us down.
That additional weight could be attempting to manage the physical weight of our bodies. We ignore our internal voice—get off the couch, don’t have that second piece of cake, and we block out the words from our doctor—you need to drop a few pounds.
But, life creates other weighty burdens for us too.
Sometimes, we are blindsided by a burden.
Sometimes, our procrastination catches up with us.
Sometimes, the stress of a burden can make us physically ill.
Struggling with the weight of a burden can deplete our hope.
Depletion of hope isn’t good for anyone.
At some point in this stretch of winter weather, our youngest daughter lamented the gray no sunshine days.
I remember a handful of times on commercial airline flights taking off in dismal gray weather. As the pilots guided the plane through this thick cloud deck, I was always surprised to find the brightness of the sun above that layer of nimbostratus clouds.
I told Elizabeth, just remember above those clouds somewhere the sun is shining, and that is something to hold on to.
When life adds extra weight, we look for something to hold on to, something to support us, steady us, give us balance, stability.
That support might come from a friend, a stranger, or maybe the parable of the widow and the unjust judge.
The widow never “lost heart.”
When the ice storms of life burden us with extra weight, remember the sun is out above the gray—don’t lose heart.