Until a few days ago I was a natural disaster virgin. I’ve never clung to a palm tree in a hurricane or had a tornado lift up my house. Neither locusts nor frogs have darkened the skies above me, and the only flood I’ve experienced is when my son flushed a shoe down the toilet and it overflowed.
That all changed a few days ago when the ice storm came to Augusta. Instead of watching mayhem and destruction unfold on the TV from my cozy armchair, the mayhem and destruction swirled around me. As a result, I found myself experiencing an array of emotions similar to the stages of grief.
Stage One: Complacency or “I Don’t Need No Stinking Disaster Plan”
I hear the dire weather reports about the upcoming ice storm but I barely flinch. Not when Pam Tucker warns residents to brace for the worst, not when the weather maps shows Augusta as the epicenter of the storm, not even when the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, the rock star of severe storm coverage, arrives in Augusta to report on the storm.
Why? It’s hard to get worked over ice. You put in your lemonade. When temperature goes above 32 degrees, it melts. It has never been the subject of a disaster film, not even a B-disaster film. Imagine the silliness of the titles: “Crushed by Cubes” or “I Was a Human Snow Cone.”
Thus, instead of fighting the crowds over rock salt, I break out the booze and the barbecued chips and say, “Let the party begin.”
Stage Two: Appreciation for life’s simple pleasures
Yes. The lights are out, but family is gathered around the gas fire, eating cookies and playing guitar. We all agree we should have an ice storm more often. Yes. It’s cold but we have blankets and wool socks and a couple of cuddly dogs. Life is good.
Stage Three: We’re doomed.
Around 11, we decide it’s time for bed, but as I stumble around snuffing out the candles, I hear the sound of water running. I sprint to the back hall; a shower of water is coming out of the ceiling. I have a flat roof and the weight of ice must have compromised it. My husband and I go up to the attic, dump out bins containing Christmas ornaments, and use them to catch the torrent of water. We spend the next several hours hefting the heavy, water-filled bins and dumping them outside. So much water is gushing that the bins fill up almost every 15 minutes. Finally the water slows to a trickle, and we risk going to bed.
I am exhausted but can’t fall asleep. Every few seconds, transformers boom, trees crack and voracious zombies claw at the windows. Maybe not the last one but I expect them any minute. The apocalypse has officially arrived.
Stage Four: Fear. How bad is it?
We wake up and are afraid to go outside, but have no choice because the dogs have to pee. Turns out our damage is minimal. A very large oak nicked our fence and trapped out trashcan. Small branches litter the yard. Others aren’t so lucky. All around us we see uprooted trees, downed power lines and broken street lights.
We walk to the Bi-Lo for provisions at 8 a.m., and it’s already crowded. We are in official disaster mode and are trying to think of nonperishable items to eat. We return home with coffee cake, more cookies, nuts, oranges to ward off scurvy and the most non-perishable food item of all time: summer sausage.
Stage Five: Determination. We will rebuild!
I survey the mess in our yard and say, “As God as my witness, I’ll clear this debris.” Then I get out the axe and, for five full minutes, try to break a skinny limb in half. All I manage to do is nick it. I go back inside and eat more cookies.
Stage Six: Despair. This crap is getting old
Two nights since the storm and civilization as I know it has crumbled. I am cold, dirty and am drinking my diet Cheerwine without ice (not recommended). The neighbors across the street have power, and they taunt us with it by turning on every lamp in their house and watching “Beach Blanket Bingo” on their big-screen TV.
Stage Seven: Acceptance. Welcome to the new normal.
Twilight descends and my husband and I go through our nightly routine: Matches? Check. Candles? Check. Personal power devices, i.e. flashlights? Check. Bottles of wine uncorked? Check.
We talk in front of the fireplace. Husband reveals his middle name, which I never knew. He also didn’t realize my eyes were green, not blue. We get philosophical, saying we should not let modern technology distance us.
And we are grateful that it is almost over.
Stage Eight: Pissed. Mother Nature isn’t done with us.
An earthquake hits. Okay, it’s a small earthquake but still… We haven’t had one like it since the 1800s. How can we appease the gods? Sacrifice a goat? Toss a virgin into a volcano? Repeal Sunday alcohol sales? No. Anything but that.
Stage Nine: Elation!
We got out for more cookies and when we return, our house is on fire… Wait a minute. That’s not fire, it’s light. We have power!
But more importantly, is there TV? Is there Internet? Previous philosophical discussions are forgotten with the prospect of binge watching “House of Cards” or catching upon Grumpy Cat memes on Facebook.
Stage Ten: Normalcy
The house is warm, my hair is clean and I have lived to play another game of Candy Crush. What have I taken away from all of this?
1. Ice storms bring people closer together. (But not too close since no one is bathing.)
2. Wine makes everything better, including natural disasters. (Actually I already knew that.)
3. You can never have too many cookies.
Written by Karin Gillespie, former editor of Metro Augusta Parent, is the author of five novels. Visit her at karingillespie.net.