Ice Storm 94 – Twenty Years Ago Today
By Rogers Smith
Twenty years ago today it was 74 degrees in Sardis and I was sitting in Jack Ray’s service station eating a plate lunch when I mentioned to a friend that the forecast called for some sleet within 24-48 hours. My friend boasted there was no way since it was warmer than usual – and he was right – we were wearing short sleeve shirts that day. But then thunderstorms drenched the ground as a front slid just south of Memphis. That night (9th) the temperature went from 73 degrees down to 25 as the storms dropped 3-5 inches of rain as the temperature started falling fast. The initial rain stopped and not much was forecast for the next 24 hours. But the ground was saturated as a second impulse of rain passed through the area after sundown on the 10th in the freezing air.
Waking up that next morning was so surreal. No sounds except gunshot like explosions of trees and transformers. No cars driving in town or down the interstate. No heaters running in the houses. Just the unbelievable sight of 4 inches of ice quietly and deliberately destroying everything. Really – the only noise made by machines were jets flying overhead that morning – until the sound of a chainsaw was heard. I had a satellite dish and a generator and could watch national news. The Mid South was extremely vulnerable to to this type of storm and had no way of preparing for it or dealing with the aftermath. CNN and the Weather Channel did not mention much about the event – probably because no news could be sent to the outside world. In the days before the internet and cell phones there was no communication whatsoever in the Mid South. Most radio stations tried to stay on the air but with no power and batteries running down that did little good to get news and information to several hundred thousand cold and blind people. It seemed that we were forgotten about. Seems like a recurring theme in my home state of Mississippi. .. Camille. .. Ice Storm 94… Katrina… John Grisham once said that Mississippi has taken some of Mother Nature’s mightiest blows and has survived by picking ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Other areas were also affected by these and other storms but you really don’t understand unless you were here and lived through it.
The only thing close to the silence of that awful morning was the silence of no planes and jets in the sky after 9/11. I remember my then 64 year old mother learning to run a chainsaw and seeing bands of teenagers walking the streets with chainsaws clearing the streets for ambulances was a blessing to see. 8 days without power…. 2 with no water. I slept on my kitchen floor with my windows open to keep smoke out of the house while I burned my tree limbs in my fireplace. I like snow but that storm taught me a lesson. Never again will I be caught off guard like that.
Ice Storm 1994… the first raindrops started falling 20 years ago tonight.
Filed under: The Writer's Blog
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