Ice Storm

Deep snow and an ice storm hit Mule Springs.

Southeast Alaska, where I used to live, is known for massive amounts of rainfall –around two hundred inches per year.  Hurricane force winds and deep snowfall plagued us too, but in all those years of fierce storms, I never felt the weather to be as dangerous as the weather we‘ve experienced the past forty-eight hours in Oregon.

 

Overnight fourteen inches of snow fell on Mule Springs.  Hours of freezing rain followed.  The snow became covered by over an inch of ice.  Tree limbs broke under the weight, and ice coated power lines and fences with a thick clear glaze.  Trees fell; people could not stand up outside of their homes, and plowed roads became skating rinks.

 

Yesterday, between surgery cases, Bruce tried to drive to the barn so that he could feed my pigeons.  He stopped at the farm entrance and realized the snow was too deep to reach the barn.  He couldn’t tell where our road was.  All he saw was a glass covered rolling meadow.  He wasn’t certain he could find the road even if he could plow through the deep snow.  He decided to back up.  He got off course, and his car slid over the embankment and came to rest against a barbed wire fence.

Ice covered cars.
Thawing out car doors with jugs of hot water.

 

He got out of his car and began to hike to the hospital, because he had a surgery to do in one hour.  It was slow going; the road was slippery.  And it was a lonely walk for no one else had ventured out.  Finally, a state trooper, who lives near Mule Springs, headed in for work.  Bruce flagged the officer down, and he gave Bruce a ride to the hospital.

 

Today we tried again to reach the birds.  We took my car and parked at the gate.  The dogs, Bruce, and I broke through the ice and knee high snow and hiked one half mile back to the barn.  Until today I had been delighted to have such a long driveway into the main part of the farm.  Now I see a half-mile is a long and treacherous distance to maneuver after an ice storm.

 

Bruce plowed ahead.  Then the dogs stepped into the tracks he made.  Still, jagged bits of ice sliced at their pads, and I saw the snow ahead of me was dotted with blood.  We were breathing hard by the time we reached the barn.  The pigeons had been without food for twenty – four hours, and they cooed and pranced in circles when they saw us nearing the loft.

 

I fed the pigeons and gave them enough provisions to last for several days.

 

Bruce got on Big Red—his new tractor – and slowly went up and down the road packing the snow and ice into a traversable path.

Big Red breaks the ice and makes a walkable pathway to and from the barn at Mule Springs.

 

I sprinkled wild birdseed on the dry floor in the wood shed and under the porch in front of the pigeon loft.  I could see the songbirds were having troubles.  Their feathers were icing up, and the dark-eyed juncos kept shaking their wings in an attempt to rid the ice.  Their tail feathers were jagged and separated, and, overall, the birds seemed off balance. They flitted around the oaks at the barn, and I spied quite a few small birds hiding in low spots where the freezing rain could not reach them.  When the birds flew, they seemed to barely crest the snow level as though weighted down by the ice.  Like the birds’ feathers, the fabric outer coat of my down parka was becoming completely encased in slick ice.  This is the modus operandi of freezing rain.  Whatever it touches transforms into a statue of ice.

Dark-eyed junco feeds on seed scattered around the pigeon loft.

 

Bruce drove Big Red to his quail feeding stations around the farm, and seeded the feeding areas with fine cracked corn.  Meanwhile Big Red became blanketed by ice.  Ice like this kills wild birds.  Probably no other weather event is as disastrous for birds as an ice storm.  Ice traps the birds and prevents them from getting to food.  The majority of quail at Mule Springs may be wiped out by this unexpected storm.

Freezing rain creates figurines in ice.

 

When we finished doing what we could for the farm animals, we walked back up the long driveway to my Jeep.  The freezing rain continued, and by the time we reached the farm entrance, I had icicles hanging from both sleeves.  Plus my gloves had become wet through and then froze, and my fingers were on fire with stinging pain.  I shoved the stiff hands into my pockets, but it didn’t help much.

 

Bruce was smart and brought a gallon of hot water from sink in the tack room.  The Jeep was wrapped in ice, and he poured hot water on the doors, windows, and the rear view mirrors.  Finally he melted enough ice, and we were able to open the vehicle doors.

 

Just last week everyone was complaining that winter had passed us by.  The farmers said it hadn’t been cold enough to kill bugs, and moisture levels weren’t high enough to ensure a good harvest season.  Overnight Father Winter visited with a new prediction.

 

I’m stunned by how quickly the landscape changed and by how hard it was to get into the farm.  Had the donkeys been there my urgency to reach the barn would have been greater, because they need to be fed twice a day.  We’ve learned we need markers lining our long driveway, so it won’t get lost in deep snow conditions.  In addition it wouldn’t hurt to get a plow and have the tractor at the farm entrance instead of at the barn when deep snow is called for.  I guess this ice storm was a wake up call telling us we need to be better prepared.

Ice hangs from the farm entrance and symbolizes the challenges an ice storm brings.

28 thoughts on “Ice Storm

  1. Welcome back to Oregon. Yep..we got hammered also..not quite as much snow as you, but lots of ice. Pigeons can go for 3 days without food and water..but will be weak by the end of the third day…48 hours is not difficult especially if they are in good shape..I ship all over the U.S. and Purto Rico..48 hours is a snap for them 72 not real bad.

    1. Thanks Bruce. I thought they would be okay, because I could remember what the guys said about shipping birds. They can be delayed three days and still be quite fine. Good to know. Unfortunately I won’t have this leeway with my donkeys…sigh..so, I need to get it all figured out this year if possible.

  2. Ahhhhh, life in the Columbia Gorge! Thank the gods you persisted in helping the wildlife and your pigeons! We had a much less severe snow/rain event in Missoula(we don’t have the moisture you do) and I know what you mean about hard times for small birds! Good idea to keep Big Red closest at hand! Spring will come!

    1. Thanks Cindy! Yes, I am imagining spring. Before the snow we had a decent sized group of western meadowlark come back from fall migration, and they were singing from the fence posts in the upper pastures. I wondered if they had come back too early–then the snow and ice came. hmmm… I wonder what they did – where they went during the storm?

  3. Typical Minnesota Day it Looks Like To Me ,,, Just Glad You’s Learned from It and Glad You reached The Pigeons and Also The Wild Birds – God Bless – Mike

    1. Hi Mike– We had a fellow hunting partner of Bruce’s staying with us while part of this was happening, and he is from Minnesota. I got the impression he wasn’t intimidated at all– in fact– he offered to go out and begin cleaning up all the downed branches and trees around the farmhouse–while the rest of us were having troubles even walking on the stuff. 🙂 Thanks for checking in!

  4. Reading your description of the ice-storm is like reading about life on another planet! Living as I do in a hot country in the Southern Hemisphere, I can’t even begin to imagine the conditions you describe. I’ve been moaning about the heat (which has been extreme) and dreaming about escaping to a colder area …. but now I’m not so sure! Am amazed to hear that Oregon is colder and more difficult than winter in Alaska. I’ve always supposed Alaska to be the epitome of harsh winter conditions. Evidently its not so. Stay safe!

    1. Alison: That is the fun of sharing blog tales. When we live in different parts of the world, it is so interesting to see how the other half lives. We lived in Southeast Alaska, which is a temperate rainforest climate. I imagine folks living in northern Alaska would say they deal with a much harsher climate than here. Also, Oregon is wonderful most of the year. South African weather is hard for me to imagine. Warm all the time? How terrible. LOL 🙂

  5. Sher…received and glad to know that you and Bruce are safe. You got be be careful in that kind of weather. You skin needs to be covered and you need proper layers of clothing on and that includes your hands…but you know that already. Living in Omaha and getting through some of the horrible winters has taught me a lot. Out there, you’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s no one to help you….just be careful…..Carol

    1. Hi Carol– Thanks for checking in. I really do think of Omaha as having challenging weather. The ice storm we had here is pretty unusual — according to my son in law. I mean we do get ice, but usually it doesn’t come together in the “perfect storm.” Stay warm. 🙂

  6. Hi Sher,
    How awful! I saw the photos of the floods at Crown Meadow – you folks sure are getting some terrible weather. We recently got a quad with tracks and a blade to handle the snow up here – tho probably Big Red can go thru anything as well. Hopefully, this much snow and ice is not the norm for you. Take care and keep warm! Leanne

    1. Hi Leanne- I also just saw the flooding at Crown Meadow. WOW! Is all I could say. Tiana wrote that Ziggy and Chippo were placed in stalls and in the arena during the flooding, so they are okay! Just very happy to get out once the waters receded. I am not sure yet how this weather will affect the donkeys coming first week of February– may be a delay. Our builders just got back on the job for a few hours yesterday.

      I see it is snowing again here-though we are not expecting very much accumulation…:) Thanks for checking in. 🙂

  7. I drove on an undulating 2 lane road to Bridgeport in an ice storm. I learned one has to maintain the exact same speed all the time, not slow, not fast. I was still drinking in those days and so I did indeed have a drink when I arrived in Bridgeport Wa

    1. Hi Mary I — well I will remember this. Our builder fed the birds for us today, because we have company coming, but tomorrow I will be sliding out there. I will definitely do my best to keep my speed consistent. 🙂 Thanks for that tip and thanks for checking in. I hope you thaw out soon… I have been watching your Alaska weather. 🙂

  8. My goodness, Sher… this is quite an adventure, just getting from your house to the barn and back again safely! Thank goodness you are both okay, and your pigeons are happily fed… for now.

    We do not have weather like this in South Africa. I don’t think I’d cope in such conditions, without some serious help – and warmer clothes!

    Wow… I’m still in awe of the difficulties you had to overcome…

    I guess you’ll be huddling in front of the fireplace tonight?

    1. Hi Reggie: I can’t take “all” the “suffering” credit. 🙂 In the US we have lots of places where the weather is terrifically challenging. It is just that, for me, I have found the icy times particularly daunting. I wear cleats on my shoes each day here, but I fell last year on the ice in Alaska — resulting in two surgeries to repair my left arm-hand-thumb, so ICE is a condition I may complain about…at least a bit.

      We do seem to live in such different physical worlds. Your beaches and flowers…sun , sun, sun…:) sigh …. I have to wait a few months for such luxuries.

      Thanks for checking in here. 🙂

  9. I’m feeling strong empathetical emotions for you, Bruce and Sher. And for all the critters, too. How tragic. We had temps down to 0 here last week, but with them came 6 1/2 days of glorious sun which made the snowy landscape really special. I am so grateful that we were not bombarded with ice-rain like you. I’ve had to shovel my driveway and brush snow off my car and am thankful for a new pair of Goretex gloves from REI. They have a light lining so I wear my silk glove liners inside and, finally, I can deal with wet snow and have warm hands. I hope you see spring weather soon.

  10. “Whatever it touches transforms into a statue of ice.” Marvellous post about the elements and their energies, Sher. Thanks for this glimpse of the power and unexpectedness of the world. And hope the pigeons and wild birds are restored.

    1. Thanks Julian–the snow is almost gone now. It has given way to mud – a very clay type mud. It is quite slippery and presents some new challenges. For example, I can’t use my ice cleets to walk across the mud, but they work great on ice. Yet the mud is almost as slick as the ice. hmmm. Perhaps I need to design mud boots. 🙂

  11. Hi
    I popped in after you visited my blog. I must offer my congratulations on a beautifully written tale.
    I also think freezing rain’s much worse than snow. I can’t imagine living on a farm and being unable to get to one’s barn to feed the pigeons.

    This was written a few weeks ago. I hope your birds are all OK.

    1. Hello– Thanks for your comments and your concern for my birds. They are all doing well. It was a learning experience for us, and next year we will be better prepared. Fortunately the birds can do fine without food for a day or so, though the donkeys would need to be fed even if it meant snowshoeing in!

  12. You’re only about seven hours southwest of me and the weather is so different! The effects of the gorge are really extreme, yes? I am so looking forward to spring. I saw a pair of western bluebirds flying over my clothesline a week ago. It gives me hope the green will, indeed, arrive soon.

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