OPINION

Ice, Ice, Baby: The Aftermath

Ceason Ranson
Ranson Ritings

When last I checked in, I was without power, but was living happily as refugee in the metropolis of Evans. And believe me, a few more days without electric, and Evans about got itself a new permanent resident.

Look, I am not someone who enjoys staying places other than my house. I know those people: they love planning trips, love the travel part, enjoy a week of carefully planned activities, they stay in a hotel because it was a good deal, and then come back from traveling energized and full of pep. Whereas, I am at the age where I don’t even want to go up to my mother’s to stay unless I bring my favorite pillow, and I consider the hotel where I stay as important as the destination because I value my sleep time.

Suffice to say, for me to have enjoyed staying five days away from my house says a lot about how good a host my Uncle TL and Aunt Cindy are. Good guest room, good guest bath, free WiFi, dinner waiting for me every night, and even a basket of fruit on the counter so I could grab a continental breakfast on my way out in the morning. I’ve paid good money to the Hampton Inn for lesser service.

The other appeal of living in Evans for a week? That sweet, sweet commute. Hey, I love Fairplain more than any person should, but South Hill into Ripley is a treacherous place in snow and ice. But for whatever reason, 87 through Evans and then that stretch of road leading to Ripley was always pretty easy to get through, because the whole trip is basically as flat as a road going through the Kansas prairies, and during the winter months, even flat roads covered in slush beat every other road around.

So while I was happy to get the call that the power was back on after six days, I was slightly sad to hand over the extra garage door opener and say goodbye to my excellent, excellent hosts. They said I could come back, and I hope they meant it, because it would be highly awkward at the next Ranson Thanksgiving if they didn’t, lol. I gathered up my many bags (again, I am not a light packer), and I headed back to the holler, stomach in knots because I wasn’t sure what I was coming back to.

When I left six days before, I knew there was a great chance I would be coming back to disaster. Trees were still leaning over everywhere and the temperature was supposed to drop considerably. So I was leaving my house with the hope that no more trees fell, and that me leaving the faucets to drip would stop any pipes from freezing, and that was all I could do. I think that’s the worst part of disasters like we just had: there is only so much you can do. You can’t clear-cut enough trees to keep them from falling over, and with no heat, there’s only so much you can do to keep things from freezing up, and most of us aren’t qualified at turning our own electric back on. You are helpless, and most West Virginias do not do “helpless” well.

But home I went, hoping everything would be fine when I got there, forgetting that before I could even assess the damage at my house, I had to somehow navigate the treacherous road that the holler had become. Readers, if you have friends living on side roads and they tell you “it’s bad,” don’t doubt them. The side roads, especially the gravel and dirt ones, are horrible. My road wasn’t in fantastic

shape before, but now it’s just ice ruts leading in and out of deep potholes, one of which is so big, you could lose a small child in it (at the very least, a tire). And there’s not a thing anyone can do about it, except put it in four-wheel drive and go slow until everything thaws and we can do road construction. Except I decided, in what I consider to be one of my more brilliant moments, to fill said pothole with a bunch of bags of mulch to shorter the drop into the hole ($3 a bag at the Fairplain Dollar General!), which seemed dense enough to stay put and hold the weight of one side of a vehicle. So far, it’s a success, but February ain’t over yet.

So after taking twenty-minutes to navigate one and half miles, I was home, and to my incredible relief, the electric was on, the heat was running, and no pipes had burst. The chest freezer in my laundry room had defrosted, but the only thing I stored in there was a Sam’s Club box of hamburgers that hadn’t been opened in about 4 years, so I considered that light damage. I didn’t even lose that much food in my fridge, and was actually tickled to death because I got sandwich fixings to get me through to when I could do a big grocery shop, but forgot mayo. But what did I find in my fridge? An unopened, still sealed jar of mayo, perfectly edible. Y’all, it was an Ice Storm Miracle.

Now, it’s just a waiting game for the ice and snow to melt and for Frontier to come and rehang their lines, then the clean-up can begin, so if anyone has ever wanted to own a broken telephone pole, I have one in my yard that’s all yours, and you’re welcome to whatever branches you see along the road as well. It’s going to be a floody, muddy mess for a while, but this we’ll all get through, because that’s just what we do here in the JCO: pick ourselves up and move forward.

You know what else we do? Offer our services when we see an opportunity to be helpful. So before the electric could get back on down the lower part of the road, there was a line down somewhere between our holler and the next one over. My cousin, the amazing Chad, was talking to AEP, who knew exactly where the problem was, but to drive out and fix it was going to take them way past dark, and that would mean another night with no power for everyone on the line. So Chad, being a true son of West Virginia, said, “And if I take you in an ATV? How long then?” And the AEP guys, who only knew us as a dot on an outage map, didn’t hesitate: just jumped into his ATV, borrowed my mom’s Ranger for the rest of the crew, then followed Chad through the woods, tweaked a downed line, and before the sun was set that day, 40 more people had electric.

I tell you that story for two reasons: one, because Chad was named Ranson of the Week for that move alone, and two, because I know there are people at this writing who still don’t have electric, and it sucks, I know it does. I have been there and bought the t-shirt. But the linemen crews are doing their best in a state where electric lines are downed in places you can’t reach in a big AEP truck, and they’re making it happen as fast as possible. But we can help them out by being patient, being understanding, and if you see them struggling to get to an out-of- the-way line, offer them an ATV ride instead of hoping they can get their big truck out there. Now’s the time to put those muddin’ skills to use for the greater good, JCO!

But seriously: thank you to the tree cutters, linemen, and the people working the reporting lines, and all the Uncle TLs and Aunt Cindys, and the Cousin Chads who have helped us all through this. We can go such a long time between disasters, we forget that we really do have a great community, a helping community, and if disaster hits, we always have hands ready to help. So thank you to all those hands who are still working to get everyone taken care of: you rock!