Kentucky’s Historic Ice Storm Five Year Anniversary

Kentucky’s Historic Ice Storm Five Year Anniversary. Has it really been five years? For most of us the painful memories of January, 2009 are still fresh. It was the worst weather catastrophe to hit our area (so far) in the 21st century. I won’t go into a long story here about what it was like. I’ll let my photos tell the story. Besides, most people in Western Kentucky have their own horror stories.

But I will just say this. It wasn’t just the inconvenience of not having power. Or not being able to charge a cell phone. Of having to boil water–or worse, not having any water at all.

It wasn’t just the fact that you had to drive to another county to get food, gasoline, or kerosene for heaters and lamps. It wasn’t the run on batteries, or putting up with relatives huddled on your couches. It wasn’t the fact that we had no power for 19 days (at least at our house), or had no hot showers.

It wasn’t even the canned food heated on a kerosene stove or an outdoor grill.  Or the expense of buying a generator only to watch it blow up after an hour.

No, it wasn’t any of that when you get right down to it.  It was this: People died. Animals died. And we lost–at one estimate–300,000 mature trees in Kentucky alone.

300,000 trees. It’s almost unbelievable. And yet, for those of us who will never, EVER  forget the eery sound of trees breaking and crashing in the night, it’s entirely believable.

I recall my first hike in Land Between the Lakes after the ice storm. It was March. All the hiking and biking trails were covered with fallen trees and limbs. You couldn’t go more than a few feet without encountering a large tree knocked over in its prime. Most of them never recovered, of course. To this day you can see evidence all around of the devastation that was the Ice Storm of 2009. May we never have another.

Kentucky's Historic Ice Storm Five Year Anniversary - We lost so many trees
Kentucky’s Historic Ice Storm Five Year Anniversary – We lost so many trees

Walter's Hill on Panther Creek Road
Walter’s Hill on Panther Creek Road
People lining up for gas and kerosene
People lining up for gas and kerosene
Kentucky's Historic Ice Storm Five Year Anniversary -Patio furniture
Kentucky’s Historic Ice Storm Five Year Anniversary -Patio furniture
Old oak brought low by ice
Old oak brought low by ice
No scraping this off
No scraping this off
Kentucky Historic Ice Storm 2009
Kentucky Historic Ice Storm 2009
Ice Storm 2009
Ice Storm 2009
Ice Storm 2009 Panther Creek Road
Ice Storm 2009 Panther Creek Road
Highway 93 North Lyon County
Highway 93 North Lyon County
Dad's frozen tractor - January 2009
Dad’s frozen tractor – January 2009
Iced up until spring
Iced up until spring

 

Everything got a coating
Everything got a coating
Beautiful - but so deadly
Beautiful – but so deadly
93 North near Kuttawa
93 North near Kuttawa

For those complaining about the “polar vortex” (and yes, I’ve been one of them), look back at these photos and remember:  It could be so much worse. Kentucky’s historic ice storm was one to remember. Some of us might want to forget.

 

The first thing I remember about that week was the ominous forecast from WPSD-TV–Newschannel 6 from Paducah–on Sunday, January 25, 2009. The weather people actually had grave looks on their faces as they gave a rather scary forecast for Monday through Wednesday. I remember thinking, “How can they know we will get that much ice?”

But it turns out they were deadly accurate. I’ll bet there are people who wish they had taken that forecast more seriously.
I also remember the smell of kerosene. I will always hate the smell of kerosene. I can’t help it. I associate it now with those three weeks without electricity.
I think we all came to realize how much we depend on electricity. Being without it got really old, really fast. Washing in the sink, drinking only bottled water. Heating water on the kerosene stove just to wash a few dishes. No lights. The only good that came of it–if you can call it that–was a new appreciation for what our ancestors went through. Given the opportunity, though, I would just as soon have read about it instead of experiencing it.
The quiet. Oh, the quiet. I never got used to it for the entire 19 nights. I can’t sleep without my fan going, and I’ve never been able to sleep if I hear someone snoring. When my parents snore the house rumbles. I could hear them through two walls and down a hallway.
The wind. I could hear the wind at night and hated it. Every time it blew I knew we would lose another branch, another tree. And we did lose one of our giant oaks, and then the barn it fell upon.
What did people do, way back yonder? Did they really just fold up the tent and go to bed at dusk? We would listen to the radio (always a country station) until 8 or so, but by then I was ready to commit hari-kari. You can only hear so much “tear in my beer” before you get downright depressed. I read by candlelight but that got tiresome. I need my 100 watt bulb to read by and I didn’t have an e-reader back then. Good thing, since I couldn’t have charged it up.
But enough of my yapping. Here are 26 more photos guaranteed to give you the chills (pun intended). Seriously, folks, aren’t you glad we haven’t had another storm like the one in 2009?

Oh, and I’ve added a couple of short videos depicting the hairy drive down Panther Creek Road shortly after the rain stopped freezing.  Enjoy!

a boxwood bush becomes an icebox
a boxwood bush becomes an icebox
we lost this old oak
we lost this old oak
we lost the tops out of the old cedars
we lost the tops out of the old cedars
we eventually lost the barn
we eventually lost the barn
Kentucky Ice Storm Park 2 - twigs buried under ice
Kentucky Ice Storm Park 2 – twigs buried under ice
Kentucky Ice Storm Part 2 - trees of silver ice
Kentucky Ice Storm Part 2 – trees of silver ice
the ice that just kept growing
the ice that just kept growing
remember the crunchy grass
remember the crunchy grass
power lines down highway 93 North
power lines down highway 93 North
police arrive to keep order at Dodges Store in Hopkinsville
police arrive to keep order at Dodges Store in Hopkinsville
ornamental grass twisted into popsicles
ornamental grass twisted into popsicles
not a hurricane but ice
not a hurricane but ice
more topless trees
more topless trees
looks more like Tim Burton than Mother Nature
looks more like Tim Burton than Mother Nature
ice broke upon the pavement like glass
ice broke upon the pavement like glass
grill looks like a weird flying saucer
grill looks like a weird flying saucer
Kentucky Ice Storm Part 2 - frozen forest
Kentucky Ice Storm Part 2 – frozen forest
forlorn power lines and trees
forlorn power lines and trees
do you remember the sound as the wind moved the ice?
do you remember the sound as the wind moved the ice?
bowing trees
bowing trees
an all too common sight
an all too common sight
after the chain saws
after the chain saws
a source of woe for several weeks
a source of woe for several weeks
a deadly beauty
a deadly beauty

 

TWO SHORT VIDEOS

 

 

© Wade Kingston

2 Comments

  1. Sheila Yates

    Enjoyed looking back on the destruction of mother nature. Don’t want to go thru something like this again. I was at work for the first 4 days of this, i had heat and a place to shower, ran out of food but thanks to some great friends that I worked with brought food to us. No I will never forget the ice storm of Jan 2009

    • Wade Kingston

      No one who lived through it will ever forget, nor can we easily describe how awful it was to those who didn’t experience it firsthand. There was such a sense of frustration and helplessness at our reliance on electricity and other modern comforts. It makes one wonder what would happen if our electrical grid failed nationwide. (Almost too horrible to contemplate.)

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