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Edition of Feb. 8, 2010

 views,  Days Inn, Monett where I stayed Jan. 13 to Jan. 20, 2007

  views of 705 N. Main on January 21, 2007


              lineman across from my place, 1-20-07         my cleanup as of Feb, 4-5, 07

 January 12, Friday, 7:30 pm, approximately all power visible from my house went dark. Since the storm had been well predicted I had candles and flashlights handy and had stocked up on groceries on Thurday, the 11th.  I put my ham radio rig on the deep cell storage battery and called out my call sign a couple of times. A long time friend, Phil Hatzfield in Monett answered and relayed the bleak weather forecast.

Limbs had started falling sometime on Friday and continued crashing to the ground all night and into Saturday morning, the 13th,  which was overcast. I could see from a window that some limbs were on my electric power connecting loop so saturday morning I got out my new manual pole cutter, braced my footing on the ice and got the limb off that was hanging from the wire. Proud of that accomplishment I said to self, 'put it away, you're ahead, don't push your luck' re considering cutting some other overhanging limbs.   It was a bleak outlook, very little traffic, state highway sanding trucks had been out since Friday evening. A  light misting sleet continued to  fall. About  10 am I called the Freistatt Postoffice and Farmer's Exchange, no answers. I have one 40 year old 'princess phone' on a direct line in which works without the power being on. Since my van's hood latch was frozen from Thursday's rain I needed to warm up it up  so I could open the hood to disconnect the battery if I intended to stay another night. I drove over to Schoen Equipment to 'see what was going on'. Debbie Schoen, Roy Obermann and Bruce Doss were in the 'coffee' area making cell phone calls. Their heat was a corn pellet burning stove, it's fan powered by a generator out front. The outlook was very grim. I did not make any ham contacts, operating only briefly on the battery power. Freistatt was not planning a shelter. Roy offered his house if I got too cold at night. I went home and prepared more storm readiness, had a cold lunch and took a short nap. When I woke up at 2 pm the house was 30-40 degrees inside so I got on the phone to motels. The only one that answered without putting me through a menu in some remote location or country was Days Inn in Monett so I reserved a room, packed what I could think of for three days.  The weather was clearly getting worse.

I had been very busy Wed and Thursday clearing out my barn/garage space so the van would be inside as the ice storm started.  I had a lot of batteries on chargers on Friday evening. Only my DeWalt light was freshly charged so I took that and a hand squeeze/crank light.  I put some oranges, apples, pale ale, a package of mixed nuts and one of dried apricots in my handy 'picnic' cooler. warm clothing for  3 days and my  sleeping bag.  Left some faucets dripping. 
Loaded up while in van in the driveway and checked for my wallet, back into house for that, forgot cellphone which was in the'other pocket' of the robe I had been wearing.  My house door lock was already frozen so I figured I'd leave it unlocked so I could get back in without having to pry the door open. 

The drive to Monett was scary. Race Track Rd aka Chapel Drive, the direct 'back' road to the Monett I always use was closed and linemen were working on the line near the intersection with Highway H. I took the latter to Monett. There were very few cars on the road. I noted some poles and tree limbs down but I dared not take my eyes off the road for a good look. Overcast increasing,  light sleeting, getting darker and it was about 2:30 pm.

As I finished checking in 3-4 others came in and  the motel put up a No Vacancy sign which remained up for my whole stay.
I asked only for a senior discount and got a slight discount. By Monday the manager told a room seeker he had 30 names on the waiting list. 

I moved into my room and 'went out for dinner' at a chinese restaurant on the south side of 60 highway which I could see was open from my room. Back in my room I opened  a package of mixed nuts and 'polished off' three small bottles of light ale. I rechecked my stuff for my cellphone and for three days 'punished' myself for forgetting it, since my sole reason for having it is 'for emergencies' and currently  has 600 minutes stored.  I called a friend in Florida with whom I exchange phone calls every day, have for years. I left a msg on one of my son's phones. He called back on sunday about 11 am and I listened to one 4 yr old grand daughter's speech and understood a few words. 

I slept 9 hours.  Somewhat perplexed when I woke up in the dark on,  'how did I get here?'. I loathe motels incidentally and hoped I'd be there only 2-3 days. But acclimated as the days went by.  I realized I had possibly the best room in the motel, nearest to the office where one could use a small microwave and get a light breakfast. There was a nice coffee maker and small refrigerator in the room. I had a good view of Highway 60 and the Stonegate Plaza's electrical sign which gave me the time and temperature.

Motel seekers on sunday were told to try the Cassville area, 30 miles south. After that filled up, the word spread that Branson had rooms, 60 miles southeast and the shortest route via a twisting up and down road that is a challenge in good weather.  I heard later Branson motels were chared a flat $30 per night.

A family originally from India own and manage the Days Inn, grandparents, and parents of two young kids, one old enough to man the desk at times. 
They were always friendly, courteous and polite. The owner-manager maintained his sense of humour throughout a very stressful period.

Sunday Jan. 14, was clear but vehicles outside my window were caked with ice. Many patrons struggled with their doors and windshields.  About 1 pm I got mine started and cleared for partial visibility but my mirrors and side windows were caked with ice. I  drove only to the Stonegate Plaza next door and ate at the El Chorro restaurant. After dinner/lunch the windows were better so I called to make sure Rameys market was open. About 2 pm I drove via the back roads to  Rameys-Price Cutter on Cleveland. It is one of my favorite groceries and is on 'Business 60, a bit over a mile north from the motel.  A very light rain was starting again. As I walked towards Ramey's entrance I heard a bang to the east and witnessed a transformer or something on a power pole blow up, bright blue flash, followed by a large puff of brown smoke.  This was the first of my experiences that caused me by the end of the week saying, 'where ever I go, the power goes off'.

Not many customers in the semi darkness of Rameys operating on generator for the lights. They were not sure how long they'd stay open on the generator so I went after the stuff on my list easiest to find. I paid cash rather than hold up the line with a debit card which I believe they were still taking.  The drizzling rain had increased and the RR gates closed as I approached on Chapel Drive. I figured it was related to the shorted power line. I was right, they started slowly back up so I went through, not under them of course. At the motel my 'keycard' didn't work so I left my groceries by the door and went to the office. It needed to be 'swiped' each day by the counter clerk.  I had a few 'ales', some soft cookies, nuts and an apple and read in bed to 9-10'ish'.  Now began the 'worrying too much' nights about a million contingencies, house pipes frozen, fire when power would come on, on and on. I have a mind like that. Some would call it 'expecting the worst'. I consider it vtal strategic planning material but in this case there wasn't anything I could do in advance so only resuled in waking up every few hours with another 'horror show' coming to mind.  At  1:43 am monday morning the power went off, so I got up and put on the skintight silk-like super cold underwear  I had with me.

Monday, the 15th, after a decent night's sleep I felt 'shaky' in the morning even after coffee and hot rolls. I called Adele at the Freistatt Farmer's Exchange who reported a dozen poles down on H highway and that Empire said the power would be off at least a week.  So I went back to the motel office and told them probably be there the rest of the week.  I got extra coffee for my room, an aspirin, some juice, heated a roll and chatted with a couple from Riverside California about Disneyland, mexican restaurants and grandkids.

I chatted on 'landline' with Phil Hatzfeld at 9:30 am and 2 pm.  About 2:30 pm I walked to the El Chorro for a big dinner. I found an old friend, Bill Nickum after dinner and we sat and traded stories for awhile. His shop in Mt.Vernon was closed due to the power outage as well as employees being ill.  I  walked to the gas station convenience store on the east side of the motel for a newspaper and 'the local grapevine'.  When we heard Wal-Mart was closed, the joke was, 'get your skates, hell has frozen over, Wal-Mart is closed'. Personally I never gave a thought on crossing 60 for Wal Mart. I avoid the place as much as possible since they 'remodeled' and hid things even more than usual. 

Pike Electric trucks arrived about 2 am and were all pulled out by 7:30 am.

Tuesday January 16, the ice on my van was removable on the sun facing side with a scraper so I turned it around for the other side to warm up.  I got a hot dog at the gas station. My main activity in the room was reading two new books I 'got' for Christmas, 'Born Fighting - How the Scots-Irish  Shaped America' James Webb, 2004 and 'The Greatest Hockey Stories Ever Told', Bryant Urstadt, editor. 2004.  I bought Webb's book for my genealogical background so took notes through out.

The power was out about 3:30 p.m. to 5:49 p.m. so I walked back to the gas station for a Monett Times and to the El Chorro who said they would close since they heard the power would be off till 7 pm and their normal closing is 9 pm.  I kept the motel people informed on whatever I picked up by chatting or via the radio in the room, tuned to the Monett radio station, KRMO which played an important role with information on outages, closings,shelters, etc. .

My neighbor in Freistatt, Bob Bremer called to warn me, 'Don't give up your room'. He reported that Steve and Debbie Schoen were working on getting a shelter going in the Lions building which is across the road from my house in Freistatt. And that the lines to my house looked okay but that if I drove into my driveway it was so icy I might not get out. That was certainly true since on Thursday morning when I stopped in the top of my driveway I started slipping before I let go of my van's door, so got back in and left.  He said he would cut the major logs in my yard with his new chain saw and I said I'd get one to cut the smaller limbs. He said he's close to 60, never had seen anything like this storm and that crews were not out working on the lines. I believe he was referring to Highway H west of Freistatt at the sharp south bend to the Monett substation which was not worked on for another week.

Pike Electric line trucks of Mount Airy, North Carolina arrived back at 8:30 pm and were out at 4 a.m. Their website had pictures of their working conditions in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri.

Wednesday January 17th,  before 9 am I called Rameys, who said they were open on generator power. I relayed that info to KRMO, 95.9 and heard it on the air almost immediately. I drove there and noted a long freight train waiting to the east of the crossing on Chapel Drive, headed west. I shopped in Ramey's at 11:15 am, their generator being outside the front door.  I yakked with the produce area guy. There were very few in the store.  I had to load my groceries via my passenger side door since my van's sliding door was still stuck with ice. I noted the freight had moved and was blocking Chapel so I drove west on Cleveland and south  on 16th street.  About half way in the street was closed due to a low hanging electrical wire as well as downed trees.  Casey's wasn't pumping any gas but the convenience store was open. All the auto shops on that street were not only closed all vehicles were covered with ice. Trees around homes on Cleveland were devastated.  Very few people were out and about.

 Wanting more cash I drove to UMB bank on Broadway. The 'word' there was the power would be on about noon, having been off since 9-9:15 am. The library was closed so I couldn't wait there. I left, power came back on at 12:48 p.m.  At 60 and Kyler there were two fire trucks guarding the intersection where a bucket truck was attending to a power outage. Turns out that was the system failure that turned all of Monett out.

Back at the motel I noted Team (ex Spradling) Chevrolet had young workers poking ice of new cars on the front row.  In the motel office/snack area it was 'like old home week' as patrons gathered whose work had been canceled  or whose homes were without power.  One lady's kids wind up helping with room cleaning. The manager told me later he had a 'help problem' and their mother volunteered the kids.  I had a long yak with a minister who lives on the northest side of Purdy. There was a lot of exchanging of 'you might know so and so'.

From the gas station on the east side of the motel I could see that Murphy gas and Wal-Mart were open, presumably on generators.  The burger place next to Murphy gas had been closed since Saturday Jan 13th when I was checking in at about 3 pm.  To 'make myself useful' I called in information several times to KRMO. About 2 p.m. I called Cox Communications for the motel manager who said he hadn't been able to get through for days. I wasn't sure the room TV was not working. I  have not had a TV since 1987 so was not sure my tests in turning it on were correct. Nor did I care much, of course. 

KRMO announced Schreiber Mt. Vernon's second shift was called off.

Wed, 17th, 6 pm, back to my room after walking to the gas station for the Monett Times, then to El Chorro for dinner. The ground was slightly slippery. For two weeks I wore only my LL Bean insulated Storm Chaser Boots, designed for 'more northerly climes'.  I don't recall wearing them at all last winter. 
Wednesday evening, 9 p.m.  I called the number the motel manager gave me and held 'on hold' for  15 minutes, an 'eternity' for me, normally I quit after 3 minutes at most.  More Pike workers arrive between 8 to 10 p.m. and double up in some rooms.

And 'surprise, surprise', the cable TV starts working. I hear it first in the room next door. Gee you 'don't thunk' some operator somewhere noted Days Inn, a $700/mth commercial account stayed on hold for 15 minutes, looked at some console and said, 'oh', pushed a button and voila Days Inn had cable.  Anyway that's the humorous tale I invented.

Thursday, the 18th. I get up at 5 am, my usual time and noted the Pike boom trucks are gone. 2 of their pickups leave about 6 a.m.  Since my van is clear of ice and the weather looks 'okay', I buy $20 worth of gas next to the motel and drive to UMB on Broadway.  As I walk in from the east side door, a manager lady is approaching to lock the door since the power just went off. This was the beginning of my joke about 'where ever I go, the lights go out'.  It took her awhile via cellphone to get my account number since I didn't have my checkbook with me. The Kansas city link was unintelligible so she called the Carthage branch and got the number so I got my $500 cash. I carry 'plastic' but use it as little as possible.  Fortunately just a week before I had moved more cash into my UMB account.

Here's my  noting of time and temperature by calling 236-1000, a service of Cox Monett Hospital;
My room phone only worked when the motel had power.  I also noted the Gateway Plaza's electric sign temperatures were higher by 2 to 4 degrees than from Cox.

Jan 15 Mon   5:35 p.m.    13 degrees 
Plaza sign read 18 degrees
                        8:43 p.m.   10      "
                        9:40 p.m.   10
                      10:50 p.m.     9
                       midnight       9

Jan 16 Tues   6:36 a.m.     4
                       1:14 p.m.    13 degrees
                       5:51 p.m.    11     "          Plaza sign read 16 degrees
                       8:18 p.m     10     "

Jan. 17 Wed  7.25 a.m.    11 degrees
                       8.22 a.m     14 degrees
                       1:37 p.m.    24 degrees
                       3:48 p.m.    25 degrees
                       6:19 p.m     23                  

                       9.55 p.m.    25

Jan. 18 Thur  5:40 a.m.    24
         .             9.07 a.m     24
                       3.25 p.m.    27
                       7:47 p.m.    24

Jan. 19 Fri      5:21 a.m.  15
.                       9:55 a.m.  30      
                      11:23 a.m.  31
                        4:24 p.m.  33
                        6:45 p.m.  28
                        9:36 p.m.  25

Jan 20 Sat       2:25 a.m. 24
                        4.01 a.m.  24
                        7:24 a.m.  25

The bank lady and I spotted a bucket truck in the bank lot so we went out and asked the worker when the power was expected back on. He said it would be out 3-4 hours and that would be true for the next four days to enable line work.

 I drove out to Freistatt to get my mail and the latest word from Sue, our Postmistress  and visited the shelter in the Community Building about 9:45  a.m. A large, towable national guard generator was running on the east side of the building.  Two guardsmen were still sleeping on cots in the kitchen area. 
Jennifer and Aaron Obermann were "running the place",  Aaron on his vacation time.  Their kids were along with a few others, playing card and board games mostly. Some young girls were awake on their cots, of which about 10 were set up. Aaron said he had knocked on my door checking on my well being.

I was anxious to visit my house so pulled into the top of my driveway, limbs preventing me from going further. I wanted to check the house inside and get some things. The driveway was so icy  I used a broom handle as a cane but my footing was so insecure I dared not let go of the open car door. When I made a move to get back in my van, my left slid away from me, pulling a muscle or such in my lower back. I decided, "ok', I'll play the game" and bent over towards my driver's seat and sort of propelled myself in falling on the seat, then hoisted my legs under the steering wheel and writhed, wiggled into an upright position. Anyone observing would have thought, "poor old man, must be severely athritic".

I drove over to Schoen Equipment (local John Deere dealer) and visited with Jim and his son as they sat with a few lights on exchanging tales of the outage. The consensus on when the power will be on, was in 3 to 4 more days. The feed line to Freistatt comes north on Race Track Rd, aka Chapel Drive and County Road 1090. I was relieved to learn that.  I had driven out on H highway after coming to the Empire District closed road signs on 1090 and counted 12 power poles down with many wires hanging low from poles still upright. Also no one was working on them.Turns out that road is Ozark Electric service area..

Back at the shelter/Community Center I noted most cots had been taken up, tables set out and about 10 kids were playing cards, well some were watching. Then several pizza's showed up and they feasted. I sat and chatted with Anne and Earl Telschow and had my first self heating meal, where you open a special water packet and pour it in an envelope into which you insert the prepackaged meal. First time through the directions caused uncertainty but the meal was good. The shelter had stacks of them as well as a huge supply of candy and drinking water. Beverly Osterloh, Stan Ness, Dan Porter and other locals visited and we exchanged stories. There was a large pile of freshly cut limbs near the front of Community building. Early in the week the water tower level had to be brought back up over 70 foot  with a generator brought in by either Empire or the National Guard.  Apparently many Freistatters  disappeared to go with relatives in Monett.

I drove back to my motel, unsure of course how much longer I'd be there but I told the manager 3 or 4 more days.

Friday, the 19th. I got up at 5 after a good night's sleep and breakfasted on an apple, coffee, oatmeal packet and a hot bun. I planned to do a laundry, get cleaned up and possibly go to Freistatt's shelter on Saturday. I loaded all but 'a covering' of my clothes in the motel's washing machine and went to the manager for soap. He couldn't find it right off, but then all of Monett's power went off at 8:45 a.m.  While waiting I took pictures from the upstairs motel balcony.  The manager handed me a package of soap so I turned on the washer. That got completed and I put the clothes in the dryer. After awhile I opened it to take out delicates and it wouldn't restart. I figured it had either used up my $1.25 or opening the door ran my time out so I removed the slightly damp clothes and at noon hung them around my room. Noting the lights out I realized I might have more time on the dryer but figured, why bother. Also for the first time in my stay, ice was melting off the motel roof.

For lunch I drove to Stars restaurant on south 37, then to Race Brothers and bought a Husqvarna chainsaw. They were operating on generators. Then when the young man went in the shop to start mine and tune it up, he discovered they were out of gasoline so he went for some. On the way back to the motel I bought groceries at Sav-A-Lot. On friday I had investigated the room's small refrigerator so I felt safe buying some frozen meals to heat in the office microwave.  The frig was so new I had to remove shipping tapes from inside trays.

7:17 p.m. Friday I called the National Weather office in Springfield and listened to the forecast tape. This what I noted;
Saturday 20 Jan; high mid 30's, 10-15 mph, 3-6 inches snow, upper 20's at night
Sunday 21 Jan; mid 30's, cloudy, drizzle, lower 20's overnight
Monday 22 Jan;  mid 30's.
Tuesday 23 Jan; 13-17 degrees overnight
Wednesday 24 Jan; 12-17 degrees overnight, upper 20's during day
Thursday 25 Jan; 16-20 degrees.

I was now constantly weighing what day did I dare leave the motel for the Freistatt shelter? I needed more input so called Roy Obermann and his wife said their power came on at 4 pm Friday. They are the first house south of me on H highway. Not sure that meant my lights were on I called Bob Bremer and his wife said she would have him check when he drives by on his way home from work about 1 am. I tried four other neighbors and couldn't get through.

Saturday the 20th, I packed up my stuff and checked out of the motel, a nervous wreck worrying about the condition of my house, assuming the power would be on in a day or two if not already. With snow predicted for saturday night I figured better get out there while I can.  Well, all my fears gradually were laid to rest, no frozen pipes, no evidence of leaks nor furry little creatures. I had filled my frig's freezer in anticipation of the storm and the house had been so cold that all in the freezer was still frozen hard and the temp was about zero. The power was not on but line crews were working on poles across from my house. Mike Harmon was reconnecting the power to the house to the east of the shelter and he told me he had checked my electric power loop and it looked okay.  I hung around the Community Center, ate two ready heat meals and at 4:25 pm in light freezing drizzle I drove to the Lions lot and watched the line crews. They were connecting the hot line at the top of a pole directly across from my house and it arc'd once, the nearby pole's Christmas light flickered and all went dead. The crew then went to 3rd street and worked into the dark with cold sleeting rain.  We had a gala evening at the Center. Dan Porter broke out his guitars and I ended up singing old country music in a duet, when I knew the song and he had the words opened in front of us. We didn't draw a crowd. The general conversation including the two guardsmen went on late in the evening. I ducked into the Village's office and used the computer. Finally everyone left but me and the two guardsmen and it was soon lights out. I got on a regular army cot on my sleeping bag with an army blanket over me and one for a pillow and amazed I ever slept at all.

Sunday the 21st.  I got up first and at 7:15 am drove down and into the top end of my driveway. I could see my house lights were on, GREAT RELIEF.  Went back to Community Center, the guardsmen had pulled out, generator and all. I loaded up and had something to eat. Back at my house I started getting things in order. I waited till the humidity came down from 100 to 70 and the room was 55 degrees before I turned on my computer. I had 75 email messages.

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