27 Years Ago Tonight

On Halloween 1991 I agreed to hand out candy to trick or treaters at Connie’s house in town. Andy painted my face a sickly shade of green and put black putty between my teeth to make them look rotten. Little did we know what lay ahead.

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I sat in a chair and Connie draped cobweb “something” over the chair and me sitting in it. I had a wig and a witch hat and held a snake that I shook at the kids as I handed them the candy and a toothbrush. It was a cold rainy night and lots of kids had in winter coats.

When trick or treat ended I stopped at mom’s house before going home. As I drove through town the temperature on the bank said 29. How I wish I had pictures!

The next morning as I was in that twilight sleep, I thought I was hearing gunshots outside but as I got up I was startled to see ice everywhere! Limbs were breaking off the trees from the weight of the ice creating that gunshot noise.

By 8 am the power went off which in the country means no water either as the pump is electric. Hours passed and still it rained and froze. By the time it quit a cold front passed over and temps fell to below zero!

I hauled wood to the house all day and slept on the couch right in front of the fireplace dressed in a jacket, gloves and a stocking cap. When I got cold I woke up because the fire needed wood.

The next day I went to town with 20 one gallon jugs to bring home water for the barn animals. I went to Mom’s house -her power had come back on but when I reached the highway I couldn’t believe my eyes – utility poles were snapped off, one after the other. This was before cell phones of course and I didn’t take any pictures – I was too busy hauling firewood and water which makes it sound like the late 1800’s!

Power remained off for 5 days in below zero temps! It was a desperate situation. There is still a hook in the ceiling above my kitchen island where a friend hung a trouble light powered by my lawn mower tractor battery. He took one battery home and charged it and exchanged them the next day. My light lasted until about 8:30 at night.

Every adult in North Iowa remembers the Halloween ice storm in 1991. I remember cleaning up the house when the power came on – what a mess! And still today I don’t have a generator!

Today was a different story – a beautiful day which I spent cutting down the pampas grass.

Snow is forecast for Friday!

Site is going to crash – out of storage! Till tomorrow!

64 thoughts on “27 Years Ago Tonight

  1. Rhoda Ebersole

    I remember that Halloween. We were living in Minneapolis and received so much snow everything was shut down for a day or two or weekend.
    Didn’t know about your ice and power poles being snapped off.

    It is a lovely fall evening here tonight in Las Vegas.

  2. Carla J

    Weather can be crazy. I do hope your snow doesn’t arrive yet. My hubby, son and 2 of my brother-in-laws are in northeastern North Dakota bird hunting this week. He was scrapping the thick frost of the windows this morning while it was snowing when we were talking on the phone. It is not the first snow they have had in the area this year. I wish you would have shared a photo of you in your costume.

    1. Angela

      Wow what a story! I sure hope you were able to get your face washed and putty out of your teeth before power went out. Lol we don’t have too many ice storms in my neck of the woods but when the power goes out I sure don’t function too well. I call it in door camping and I am not a fan of it.

  3. Brenda archambault

    Reminds me of the ice storm we had in the early 1970s. Had a 200 year old house with 4 fireplaces, two pre teens, farm animals, etc. Fortunately, we were able to remove the shallow well cover and get buckets full of water for animals and flushing the toilets. Unfortunately, with all those fireplaces, we had not cut wood that year and the meager supply was not very good so it was difficult to keep warm, but on top of that, I was attending college full time and studying for final exams. I felt like Abe Lincoln, bundled and snuggled up to the meager fire studying for exams. 5 days later power was finally restored.

    1. Patty Tucker

      I remember the storm in March of 1971 very well, We did not have power for 2 weeks, roads were cleared and we showered/ bathed at Grandmas house in town and at school. Dad hauled water from town for animals. He had a heart attack and passed away at the age of 35. We got power shortly after he passed away.

      1. CountryThreads Post author

        Patty Tucker – oh, what a sad story of hardship! I am so sorry but also glad you wrote!

  4. Sharon Lowy

    I lived through an ice storm in Texas many years ago. The power on my side of the street stayed on while across the street it was off for 5 days. We weren’t in the country like you so we had a grand time. My house was filled with neighbors and sleeping bags, etc. great meals and lots of card games..we were almost sorry when it was back to normal.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Sharon Lowy – that does sound like fun – I was totally alone except for the cats and one dog in the house. They were cold, too!

  5. Darlynn

    Remember it well. Snow on Halloween in MN. Followed by a blizzard on November 1. The day my third son decided to make his appearance into the world. We had a Ford Taurus and a steep driveway coupled with great neighbors. Shoveling and plowing ensued followed by closed roads, detours, unplowed roads and bumpy railroad tracks. We made it to Methodist Hospital prior to delivery. I guess I was lucky ? he was breech. 4 hours later, he made his grand entrance and has been a loving challenge ever since.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Darlynn – I remember MN got snow while we got ice – just a few degrees warmer here in North Iowa. Ha! Glad you made it to the hospital!

  6. Lee

    Gang, this is a North Carolina story around 1999. We were supposed to get a couple inches of snow. Woke up to snow in front of the door…. later the snow turned to freezing rain.
    Our dog Jesse couldn’t get down the steps out back so we let her out front. She wandered down the driveway looking for the perfect spot. She was afraid to come back up the driveway. I had to go get her. I hung onto the car from one handle to the next. I made it down the driveway and talked her into coming with me. We had no power for a long time.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Lee -power outages are not limited to the north! When our ramp is icy our dogs skate down -ha!

  7. Jo Kramer

    We were living in Chester then. We were okay. Roger’s parents were without electricity for 17 days or something crazy like that. They lived near Grand Meadow Minnesota. Crazy weather. Crazy. Roger keeps saying he wants a generator. I keep saying we live in town and I have a few treadle sewing machines!!!

  8. Martha Engstler

    We have solar that takes care of the freezer and frig so we have been lucky when the power goes out. Glad to say that doesn’t happen very often. My heart goes out to those folks with bad weather so early. Your horror story is hard to beat I think.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Martha Engstler – and I was home alone as my now ex-husband was on the road and I had no way to reach him and he didn’t call!

  9. Cheryl in Nebraska

    What a harrowing experience! Memories can be quite frightful, but I’m glad you shared that time with us.

  10. Emily Pittenger

    I took my 3 year old niece trick or treating in Allison that Halloween in a snowstorm.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Emily P – bad weather wasn’t only ours that night -I wish we’d have had snow instead of ice!

  11. Kathy in western NY

    I think that was the same year we had an ice storm in March here in western NY and what a frightening sound for sure it is when limbs start breaking and coming down around you and it’s totally dark outside. We were without power for five days and had a houseful of family sleeping on the floor and couch’s in front of our fireplace. We emptied the freezer as it continued to defrost and cooked out on the grill foods we could. We now have a generator and also the motor home so I feel we are in better shape if we lost power for that long again.

    1. Diane in Central Ohio

      Kathy where are you in Western NY? Do you remember December of 1969? 36 inches of snow in 24 hours and we got married in the middle of it!! December 27, 1969–almost 50 years:)

      It seems most of us have stories like that, but when you live on a farm, it is worse if you have animals and a well. My students in my first year of teaching taught me that!! We lost power on the day before Christmas Eve one year and went to our daughter’s church looking like we needed to be taken in by anyone who would have us!! Ours was off only 3 days because we were on a direct line to an assisted living place. But, most people in our city were without power from 3 to 7 or more days. We had guests for a week which was fun:) We put in a generator a few years ago and it has been well worth it!!

      1. Kathy in western NY

        Hi Diane,
        We live between Rochester NY and Buffalo. We are in a small town, Spencerport, closer to Rochester though along the Erie Canal. We also got married in 1969 (August) and it seemed our winters were brutal back then. Snowed in for days and pay loaders coming to dig out our driveway in our first home in Hilton. Later we bought our second home across from a town highway department and the state highway department is our other neighbor which let me tell you is a reassuring feeling as we get older. Those workers are the best for keeping an eye on us!! I never mind the noise from the trucks and when we are a quiet campground it takes me a while to figure out to get accustomed to my new surrounding. But now it’s maybe two or three times a winter my husband has to snowblower our driveway anymore. I still don’t mind winter but no thanks to ice storms!

  12. Linda

    Oh, how I remember that Halloween storm here in MN! My husband was volunteering down at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Our daughters and I shoveled the driveway several times that night, so my husband could get the car in the garage if he was able to make it home. Fortunately he did make it home safely that night.

  13. Mary in SD

    We had 13 inches of heavy, wet snow on Halloween in southeastern South Dakota in that storm. No power outage here, and I don’t remember if the schools or the local university were closed or delayed.

      1. Mary Says Sew!

        13″ of snow is a lot of snow for any day. But better than ice that makes surfaces so dangerous and brings down power lines.

  14. Launa

    Something similar happened during my college days in north west WA…power poles snapped for miles towards Canada! Ice was really thick on cars left outside. That was almost 59 years ago. Thanks for the memories, Mary.

    Snow started here in my part of northern Idaho this 20’s degree morning with fine flakes and every time I glanced out my sewing room window the flakes were larger and swirling around. By dinner time we had about 3 inches! Much more to come this week! Last year we accumulated over 220+ inches.

  15. Vicky Montag

    I remember that night well also. My daughter fell in the house and broke her arm and we coudn’t take her to the ER until the next day. We were without electricity for 11 days. We did have heat because we had fuel oil stoves. I cooked on a camp stove. I would get water from the flowing well west of Clarion on my way home from work. We would play cards by oil lamps. It made our kids appreciate electricity, heat, water, and lights a lot more. We have put in a generator that will automatically come on when the electricity goes out. It gives our kids and us peace of mind to not have to worry about being without again.

    1. Betty Klosterman

      Vicky, do you know any Carlson’s or Thompson’s ? They are all probably my relatives!
      Betty Carlson Klosterman

  16. Kathy Hanson

    That was quite the ice storm. Rochester, MN was in SE MN and we got it too but not as bad as you did in Northern Iowa. A friend/neighbor was out of town but they were having a house built and the roof wasn’t on yet. The builders spent several days getting the ice off everything so they could continue to build the house. Yes, it was quite the storm.

  17. Betty Klosterman

    I remember the flowing well west of Clarion. Every time we went by it I had to get a drink. Ice storms are awful. Clarion and surrounding had a really bad ice storm at Halloween, toom, but I don’t remember the year and could be the same one you got. The big metal power poles that looked kind of like wind mills just crumbled to the ground with the weight of the ice. Some of the surrounding farms were without power for 2 or 3 weeks with all the broken poles, etc.
    New Years Eve 1970, we had an ice storm here in Rapid City. Nobody could get out to go to parties, etc. Nine months later the newspaper headline read “18 babies born” and the next day it was “19 babies born.” Happy New Year! The people are hardy and know how to hunker down taking care of livestock, neighbors and all that stuff.
    We had a blizzard several years ago that really out did itself. People were climbing out the 2nd floor windows and shoveling their way back into the houses. They had ropes to follow so they didn’t get lost in white outs. The National Guard was called out. The snow was up to the bottom of the overpasses. We got a lot in Rapid City, but the country around got it alot worse. Took a whole day to clear just a mile of road. Like my aunt used to say “They had to be tough to live in Iowa.”

      1. Betty Klosterman

        When I lived in Des Moines the state basket ball tournament was being played at the Vets Auditorium. The people got to the auditorium about 4 or 5 and it was a thrilling tournament. While they were inside a blizzard hit and nobody could get out as everything was covered so they all had to stay at the auditorium all night. Think anybody got any sleep?

        1. CountryThreads Post author

          Betty Klosterman – I remember that! With forecasting today, that would never happen, would it? I can still see the picture on the front page of the Des Moines Register!

  18. Kathy Schwartz

    Here in the very SW corner of MN, I had two kids come for T & T on Halloween. One boy, (about 6) had a black painted (or something) beard and a moustach (sp??) . It was cold and his nose was running. He lost his moustach. Need we say more? We always talk about the Halloween Blizzard. It came so fast.

  19. Evelyn Pecht

    And my father-in-law was in the crematorium at Mason City. It’s on an electrical timer …. He was a no-show at his own funeral!

  20. Beth Laverty

    Your post today reminds me of an awful Ice storm in January of 98 while we were living in Maine. 9 days without power. I was thankful I was married to a real boy scout, Navy training to boot so we didn’t suffer too much. Our phone line got torn near the house but my husband was able to fix that. We had a gas and wood cook stove so we had some heat and could cook. We turned our front porch into a refrigerator. And stored some frozen foods in a plastic box outside. We melted ice on the top of the stove so we could flush……………… I had a real feeling of empathy for my ancestors. We lost a lot of trees and there was a mess to clean up after the storm. We didn’t have a generator(we do now!!!) but had a lot of oil lamps so had some light at night. But we went to bed early!!! Not a time I would wish to repeat. And I have to say the first shower I had after the power returned was WONDERFUL!!!!!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Beth Laverty – I also remember my first shower after days of no water although I showered at my mom’s some. Yes, what a mess to clean up after the storm.

  21. Anna M

    I remember that year. We had a blizzard here in SE SD. The kids couldn’t go trick or treating.

  22. Pat Smith

    What an awful time! And to be there all alone having to keep the animals safe and fed. You were like some pioneer woman! I remember the ice storm Beth Laverty talks about in New England. We had bought our house in northern VT, but weren’t living in it yet when that storm in 98 came and crumpled all those big metal electric poles in Quebec. They were without electricity for almost 2 weeks as I recall. We in VT were without power but not as long. Like you, no electricity, no flush toilets, no heat. We now have a propane fireplace that will heat the downstairs and a propane gas stove. But my worry is always frozen water pipes. Not much we can do about that.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Pat Smith – your solution was moving to Florida during those cold months – I assume your drain your pipes, etc. before you leave – that’s what my mom always did.

  23. Jeanne H

    Whew! Lots of stories, ladies! : ) Ice storms or wet heavy snowstorms are the worst.

    In March of 1991, the Rochester NY area had an ice storm, taking down tree limbs, trees themselves and power lines. Some areas did not lose power, but others did. DH and I were living in a small town SE of Rochester. Our house did not have a fireplace, but we did have a natural gas hot water heater and kitchen stove, so we could take brief hot showers (heaven!) and cook food. We were without power for about 38 hours which was long enough, but parts of Rochester were without for 2 weeks.

    Since then, we live farther out in the country and our house is all electric. Because of that, we do have a small generator which is enough to power the fridge, hot water heater, lights and TV. Oh, we also heat with a woodstove so we always have heat no matter what, although it does have an electric blower. It is almost standard now for folks here who’ve been without power at some point, to have either a small portable generator (as we do) or to have a big one hard-wired.

    DH says from forums he’s been on, that people in Europe have never lost power. That they have no memory of it ever occurring! Doesn’t say much for the US power grid, does it.

    And now I’m reminded that I should start to stock up more when I grocery shop – just in case! : ) Feeling chilled just thinking about it, but best wishes to all!


    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Jeanne H – losing power is always my fear – I can stay entertained during a storm with any number of things – as long as we have power!

    2. Kathy in western NY

      Hi Jeanne, another area Rochester NY reader!!! What town are you in?
      I was thinking after reading about these storms of a few years back when people got in the thruway in Buffalo and a heavy snow storm band blew in and cars were all stranded along the thruway. People just kept getting on at the various toll booths heading back to Rochester and ended up getting a little bit down the thruway and then find themselves in white out conditions and off the road. Since then there are large rails installed that come down to block exits and entrances when this happens cause it took so long to tow people. People had to stay in their cars for all night and wait to get dug out. I heard a story of family coming back to Rochester from a concert and slept in their car till they were rescued the next day. Now I can’t imagine that!

  24. Diane Deibler

    I remember it well. My girls took showers at their friends’ houses who lived in town. We have a total electric house so we were in sad shape. We brought meals home for a week and we slept in the living room by the wood fireplace. Makes you really thankful for electricity.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Diane Deibler – yes, we are very dependent on electricity. You don’t have a generator either?

  25. Deb

    I remember the Halloween blizzard well. We lived in Mitchell, SD at the time and our 3rd son had just been born on the 25th. My husband took the 2 older boys trick or treating up and down our block and that was it – couldn’t even see their costumes under the snow pants and coat. They got plenty of candy though since the neighbors put handfuls in their buckets. The January blizzard of 1998 was awful. My husband was helping his brother in Sioux Falls, less than an hour east of us. Once he heard of the blizzard, he immediately left to come home. He didn’t make it and ended up spending 3 nights at a farmers house with his wife and 2 other stranded motorists. That blizzard came up so fast – thank goodness for friendly South Dakota people that welcomed 3 strangers into their home. I was at home by myself with 3 little boys that were going stir crazy. Thank goodness we never lost power for very long.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Deb – yes, of course you got the weather first and your story is amazing as well as your husband getting stranded at a farm place in 1998. We’ve had travelers here who have had car trouble in the highway but not for 3days! Wow!

  26. Sandy Hoover

    I lived in Sleepy Eye, MN at the time, and was driving home from Mpls for Halloween. There were 4 trick or treaters in deep snow at around 6 PM. I had a young friend who was to be married Nov. 2. We had more than 2′ of snow. The wedding was delayed, first, several hours, then evening, and finally the next day (Sunday). The reception included each of the wedding party telling of their adventures getting to the wedding. Very memorable!!!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Sandy Hoover – that couple will never forget their wedding day(s), will they?

  27. Joyce

    Growing up on a farm in Mn in the 60’s we heated our home entirely with wood. We had 150 acres of trees with a large wood fed furnace in the basement. We were always snug and warm. In the late 60’s they started burying utility lines … so smart and no outages. Here in SD they’ve also started doing this in our town. During a bad ice storm 5 yrs ago I had electricity 😊

  28. Bonnie Crane

    I was living in sunny Arizona ( still do ) but my sister lived in St. Paul. Her birthday is October 30 and I had called her to wish her a Happy Birthday. She said she couldn’t talk long because snow was coming and she had to pull up her garden and get other outside fall chores done. Boy, did they ever get lambasted with snow. About two feet or so where they lived in the suburbs if my memory is correct. Wow!!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Bonnie Crane – connie and I had just gotten home from Houston and I had left instructions for fall work and winter prep but nothing had been done. So —- winter started with a bang and nothing done!

  29. Connie

    I don’t blog well, but have to comment on our shared storm. We live 6 1/2 hours NW of you. My husband was at a meeting 2 hours NW of where we live that night. He had a hard night eating out with the boys ad then going to the hot tub. At that same time, the kids and I were at home watching it snow like crazy all of a sudden. Soon a policeman was at the door. (We live in a small town, so not scary!) He asked me to get the truck out of the street. But of course , hub had left me with a flat tire!! I tried and tried to get it to move the right direction. Then I went and asked the neighbor for help! By the time he was done, it was sideways in the street, the wrong way, of course. So, I’m crying like an idiot and decided to leave the keys in it in the street, hoping someone would steel it. By now we’d had 9 inches of snow. Here comes the policeman again. I told him I couldn’t move it. So, he decided to go get a battery operated pump and pumped the tire up. By the time I got into the driveway, it was flat again and 11 pm. But it was off the the street!! As soon as I got back into the house, soaking wet again, my husband called. I don’t swear, but there was enough emotion going on with the tears etc, that he never left me with a flat tire on anything!!! Now it’s funny and the kids like to remind me about that fun night!! We ended up with a huge can’t see across the street blizzard and 13 inches of snow!! And a now funny memory!!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Connie – what a fabulous funny story! Thank God for a helpful policeman, right?

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