Many New England horse owners are anticipating having their power turned back on today, following last week's disastrous ice storm.
But for the far-removed rural farms in New Hampshire and Maine, estimates call for perhaps another week or more before power is restored. Many parts of the region have been declared federal disaster areas and power crews from all over the country are trying to help, but it is daunting task, complicated by changing weather conditions and the prediction of another line of storms about to hit the area.
This morning, temperatures soared temporarily into the 50s, melting ice and creating even more hazards as puddles and pools formed on ground still covered with masses of tangled branches and power lines. And just to complicate matters, winds are close to gale-force.
Officials warn that trees currently bent double could snap up without warning as the ice softens, and even cause more broken branches and falling limbs. Someone needs to design a hard hat for horses; maybe those bumper toppers for shipping would be a good idea today if horses can finally be turned out and electric fences are juicy again.
Horses are going stir-crazy in stalls, and running water is still unavailable on many farms. New England is in the darkest time of the year, with about 15 hours of darkness each day. Barn interiors are dark, even during daylight hours, making it hard to get chores done.
As the power returns and some people are able to navigate roads that are open to traffic, people are rushing to buy gas to fuel generators and chainsaws.
The bright part of this story is that people are coming out to help neighbors and friends.
Expect to see lots of generators and chainsaws under Christmas trees later this month, and stockings filled with Duracell batteries. The stores would already be sold out if the roads were cleared and people could drive to a store. And if the stores could be open without electricity!
Generators have proven themselves to be indispensable for anyone with horses in a storm like this. On the downside, people seem to not be clear on how to use them, as at least three people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning from improper ventilation while using gas-powered generators.
As telephone service returns and cell phones get recharged, internet communication is sure to follow and we will hear reports from more horsepeople in the region.
Click here to read a first person account, with photos, of a couple's trials and tribulations making it through the weekend at Red Pony Farm in Hollis, Maine.
New Englanders: Leave a comment below with your storm advice and experiences! How effective were your stuck-at-home-with-no-power storm/disaster plans? How different might things have been if more storm warnings had been issued, or if this had happened later in the winter when farms are more buttoned up for stormy weather?