November 21, 1996 in Nation/World

Residents Tell Icy Sagas Of Survival As Cleanup Begins, Many Face Woes With Humor And Determination

From Staff Reports Staff Write
 

The buzz of chain saws replaced the scream of sirens Wednesday as Inland Northwest residents began cleaning up after Tuesday’s ice storm.

Long lines formed at hardware, grocery and discount stores as people stocked up on candles, batteries and blankets.

More than 70,000 WWP customers prepared to face another cold night inside dark houses, with only sandwiches for dinner and batterypowered radios for entertainment.

Many faced their fate with determination and humor.

“When you’re from Wyoming, you’re used to roughing it,” said one woman.

The Idaho Spokesman-Review staff blanketed the region searching out stories of survivors of Tuesday’s storm. Those tales follow.

He’s usually the owner of the Coeur d’Alene Bed and Breakfast. Wednesday, he was Robin Hood.

To protect his covered boat from the threat of icy darts falling from the boughs above, Don Robertson shot back with a compound bow.

The battle plan was ingeniously simple: Shove an arrow in a tennis ball, tether it with fishing line, then fire away. Once the arrow and line were in the tree, Robertson could fish for those loose branches.

“And it works,” the 63-year-old promised.

He pulled back the bowstring, aimed, then launched an arrow into the air. It arced through the branches, and the fishing line caught.

“See? It’s just like playing a fish.”

Then it fell - the arrow, not the branches. Well, it worked earlier, he said.

“These two branches have been a problem,” he said matter-of-factly.

“But I’ll get ‘em.”

When he could see his breath, it was time to leave.

“That was cold enough,” Butch Jones said late Wednesday night, eating pizza in Coeur d’Alene’s Red Cross shelter. “It was warmer outside than it was in my house.”

He and his 8-year-old daughter had hiked through the snow a half-mile to the Seventh-day Adventist Church that morning.

“It was snap, crackle and pop all night,” said Jones, who listened to trees snapping for hours.

“We could hear kids screamin’,” blurted daughter Megan, dressed in a pink “Pocahontas” shirt.

About 8 a.m. Wednesday, the electricity flickered off and didn’t return.

As they and about a dozen others watched television Wednesday evening, Jones leaned back and thought.

“I’m grateful for this,” he said. “It shows you how much you’ve got, the worse it gets. You’re not alone.”

Compared with this mess, life in Alaska was a day at the beach.

“We had deep snow, but we’ve never seen this happen,” said a big-eyed Theresa Newby, who moved to Coeur d’Alene from Alaska in June.

Wednesday morning, she and neighbor Theresa Foster were tugging the Newby children down Seventh on plastic sleds. “We just wanted to survey the damage,” she said.

Just then, a jagged chunk of ice plummeted from a tree, barely missing Newby and her precious cargo. Alarmed, they mushed the sleds out from under the spidery sniper.

They plodded along for blocks. The road was a frozen forest of fallen, ice-caked branches and the cars they had landed on.

“We’re going to get run over!” yelped Nicky, 6, as a snowplow came barreling toward them.

It wasn’t their first close call.

Tuesday, the hatch to Newby’s gas tank was frozen shut - and she was almost out of fuel. But she had enough gas to run an errand. When she returned, she found a tree toppled where she usually parks.

Wednesday, she was supposed to pick up her husband at Spokane International Airport. “I made him take a cab,” she said.

The doubting Alaskan was surprised his home had turned to tundra.

“I don’t think he believed this until he saw it,” she said.

Only a few folks were nestled in the bamboo booths of the Third Street Cantina on Wednesday.

That probably was a good thing for one sleep-deprived waiter. The 30-year-old had spent the evening with his buddies, sliding around Coeur d’Alene.

“Chaos attracts us,” Kurt Lundblad said, standing beside a fake flamingo. “Four of us went out in a rig, venturing to help people.”

They didn’t get home until 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Piling into a “big ol’ gray van … a real storm trooper,” the four drove all over Coeur d’Alene, removing trees from roads and helping people who were stuck. All told, Lundblad said, they lent a helping hand to about a dozen folks.

But instead of finding just chaos, he said, he and his buddies also found a new respect for Mother Nature and Thomas Edison.

“It’s incredible, really,” Lundblad said. “It’s so beautiful, yet it caused so much destruction. And you take power for granted.”

When Cafe Picolo employee Jan Conti arrived at the Silver Lake Mall at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, families already were sitting in the food court.

She hadn’t seen that happen before, but she understood: There wasn’t any power at her house either. She stuck her hair under a ball cap - it being a bad day for getting a shampoo - and cheerfully went about making espressos.

There was a lot of business - in sharp contrast to Tuesday when ice was falling from the sky. “Yesterday,” said Conti, “it was like a morgue.”

Sprague family members were snug in their beds Tuesday night, listening to ice break off trees in their Fort Ground neighborhood, when an explosion rattled the night.

Through the blinds, they saw an orange flash from the transformer in the alley. A loud crash followed.

“The tree’s on the roof,” Don Sprague told his wife, after peering out their window. The power was out again, too.

“Poor old tree,” Deb Sprague said as she surveyed the damage from the back yard Wednesday. “I really hate to see it go.”

A tree trimmer arrived to confirm the tree must go.

“I wouldn’t even try to save it,” said Joe Nielson.

After deciding that the tree “looks pretty secure,” Nielson took off to tackle a growing list of calls.

“Back as soon as we can,” he promised as he ran through the crunchy snow to his truck.

, DataTimes MEMO: Changed in the Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = From staff reports Staff writers Ward Sanderson, Julie Titone, Susan Drumheller and Alison Boggs contributed to this report.

Changed in the Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = From staff reports Staff writers Ward Sanderson, Julie Titone, Susan Drumheller and Alison Boggs contributed to this report.


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