The Great Tennessee Ice Storm of 2015

It all started typically enough: a storm was coming. The forecasters saw it off in the distance. They prognosticated about it. They fretted about it. They warned us about it.

Some of them even suggested that the world was coming to an untimely end and that we should get our women and children (and dogs and cats) to safety and prepare to die.

(No. That last part isn’t actually true, but was added for dramatic effect. I like dramatic effect. I use it regularly and often to great success. Henceforth, in an effort to maintain journalistic integrity, my editor will offer corrections to my dramatic bunny trail chasing.)

As usual, I came to the conclusion that Tennesseeans were overreacting. This assumption on my part was not unwarranted given the massive and over-the-top overreactions that I have personally witnessed since moving to the molehills.

But this time…I was wrong.

We had spent the weekend celebrating Valentine’s Day near Nashville. The weather was beautiful. Some of the local denizens were even wearing shorts. After all, the temperatures–which were in the sixtes–belied what was coming. Why not throw caution to the wind? (Editor’s aside: there was in fact no actual wind.) Why not live as if you had another hundred years ahead of you? Why not ignore the salient advice of the preppers who were screaming from the rooftops telling us all to take shelter and prepare for the end?! (Editor’s aside: there were no preppers, and nobody was screaming from the rooftops telling people to take shelter.)

I too gave a flippant flick of my wrist to the doomsayers.

We took our time that Sunday coming back to Nashville. We didn’t leave until well after noon and we even stopped for lunch along the way. We were living on the edge. (Editor’s aside: we were not living on the edge.)

All was well. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The temperatures were decent for a mid-February day. Traffic was moving along quite nicely. We made it home long before the sun fell below the molehills.

We washed our clothes. We ate our dinner. We watched something silly on HGTV. We went to bed.

We did normal things. Little did we know that normal just left town and he didn’t even say goodbye.

The Midnight Run of Chicken Little

And then…

…I started to hear it.

I woke up sometime in the very early morning hours of Monday, February 16, and I heard it out the window of my office–the very room in which I sit right now belting out this amazingly epic story (Editor’s aside: seriously!?) It was a strange pinging sound. I really can’t recall ever hearing anything quite like that before. It sounded a little bit like pennies dropping from heaven. But these weren’t pennies haplessly discarded by God.

Nope. This was something far darker. Something far more sinister. And it was only the beginning.

I decided to look out the window.

I saw what appeared to be ordinary rain. The streets were wet, but black, just as they should be. I scoffed once again at the silly molehill people and their silly fretting. There was no snow on the ground. Not a single flake.

Rain. That’s all it was. Just rain. Strangely…noisy…rain.

Unconcerned, I decided to return to the warmth of my wife in our bed. But just as I began to throw down the sash and close the shutters, I saw something quite curious: a small chicken was running haphazardly and at a breakneck pace across the neighbor’s yard and heading straight for mine. Or at least it appeared to be a chicken. It was quite dark, mind you. But then it stopped, just for a second. It pulled a bullhorn out of its pocket and screamed, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then it ran away. Down the street it ran, and out of my sight. That was really weird. (Editor’s aside: the windows here do not have a sash; they also do not have shutters. Chickens do not wear pants. Chickens do not know how to use bullhorns. Chickens do not speak. The sky was not actually falling and a chicken did not tell him that it was.)

“A dream,” I thought that morning when my alarm went off. “I must have dreamt about that weirdo chicken. That would explain the sash and the shutters!”

I went about my normal routine that Monday morning, preparing to go to the gym. But I wouldn’t make it that day, nor any of the days that week.

As I stepped outside to warm up my car, I was horrified at what I saw!

Apparently I hadn’t dreamt about that chicken after all; the sky really had fallen. The world around me was covered in an otherworldly ice. I had never seen anything like this. If I had to describe it, I would say it reminded me of the ice world of Hoth from Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. (Editor’s aside: it in fact looked nothing like the ice world of Hoth. And before he tries to tell you that there were ice caves inhabited by Wampa cave monsters, there were in fact not.)

I couldn’t safely walk down my stairs. They had been transformed into what looked like a frozen waterfall. And even if I could have opened my car door, it would have taken a month for the defroster to melt the approximately three inches of ice which now fully encased it in a freezing cold tomb. (Editor’s aside: the previous statement regarding thawing time is an extreme exaggeration.)

Snow Day? Pfffbt! Snow Week!

My wife and I gathered round the television and turned on the news, eager to find out what had happened. Just what was this stuff that wasn’t quite snow, but wasn’t really water?

Apparently this is what molehill people call an “ice storm.”

I had never seen anything like this in all my life. All I knew was that neither myself or my wife would be going to work that day, and anyone who did was a complete fool.

I have driven through snow up to five feet deep. We get blizzards every so often in the mountains, and sometimes you have to drive through them. You don’t drive on ice. You don’t walk on ice. You don’t stand on ice.

You hide from it. (Editor’s aside: nobody hid.)

And it wasn’t over. Oh no. Not by a long shot. For hours it continued. Hour, upon hour, upon long arduous hour the ice kept falling. Tiny bullets of icy death, I took to calling them. They hit the ground with great rapidity, one by one they chose their target and struck. (Editor’s aside: ice does not possess the ability to think; thus it cannot choose a target and it cannot, in fact, “strike” with any degree of premeditation.)

The sound…the sound was the strangest thing. The ice hitting the ground didn’t sound like rain. It sounded like tiny pellets of doom, encasing everything in their reach in a cold, icy hell from which only the sun could ultimately bring about freedom. (Editor’s aside: ice does not possess…oh, never mind! See the previous comment.)

By the end of the day on Monday, our steps, our driveway, my car and the street were covered in a layer of ice which was at least three to six inches deep. Layer upon layer of unforgiving ice covered everything.

Day Two

When Tuesday came along, we realized that we were far more fortunate than some of our fellow molehill neighbors. Tens of thousands of people had lost their power and it was ten degrees outside.

I also realized why the people here run to the store to buy bread, milk and eggs every single time a weather person says there might be snow. It’s because if the snow doesn’t come, but the ice does, the trucks that resupply the grocery stores can’t get through to those stores.

I further came to the realization that we were low on: bread…milk…and…eggs.

Oh bother!

I decided after day break that I should try to free my car. I had already told my boss that I would not be gracing my place of employment for a second day in a row, but I knew that we would need to get to the store, and should an emergency arise, we might need to get my wife’s car out of the garage. That wasn’t going to happen with my–fully encased in ice–car sitting in the driveway.

So I carefully–oh so carefully–walked down the steps on my porch and over to my car. I tried to open the door. Once. Twice. Three times. Nope. It wasn’t going to happen.

I retreated back inside and asked my wife to search the Internet for a solution. (Pay attention boys and girls: this may help you.) And glory be, she had an idea all her own, based on her own past experience. As anyone with the slightest degree of intelligence knows, pulling on the door handle when the door is frozen shut is a bad idea, and a good way to end up in a car door repair facility. But it turns out that if you slam your hip into the door several times, it will break the seal that the ice has created any allow you to open the door. I scoffed at that. “Yeah! Right!” I said. But I tried it. And wouldn’t you know it? She was right! After about four hip slams, the door opened right up.

They say you learn something new every day.

I proceeded to enter the tomb of ice and start the car. But I knew that I would have to run the defroster for literally hours to even cause a dent. And so that’s what I did. The car ran, and it ran, and it ran, constantly blowing hot air on all of the windows. (Editor’s aside: he thinks it’s the car that’s blowing hot air.)

After about two hours, the ice on the bottom started to melt, allowing me to begin to attack the ice on top. You didn’t scrape this ice. You hit it. And you didn’t hit it like a girl. You used brute strength and slammed your ice scraper into it with all your might, much like one would do if attacking a Grizzly bear. (Editor’s aside: no one would willingly attack a Grizzly bear in hand-to-hand combat, and if they did, they would not use an ice scraper.)

I lost two ice scrapers that day. They both broke in half. But they did the trick. I was able to break multiple large pieces of ice away from the rest of the ice, giving me access to the windows on the car. This allowed me to move the car into the street where the sun would at least shine on it and freeing the drive way so that we could drive my wife’s car if the need arose.

But by now I was just angry with the ice. And so if a plastic ice scraper wasn’t man enough, perhaps a piece of steel was. I grabbed a wrench! (Mostly because I couldn’t find a hammer.) I proceeded to beat the tar out of that ice, taking all of my aggression out on my unsuspecting enemy with blow upon blow upon blow. Eventually large pieces began to buckle and give way and break. Soon I had fully freed all of the windows, the wiper blades and even the sprayers for the windshield wiper fluid.

My car was once again drivable. And not a moment too soon!

Milk, Bread and Eggs, Oh My!

Later that day we made it to the local grocery store, which conveniently also sells gasoline. I was concerned about the fuel situation as the local news said that many gas stations had run out of gas.

Same problem: the trucks can’t get through.

Curiously I had no problem finding regular unleaded, but had I wanted mid-grade or premium, I would have been out of luck. Happily I filled the tank with my low-brow unleaded and we proceeded to store.

By now the rest of the ice had to come off because I had to access the hatchback to load our groceries into the car. The hatch was still sealed shut. Brilliantly, I used my elbow as an ice breaker and managed to break the rest of the ice off the back of the car. After doing so, and using more of that brute strength stuff (I was totally showing off to my wife), I pulled the hatch open and a gargantuan piece of ice covering the roof of the car broke free and fell forward, down the windshield and to the ground and its ultimate demise.

So…more than three hours after I started, my car was now fully freed of its ice. It was a very satisfying feeling.

Key and Ice

I took a picture of my car key next to the ice just to give some idea of the thickness of the ice. And note that this piece was actually smaller than most pieces. The car key is about three inches in length.

We got our milk. We got our bread. And we got our eggs.

Whew! That was close! (Editor’s aside: no it wasn’t.)

We even got salt for the stairs, two brand new ice scrapers for the next time this happens, and this really cool (if not somewhat creepy) solution that I can spray on the windows of my car at night which apparently keeps ice from forming overnight. And you know what? It works! What will they think of next?

It Wasn’t So Bad After All

In the end, it wasn’t so bad.

I got to take two days off from work. My wife stayed away for three. Our dog was just thrilled that we were home with him more than usual. And, If you looked closely enough, there were beautiful things to see in the ice.

It’s been just shy of a week. At this time last week, we were just arriving home after celebrating Valentine’s Day without any clue about what was coming.

The storm is gone now. The ice is rapidly melting. And Nashville is returning to normal (whatever “normal” is in Nashville).

But I will never, ever forget what happened here. (Editor’s aside: yes, you probably will.) It will be a time long remembered. (Editor’s aside: no it won’t.) Heroes were made and good, loyal snow brushes fell. (Editor’s aside: oh would you stop already.)

To end this unnecessarily long dissertation, I will now treat you all to a version of Kid Rock’s Born Free which I have personally rewritten in honor of the epic battle that I fought to free my car from the Great Tennessee Ice Storm of 2015. (Editor’s aside: that’s it. I quit. Boy: you’re on your own!)

(By the by: Check out the new header for the blog. What do you think of it? I spent even longer on it than I did battling the ice!)


3 thoughts on “The Great Tennessee Ice Storm of 2015

  1. Where were you in 1994? That, sir, was a REAL ice storm!

    Well, it didn’t start out as ice, but a gentle almost frozen rain falling on hardpack frozen-all-winter surfaces. What rain touched the dear earth and anything connected to it immediately froze solid. I was working in Huntsville, AL and knew I desperately needed to Tennessee in a hurry.

    By the time I arrived back at home in the woods, the trees were literally falling behind and in front of the car. You could literally break a five inch-thick branch/tree in two if it were long enough.

    There were so many trees breaking from the several inches of ice on them, that the woods sounded like the crackling of semi-automatic gunfire in a war zone.

    I had gotten out of the car to remove the trees blocking my progress home (still 3/4 mile from the farm), then realized I was in far more danger outside the car than in. So I got back in the care and
    just started driving my ’78 Chrysler Lebaron over the trees in the road. Within a 1/4 mile the transmission made that sound as if it were coming apart, and the car started rolling backwards.

    One of the trees dared to reach up to the gear selector and strip the cotter pin so that the car was stuck in reverse! I couldn’t fix it out there, so I drove home backwards, over one tree after another, and parked the old gray ghost in a field at the road frontage, then crawled up the 300-foot hill to my abode.

    A few weeks later I was called to work in Indianapolis, and noted the severe tree damage extended through most of Kentucky.

    I NEVER wanna see another storm like that! And I’m glad you’re safe and sound.

    • HAHAHA! That’s friggin’ AWESOME David! 😀 Thank you for sharing that! I cannot imagine driving BACKWARDS at night, over trees in an ice storm! What I would give to have seen that!

      As to where I was in 1994, I was back home in the mountains: Colorado.

  2. I read Kirk’s blog post yesterday. I read it again today. Then again. And yet again. I’ve read it multiple times now and I have to admit that this sounds like
    an impressive storm. Maybe even an epic storm. No one in our family has ever experienced anything like this. Worst we’ve probably ever dealt with are snowstorms that sometimes measure in feet rather than inches. Those storms, too, send citizens scurrying to grocery stores to lay in their supplies of milk and eggs, hot cocoa and marshmallows. And, like the doomsday forecasters there, we also hear dire warnings of how we might be buried alive in all this fluffy white stuff. Well, to be fair, several feet of this white stuff feels anything but fluffy if you’re really buried in it. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that what Kirk and family experienced was far beyond anything I could even imagine. Still, ladies and gentlemen, after reading that excellent, even somewhat elegantly exaggerated dissertation of The Great Tennessee Ice Storm of 2015, I am left with one burning question, that perhaps will only be answered by the ages:


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