Friday, December 14, 2007

Ice Storm Photos

I'll be adding text to this entry when I can. Grading essays is consuming my life at the moment. Losing electricity earlier in the week because of the ice storm put my grading on hold temporarily, and now I'm desperately trying to get through stacks and stacks of essays.

Despite how pretty the ice storm appears in these pictures, it caused a lot of damage in northeastern Kansas, starting a few miles north of Kansas City. Many of the trees in my area were damaged. One large tree fell on a neighbor’s detached garage, splitting the roof in half and destroying the garage.

I had been typing up grading comments for my students’ essays early that Tuesday morning. Between essays, I checked the weather and news on the Internet and after learning of the power outages to the south, I decided to shut down my desktop and switch to the laptop that my wife had handed down to me when she upgraded to a newer model last summer. Soon after, I began hearing the electrical transformers to the north exploding. A couple of transformers to the east exploded next, causing the lights to blacken before the power returned. After the third explosion, the lights went out and remained out, only briefly returning again a couple of hours later for about thirty minutes. Afterwards, we remained in the dark for the next fourteen hours. We were lucky because some people were without power for a lot longer. Our gas fireplace kept a portion of our house warm. My wife even managed to heat water for coffee in the fireplace and grilled ham sandwiches for dinner. Our lights were out a lot longer a few summers ago after a severe thunderstorm, and the accompanying high winds in what seemed like a gust front, snapped some of the telephone poles in half.

When the tree trimmers were in the area last summer and working to reduce the number of limbs threatening the electrical lines, I mentioned to one of them how I think the electrical lines need to be buried. The kind of weather here merits burying the lines.

I think the weather in this part of the country also necessitates altering how houses are constructed. When several tornadoes cut a path through Wyandotte County in Kansas and Platte County and Clay County in Missouri, parts of the Kansas City metro area, in 2003, it was the brick houses that remained intact. The houses made of plywood were easily demolished by winds reaching speeds of 260 mph. Just as construction of single-family homes and office space must meet certain building codes in earthquake prone areas like San Francisco, the houses made in areas threatened by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms need to adhere to building codes, too.

If were in the position to build my own home, I would not only use those building materials that would make the house less prone to damage during our storm seasons but would also add a room made of steel in the basement just in case the house were ever in the path of a tornado. This room would serve as a place of refuge if we ever had to seek shelter during a storm.

Similarly, I think every new house made in this area should come equipped with the means to generate electrical energy so that this energy can be stored in batteries for when the power companies experience outages. Each house would be the equivalent of a diesel submarine that is able to remain submerged while running on its own batteries. Maybe solar panels could be added to the roof, for example, for those kinds of occasions. Perhaps, eventually, it would be possible for every new house to be self-sufficient and never need to pay for electricity again.