Most of these chronicles start from an idea, it is then a question of going through the past News-Press and Gazette editions to see how we covered the story. In some cases, there will be a small mention. In others, maybe an article or two.
Here’s a number for you: 24. That’s the number of front-page stories we ran about the 2007 ice storm over 11 days. And that’s only on the first page. It does not include the various columns, editorials and articles in the Midland section.
The idea for today’s column came from a recent weather forecast announcing the possibility of ice. Suddenly I remembered the storm of 2007. Once in the clips, I kept reading…and reading…and reading. I can’t remember a single local event that caused more ink to flow in our newspapers, as the issues went on for days, and so did the stories.
Not that we weren’t warned. “Area Braces for Freezing Storm” was our headline at the top of the front page on Tuesday, December 11, 2007. Marshall White reported that school was canceled before the storm and street and power crews were ready. “Forecasters have predicted ice sheets of up to an inch,” he wrote.
Wednesday’s newspaper described the mess. Boy, did it. “Feeling helpless; Aquila says repairs will take time” was the lead article, written by Susan Mires. He spoke of trees covered in ice smashing power lines, adding “about 90% of St. Joseph was without power Tuesday afternoon.”
There were three other stories on the front page, and they were all about the storm. Jimmy Myers, Joe Blumberg and Ken Newton teamed up to interview residents who had lost power. Clinton Thomas reported blackouts and falling ice in the area. And White wrote about American Red Cross opening shelters.
Thursday’s front page featured stories from Thomas, saying power could be out for a week in some areas; of Newton and Alyson Raletz discussing disaster relief; and Nancy Hull, reporting that 600 people were staying in 19 Red Cross shelters, including those at Lafayette and Benton high schools.
The following days featured front-page stories from Alonzo Weston and Ray Scherer, as well as several stories from Jennifer Hall, Kristen Hare, Blumberg, Hull, White and Thomas.
Finally, on Saturday, December 22, we unveiled a front page that made no mention of the storm. Hall’s main story dealt with gasoline prices; Myers wrote about a payday loan controversy; Ahmad Safi introduced Angelina Spicer, winner of the Shop St. Joseph contest; and Cathy Woolridge talked about wish lists for Santa Claus.
So we were back to normal? Well, sort of – with our thanks to the many who helped.
“Enough stew to feed a small army was simmering in Mayor Ken Shearin’s office,” we wrote in an editorial. “He was preparing to feed his family and friends who had lost power.” White added in an article about the Air National Guard: “Tech. sergeant. Erin Hickok picked up a neighbor and took her to a warm shelter.
A reader of “It’s Your Call” also paid tribute: “My husband and I are disabled, and a large part of our tree has fallen. Our neighbor cut it and piled it up to the road, and he didn’t accept anything in return. It was so nice of him.
Disasters can indeed bring out the best in us. What a cliché, but how true.