The heavy rains accompanied by thunder and lighting started on Friday, December 19. The weather men were predicting freezing rain.
Conditions have to be just right for an ice storm as freezing rain is a type of precipitation that occurs with a temperature inversion air mass in cold climates like ours. It is described as precipitation that begins as snow at higher altitude, falling from a cloud towards earth, melts completely on its way down while passing through a layer of air above freezing temperature, and then encounters a layer below freezing at a lower level to become super-cooled. This water will then freeze upon impact with any object it encounters.
Predictions of freezing rain are often wrong, as more often than not, the temperature warms or cools by a couple of degree and then nothing happens. This Friday would be different; the weathermen got it exactly right.
As the freezing rain continued, into the night you could listen to the branches groaning from the weight, and then a cascade of ice would follow, bringing down limbs and power lines. By nightfall the grid was down and 120,000 Fort Wayne residents were cast into an eerie darkness.
Generally, power is restored in a few minutes or hours, but this time there were so many downed power lines that it would be a week before some customers had their lights back on.
Saturday found not only the power off, but, a blast of frigid air brought the temperature down below zero. Those in the neighborhood that had them began to fire up their generators.
By disconnecting the furnace leads and isolating the furnace from the house power source and then wiring a plug into the furnace leads a person can supply the necessary power to the furnace fan to get the heat back on. Sometimes it is the only way to keep the water lines from freezing.
The generators need to be gassed up regularly and after a few days the neighborhood residents felt as if they were fighting a war. Never was there a more welcome sight than seeing a fleet of AEP trucks coming down your street.
Mayor Tom Henry said, “With so many thousands of our residents braving the cold and battling the ice storm these past five days, we’ve seen many instances of people and businesses reaching out, opening their doors and offering assistance in any way they can. I want to publicly thank all of the private citizens who have been working to help those impacted by the storm. I also want to thank our City Council representatives, who’ve stepped up and offered some of their CEDIT allocations to be used for getting the clean up underway even quicker.
Each district Council person and the at-large representatives have offered $5,000 to go for clean up. That’s $35,000 we will be able to use right away. Their leadership is much appreciated in this time of emergency response. This storm has put tremendous strain on our system, our resources and on all our nerves.”
And so the longest night, that of the winter solstice which occurred on Sunday, December 21, 2008 also included the longest power outage in decades.