October 22, 2014
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Finally, an end to the winter games?
This Side Up

I’ve had enough ice for now. I’m not talking about the Olympics, although there has been an overdose of figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey, hurtling sleds and flipping snowboards in the past two weeks. Rather, I’m referring to our ice battles, which have left municipalities jealously guarding whatever salt reserves they have. I’m told Warwick has enough for one more storm before bottoming out. Ice has forced some people to go to extremes, like me being tethered to a chimney while attempting to clear gutters and a downspout from ice and snow.

The chimney gymnastics came in the wake of last Tuesday’s storm. It started with a call from Carol as the snow turned to rain. The slushy frosting on a polar vortex-induced glacier on the roof blocked the customary flow of things, causing water to cascade down the side of the house and pool at a cellar window.

“I’ve got buckets out there,” she reported, “but I can’t stop it.” Water was running down the basement wall and, by the time I got home, it was a half-inch deep. We were on our way to having an indoor swimming pool.

I went to work with the wet-vac and Carol pursued hacking a drain away from the house. Once the rain stopped, we made some headway. The basement floor was damp but cleaner than it has been since the flood of 2010.

But it was a short-lived reprieve.

Ice can do things you never expected.

By the following morning, our driveway had become the perfect curling court. All it needed were red and blue rings and a bunch of guys standing around with contemplative stares, or sliding along, frantically scrubbing the ice as if lives depended on it.

I performed the “Sochi Slide,” a choreographed gliding gait to keep me upright with no double axels, shin-shattering or buttocks-battering bouncing. Judges would have given me an 87.5. A few skids, and an awkward hand waving gesture to maintain balance, ruined what would have otherwise been a perfect score. And that was just to get the newspaper.

Then it was Ollie’s turn.

He may be a street-smart rescued hound, but he’s not an ice dog. He went scrabbling across the back porch and, had it not been for the leash, he would have slid off and into the snowdrift that was now a mini glacier. Once in his pen, he gingerly tiptoed around the enclosure before arriving at his usual spot, lifted his leg and went sliding and then ignominiously squatted as he cast me a humiliated look of despair. No Olympic gold this time, but that was the opening ceremony … the real games were about to begin.

The ice bowl around us and the ice dam hanging from the eaves was our arena. Once it warmed, the water had no place to go but into the basement and that’s what happened. Carol went back into attack mode Wednesday, chipping ice and running the wet-vac. It was slow work and, with the roof snow pack immobile, she called in the reserves.

I got a call that my neighbor Eric and a friend, who offer shoveling services, were prepared to take on the roof. I couldn’t imagine how that was going to work. With such slippery footing, a ladder didn’t seem wise. The alternative of a second floor window seemed even riskier – this could be the ski jump without skis.

Eric and his friend looped a rope around the chimney. Holding the rope with one hand and a shovel with the other, they sent the compacted snow sliding off the roof. A berm of ice along the eves was all that was left by the time I got home.

The next morning, I eased out on the roof with a bag of ice melt. The asphalt roof shingles provide a good grip. I liberally spread the salt and retreated inside. I managed it without a rope, which was sure to impress the judges.

Warmer weather and salt worked. The next morning, I cleared the gutter of ice chunks and wads of frozen leaves.

Carol kept up her attack; opening escape routes for the water in front of the basement window, a medalling performance.

Our winter games are finally, and gratefully, coming to a close … or are they?


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