Listening Post: That old familiar feeling

The way it was. Photo: NOAA

It seems I’m not the only one who can’t see a day like today without feeling a little frisson of nameless dread. It’s something the Ice Storm of ’98 injected right into the base of the brain. The news folks brought out some archive audio for The Eight O’Clock Hour, with more due on All Before Five. It all came back into my head before dawn, while scraping ice off the windshield, trying to get in early to help with the school closings. Then it waxed throughout the morning as ice accumulated on the balsam fir out the office window, and it began to sag under the weight. Only when the tide turned to snow at noon did the oppressive feeling begin to lift.

A little over thirteen years later and the scars are still there–visible in the woods, where damaged trees are still dying, and the undergrowth is still choked with deadfall slowly rotting down to duff–and still detectable in my thinking, too. I have not been up on my roof in the wintertime since 1998, when I fell off it while trying to prevent it from collapsing under the tons of ice left by the storm. I don’t really know what I expected to accomplish using nothing but main might and a little hatchet.

And I find my ear is still tuned for that unmistakable crack and thump, accompanied by the bell-like tinkle of shattered ice, that means another tree has snapped off in the middle and has tumbled to the ground. When we finally left our home to its own devices, seeking safer shelter, another tree was coming down every thirty seconds. People often use the phrase, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” to express enthusiasm. But once you’ve been through a genuine natural disaster, it expresses something else entirely. Hope you’re all off the roads (and roofs) today, safe inside. It’s a good day to listen to the radio.


12 Comments on “Listening Post: That old familiar feeling”

  1. Wendy Pierce says:

    Hi Dale;
    We had a similar terrible experience several years ago in Western New York with a terrible ice storm. Our trees are mangled still though beginning to fill out. Many went without power and heat for one to two weeks. Thankfully it wasnt freezing.

  2. Robin McClellan says:

    I, too, felt the dread this morning. But it also reminded me of how much good there is in our community. Oh, there were some bad behaviors–a few stolen generators and the like–but for the most part it brought the best out in people.

    When I was living in western NY for a time, utility workers came out to replace my entrance after I dropped a tree on it (doh!). I chatted with them for a while but they ignore me until I said I had been in Potsdam during the ice storm. They stopped what they were doing and told me that they’d been all over the country repairing lines after natural disasters. “When are we going to get our power back?” “Why is it taking so long?” and abuse besides. But in the North Country there were signs reading “Free coffee and soup for utility workers.”

    I have always felt that I live in a place a little different from the rest of the world, but I know many people feel that way about where they live, whether it’s a rural community or a city neighborhood. The fact that others confirmed it made me proud. So as the boughs bend under the ice, I am warmed by the good fortune I have to live in this beautiful, caring place.

  3. Chuck Goolden says:

    Dale, Linda & I are currently in Boise, ID and it is great to be able to listen to NCPR here on our iPhone. Thanks much for making it possible. NCPR is the best!


  4. Bob Falesch says:

    Frisson. Now there’s a word-and-a-half. I must find a way to use that word in my linguistic future.

    “…and the undergrowth is still choked with deadfall slowly rotting down to duff”

    Obviously it takes words, sometimes rare and sometimes common, to make poetry. And if there’s alliteration, like here, I am all ears!

    I mean, this is a lowly blog-post(?). I have grown to appreciate the fact one can count on Hobson to baste a post with a frisson-provoking sparkle. Is that why Listening Post is not listed in NCPR’s index of blogs? Is it too poetic to be considered a mere blog? When I go looking for Dale’s “column” in the likeliest place (, I cannot find it. What’s up with that? It doesn’t have its own header so I tend to miss it.

    I subscribe to the rss-feeds so I never miss a posting — the first time round. However, if I want to review something you wrote, Dale, it might be a bit of a hassle, especially if one of yours has scrolled way the heck down my rss reader. Dale, you’re the web-guy, so it’d be you who generates the html. It could be modesty, or collegial deference. So, we, the readers (as if I have a right to speak for all), hereby petition you to give Listening Post full blog status. Headings make freedom, comrade!

    Frisson. Waxed. Deadfall. Duff.

    There sit four words that were either unknown to me (two), used in a context that jarred me at first but pleased me (one), or familiar but only through a homonym (one). The only duff I’ve known hitherto is the one upon which, for too big a part of the day, my weight rests.

    –Bob (…without dread, as this is only the very beginning of my third winter as a CountryNortherner)

    PS: Oh how I wish we could markup our comments, Dale, either with bbcode or html tags. I would have had fun with this one.


    Dear Dale,

    Having gone into emergency mode this morning (one car and a bagel with cream cheese – actually at the time waiting for the bagel) to hear the end of the 8’clock hour be a retrospective of 1998 was not nice. Come on guys give it up (except the part where I think Shelly Pike played “Come on Sloopy” after Barb had played a Beethoven – I loved our diversity!

    But really, please do not make this a repeat of 1998! Or as our Governor says, I don’t know whether climate change is real, but 100 year storms happen every two years (my newest favorite IRONIC quote) Yes we still have irony in 2012. Please let tomorrow be just another day.

  6. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    Dale – take Bob’s advice: make your posts their own place on this site that we can easily find. They are literary gems. That’s all I’m going to say…I can’t possibly compete with what I’ve read on this post so far…there’s a reason I’m a photographer and not a writer.

  7. Alan says:

    Going to sleep here in suburban west end Kingston 7 hours into blackout, I’ll let you know when the feeling goes away.

  8. Oh Dale, That was my first winter in Canton. This storm began to remind me of that treacherous time until the snow began to fall. It’s not quite over yet and my walk in the woods today featured a goodly number of birch trees bent over, kissing the ground…accompanied by a symphony of snapping sounds.
    The ’98 storm sounded more like canons going off, quite regularly for a while.
    As I was staying in town in a house with a woodburning stove, I was quite comfortable and had 5 additional people along with 2 dogs staying with me.
    I lived near Buffalo when that huge blizzard that stopped western NY’s world for a while. I seem to have a penchant for living in disaster zones.
    BTW: unknown neighbors noticed my houseful…took pity on us and treated us to a full-out Italian dinner, delivered to my door several days into the icey adventure.
    And so it goes…

  9. Ellen Rocco says:

    I agree with you. Dale is talented, and modest. If you search via the tag “Listening Post,” you’ll find Dale’s previous posts. I’m hoping he assembles them into a collection someday in the not-too-distant future. And, by the way, last summer he released a beautiful collection of poems, A Drop of Ink. While many may recognize Dale’s finesse with our language, what you may not know is that he also possesses a bizarre, hilarious and consistently surprising sense of humor. All Hail Dale!

  10. Alan says:

    Power back on at 11:50 pm. The only consequence of note is the need to prepare all the ribs that were in the freezer. Probably a discretionary call but still related to the great ice storm of 2012.

  11. Dale Hobson says:

    Hi Mark and Bob–

    Thanks for your kind comments. My Listening Post entries used to have their own blog space and tumbleweeds blew through it. So a while back I started posting them as a thread within the All In blog. If you want an RSS feed that will just deliver my posts, try this address:
    You can also follow my poetry blog at this address:

  12. Bob Falesch says:

    Okay, Dale — thanks, I just subscribed to both feeds.

    I’m fascinated, Dale, that you’ve published poems on your website that functioned as SLAP assignment products. If I had any ability at all to write to an assignment, I’d have shown up at SLAP many moons ago. However, I’ll sit down in front of a blank edit window, intimidated, and nothing comes. But now… The next meeting has an assignment I believe I can manage, although I fear the intimidation will come when I’m asked to read :–)

    Ellen, thanks for pointing out Dale’s book. Through SLAP postings I became aware of “A Drop of Ink”, but never managed to pick up a copy. I’ll keep my eyes open for it!

    -Bob (who, on the good days, fancies himself a composer but not a poet)

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