Some celebrate dark, chilly Christmas Eve – but it’s not all bad

Dec 25, 2013

Utility crews worked down to the wire last night to try to get everyone’s lights and heat back on by Christmas morning. Most of the 70,000 customers who lost power during the ice storm had it on again by yesterday evening. But a handful of residents celebrated a dark and chilly Christmas Eve.

Pockets of Watertown, Clayton and Gouverneur still had no power last night.

In Clayton, a few country roads in the northwest part of the town were still in the dark. But Daron Winnett said he and his wife were conditioned well by the 1998 storm. They planned for several days without power, stocking up at the store, shutting off part of their house for a kerosene heater, and using a propane stove to cook. “Refrigeration is not a problem, because, obviously, we have ice everywhere,” Winnett explained. “So we just chip it all off of the trees and we put it into a cooler.”

But even hardy residents like Winnett face the biggest challenge of staying home in the dark: avoiding getting on your family’s nerves. He said he and his wife had been playing Yahtzee, then card games…anything to keep from going stir-crazy.

Winnett said if they still lacked power this morning, they’d head to his parents’ place down the road. They have a big wood stove to keep everyone warm. “We won’t have the Christmas lights running and the TV going, but maybe people will talk more,” he said.

So getting to know your relatives a little better might be one advantage of a Christmas in the dark. Winnett says there’s another. “The community’s pulled together quite a bit. There’s been a lot of telephone calls and people checking on us. It’s been pretty nice. It’s been heartwarming to see that neighbors do care,” he said.

So the north country’s in the Christmas spirit, even if some of the decorations are dark.

While about 1,000 National Grid customers celebrated Christmas Eve by candlelight, many utility workers were spending their holiday fighting the elements. “We have people sacrificing vacations over Christmas, sacrificing their time with friends and family,” said spokeswoman Virginia Limmiatis. “They’re spending Christmas with their friends at National Grid.”

She said the workers have battled tough conditions. “We’ve seen in excess of two inches of ice on many of our lines, and also trees. There’s a prediction of some wind, which means that we are not looking at ice starting to melt,” she said.

Limmiatis said as in 1998, the ice put some utility poles at risk. Reinforcing them takes hours. But in this case, there were about 100 needing that work. Back then, there were 8,000.