Someone recently reminded me that this is the 13th Anniversary of the 2007 ice storm that affected the daily lives of everyone living in our area.
From January 12 to January 14 the ice continued to fall on Neosho and the entire Four State area, encasing us all in a 3/4 to one inch thick icy prison. Everything shut down. Tens of thousands lost power. People couldn’t leave their driveways because the streets and roads were too icy. Limbs and utility lines were down everywhere. Abandoned vehicles, facing every point of the compass, lined the roads. At first, few souls were to be seen and everything was eerily quiet, even in the middle of town. It was an ice apocalypse.
Those that relied on electricity to heat their homes tried to make their way to community shelters at local churches. The going was slow and risky.
Everyone who lived through it probably recalls the sound of tree limbs cracking and breaking all throughout that first night and following days. As limbs landed on power lines, the utility poles themselves often snapped, making the power restoration efforts even more hard going. A good friend of mine, who lived at the end of the power line, was without electricity for more than two weeks.
The governor declared a state of emergency and Missouri National Guardsmen rolled into Neosho.
By about the third day and for days afterward the sound of chainsaws was heard all around, as individuals and volunteer groups cut up fallen limbs and cleared paths the best they could. I also remember the constant buzz of generators, the latter very quickly becoming a hot commodity for which there was a severe shortage.
The initially recovery efforts lasted for about 12 days, or longer for some folks, following the storm.
Local schools were cancelled for about 10 days, as power was slowly restored and busted water lines repaired.
Throughout it all, the Neosho Daily News continued to print a daily product. I was a reporter there at the time. We had to design and send the pages remotely from a private residence that had power. I dictated stories over the phone. We got out and about on foot the best we could and took photos. Before the outlying roads were safe to drive on, we hand delivered papers to as many people in Neosho as possible, whether they were subscribers or not, to keep folks updated. We continuously refreshed the paper’s website as well, for those who had power and internet service. This was before smart phones were a common thing.
It was a difficult time for all, but there are also many positive stories to come from the Great January 2007 Ice Storm. The underlying theme is how the local communities came together and helped each other get through it. Neighbors helped neighbors, friends helped friends, and strangers helped strangers. It’s what we do in the heartland. It’s who we are. I hope that never changes.
-Wes Franklin writes a weekly column, That History Guy, for The Neosho Daily News.