Winter, like all seasons, comes and goes.Now in the thick of it, this week has helped to remind us that some days the snow globe shakes, and other days it’s just biting cold.
This time last year, the snow globe did more than just shake – it froze solid.
Thursday, January 28, 2010 marks the one-year anniversary of the soon-to-be-legendary “Ice Storm” in Kentucky. The cataclysm was a “perfect storm” of sorts, one that had been unparalleled for a hundred years and one that coated everything in a 25-mile radius of Richmond with nearly half an inch of ice.
It coated everything. Lampposts froze and became brittle, roads and sidewalks became impassable and every twig on every tree was encased in a tube of ice.
It was spectacularly beautiful, and, as students soon found out, spectacularly devastating.
The additional weight from the ice was too much for many trees to bear. Limbs three-feet in diameter lurched, snapped like carrot sticks and came crashing down to earth. Younger trees bowed to the ground, and some simply ripped out of it, landing on their sides and leaving steaming craters where their roots had once held firm.
And overnight, Campus Beautiful was all but destroyed.
It was, in a way, hard to notice at the time. With everything sparkling in the winter sun (and an entire week of classes cancelled to appreciate it), few were thinking about what would happen when the ice melted.
Few were thinking about what would remain.
And then the ice melted.
The Ravine was stripped of its regal beauty. Huge trees that had stood for a hundred years were cloven in two; their largest limbs lay severed at their bases. Many were damaged beyond recovery. They became unstable and a danger to students, and so the sounds of chainsaws echoed in the weeks and months that followed.
The face of the Ravine had changed forever.
What was initially a blessed vacation turned into reality for many students. Classes hotfooted through their curriculum, making up time any way they could. If that meant extending class by five minutes or more each day, then so be it.
Although campus never lost power or water, nearly a million homes in Kentucky did. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released figures that show it paid $201 million to public agencies in Kentucky to combat effects of the storm, including the cleanup of more than 19 million cubic yards of debris and limbs.
Worse still, 36 people lost their lives to the storm in Kentucky alone.
Now, one year later, the effects of the storm are still seen all around us. A campus that prides itself on its beauty and green space can’t simply flip a switch and begin blossoming again, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
Facilities Services should be commended for making difficult (and sometimes unpopular) decisions regarding which trees would stay and which could not. Even for students with no sense of attachment to Campus Beautiful, unsettling feelings crept in watching its necessary destruction.
As hard as it was for students to watch the sites of countless memories destroyed, we must also understand what it was like for campus workers to tear down what they had so carefully built and maintained for so many years.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Eastern’s beauty can never truly die. Its scenery continues to attract students, and, even in its wounded state, offers more than most any campus in the Commonwealth can.
These things take time, and in the wake of a 100-year meteorological anomaly, we can only hope we have plenty of that.