WINCHESTER – Outside, it was calamity. Through the hospital windows, there was nothing but darkness. Shadowed were the houses and trees that Diane Annable knew to be there.
By this time, the Ice Storm of 1998 had laid waste to vital infrastructure – toppling hydro towers and poles, snapping power lines, and leaving transformers to overload and explode.
If it wasn’t already the storm of the century, it soon would be.
But for Diane, and her husband Gary, it was also the time of arrival – a glimmer of light peaking out from the darkness. During the night Jan. 7, the couple’s son, Thomas Ian Hanley Annable, entered the world.
“I remember the chaos of it all… The one light left on in the hospital when the power failed, and before the back-up generator kicked on,” Gary said recently when asked to reflect on that time 20 years ago. “I also remember thinking, ‘nobody prepared us for this.’”
It was about half-way through Diane’s labour when the power went out, no doubt only for a moment, but what felt like eternity, she told the Winchester Press at the time.
“I was scared… Labour was bad enough without a power outage,” she added.
That the storm would hit when it did was simply another notch in a series of scenarios happening in the couple’s life at the time.
Gary recalls his mother having had a fall at home, cracking her tailbone. He soon became a temporary caregiver, given that his father was also sick at the time, and would pass away later that year.
“My in-laws were also arriving as the storm surge began, and the alarm was going off at the store because the basement had flooded,” he said. “Oh, and we had no heat at home… I was a 42-year-old first-time father and thought, ‘this isn’t funny.’”
But, much the same as others did at the time, the Annables persevered.
Family and friends made sure the newborn had enough diapers and formula, and because there was no power at home, hospital staff arranged for a stay in the maternity ward until the electrical supply was brought back online.
When it was time to go home, the Annables being some of the first in the village to get their power back given their home’s proximity to the village hospital, Gary remembers his wife having other plans.
“She had me take her around town because she had missed much of it while in the hospital,” he said. “The army was parked at the public school, trees were down in a lot of places… It was mayhem still.”
Diane sadly lost a battle with cancer in 2014, but Gary recalls his wife being strong throughout an ordeal that was largely beyond their control, and despite her growing distaste for canned tuna, one of the few food items available at the hospital in the storm’s aftermath.
“We got through it, that’s what counted most,” Gary said.
As for Thomas, the now 20-year-old college student, he’ll forever be known as the “Ice Storm baby.”
“To me, it’s just my birthday, I had no control over my arrival,” he said with a laugh.
But his father will never forget.
“Is it memorable? Yes. Already I was preparing to become a father, and that’s a first. I never expected to have so many other firsts at the same time,” Gary said.