Top of the Morning, Feb. 10, 2014: From the archives

Top of the Morning, Feb. 10, 2014: From the archives

It was a time of kerosene heaters, candles and flashlights.

Of darkened streets and smashed car roofs.

Of tree limbs everywhere.

Valentine's Day 1990 was no treat to anyone. Ice coated trees throughout East Central Illinois, bringing the limbs down on top of power lines, houses and cars and plunging the area into darkness that, in some cases, would remain for weeks.

Driving home from The News-Gazette that night may be the most challenging short trip I'll ever take. Absolute darkness along Church Street was utterly eerie. My headlights illuminated fallen tree limbs jutting at all angles out into the street and not-quite-broken branches suspended above.

And power was out when I got home.

Fortunately, my brother lived in Champaign, hadn't lost power, and graciously opened his home. It was cramped, but there was electricity and hot water. Compared with many of my co-workers and others I knew in town, I was lucky.

If you've forgotten just what those days were like — or if you hadn't yet arrived to this neck of the woods — take a look at our photo gallery at

I'd forgotten about kerosene heaters, and so I was taken by surprise by the photo of the line of customers waiting to fill their five-gallon cans with fuel for heaters.

A "sighting" meant the power company crew was in your neighborhood, so maybe you were close to having electricity. For the first time in days, or maybe weeks.

I'm not sure I ever saw the photo of the 14-year-old studying by candlelight in St. Joseph because the power was still out a week after the storm.

Did you shop by flashlight at Diana Foods?

If you were here on Feb. 14, 1990, leave your memories in the comments or email them to and we'll add them online.


Others' memories

From Shari Grindley:

I remember that day well. My husband and I helped deliver flowers for a local florist and were out driving from early morning until around 9:00 pm.  Many of the houses we delivered to that evening were without power.  I remember us sliding down a few driveways even with the van in Park.  We spent a lot of time driving around fallen tree branches that night but we managed to get all the flowers delivered and get back home safely (to our own house without power).  It was a scary time to be out on the road and something I hope to never have to deal with again.

From Nancy Stephens of Danville

My family does indeed remember the Feb. 14, 1990 ice storm.  It was our son’s 16th birthday and friends had come to celebrate his special day.  They began leaving around 10 pm and we all remarked how “beautiful” the ice was forming on the trees and bushes.  It wasn’t so beautiful around 3 am when we heard the most awful “crash” and ran into each other in the hallway outside our family room trying to determine what had happened.  A LARGE limb had broken off the tree and crashed completely through the roof.  It was most unpleasant for my husband and the “birthday boy” trying to cover the hole with a tarp with the rain still coming down and ice still forming everywhere.  We were most fortunate that it did not cause power outage.  That’s a birthday we still talk about and will not forget. 
From Lynn (Christian) Hardimon
I was a senior in high school and I worked part time at the May’s True Value Hardware store in Urbana.  I lived about 20 minutes south of Urbana in the country, but we were lucky in that we didn’t lose power where we lived.  I didn’t have school due to the ice storm, so I worked for several days at the hardware store.  At the store, we quickly sold out of candles, batteries, flashlights, generators, salt and kerosene heaters.  We had to use calculators to add up our customer’s orders and once it got dark, we used flashlights so we could see what we were doing and assist customers.  I recall a True Value semi made a special delivery to the store with generators and kerosene heaters from Indianapolis.  All of the items on the truck were spoken for before they were even unloaded.  As many have said, it will be a time that I will never forget, especially being in the retail business.
From Mary House
I vividly remember that night.  My husband had planned to cook a special, romantic dinner for me when the power went out.  Undeterred, he got out the camping stove, lit the grill, and made a steak and lobster dinner.  We ate by candlelight and then gathered our four children on a mattress on the floor in a room far away from the huge weeping willow in our back yard and hunkered down for the night.  One large limb did crash down onto our roof!  We got electricity back two days later which wasn’t bad compared to our neighbors east of Mattis.
From Amber Woolsey
I lived at the north end of Dobbins Downs and was one of the first to lose power. Unlike most of C-U, my power was only out for a few hours, the amount of time it took for a friend to bring me a kerosene heater. He took it home with him since he had lost power.

Going to classes the next day made it obvious who lived in the dorms; they had hot water. As time went on, I think students were sneaking friends in to shower.


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EdRyan wrote on February 10, 2014 at 6:02 am

We were very lucky in that it wasn't as cold as it is right now!

A falling tree pulled my power line down and damaged the electrical service entrance at my house on Hill St. C.