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Today is Isabelle Ernst’s birthday – 10 years ago she was born in an ice storm

  • Jason Ernst and Sarena Preve of Northwood enjoy a moment with their newborn daughter, Isabelle Lynn Ernst, who was born during the ice storm. Jason had to move fallen trees to get to the hospital. Monitor file

  • New mom, Sarene Preve (left) watches as Jean Daniels, RN of the Concord VNA, examines baby Isabelle Lynn Ernst. The baby was born during the 2008 ice storm. Ken Williams / Monitor file

  • The Ernst family —Courtesy

Monitor columnist
Published: 12/12/2018 3:02:42 PM

Papa Bill of Deerfield gave her the nickname, and it’s perfect.

ICE-a-Belle, substituting for Isabelle.

“Yes, that was me who named her,” said Bill Elliott, Isabelle Ernst’s grandfather. “It was an ice storm that you would not forget. The name fit.”

Sure did. Isabelle was born to Sarena Preve and Jason Ernst 10 years ago, on Dec. 12, during the ice storm from hell that made big headlines, especially in the Northeast. New Hampshire was the epicenter, with 400,000 power outages reported, some lasting for weeks.

The glaze fell during a two-day stretch – Dec. 11-12, 2008 – and the result was a white-knuckled drive to Concord Hospital for this young married couple, with Ernst driving, Preve breathing and Isabelle waiting. Branches, trees and power lines blocked their path, leading to some creative maneuvering by Ernst.

Isabelle was born on Dec. 12, 2008, with the ice still falling, clinging, weighing things down, creating a sparkling scene, good for a painter, not a driver.

“We have always told her the story about that early morning, what happened and how it was for days following,” Preve told me by phone. “She has seen the articles. She likes the story.”

The story – we documented it 10 years ago – began with a woman going into labor, six days before her due date, back when the Exeter couple lived in Northwood.

 They heard wood cracking and thumping to the ground. They lost power. They packed a bag, backed out of the driveway, heard low-hanging branches scraping the car, turned the wheel hard to avoid a tree at the end of the driveway.

Then they drove to the hospital, a 45-minute trip that took about two hours. Preve pointed out obstacles along the way.

“When I think of it,” Preve said, “mostly I remember the drive there and how dark it was and how sparkly it was at the same time with all the ice. We had to drive around down trees and power lines. There was a downed line in Concord, just before the hospital. He had to drive through someone’s backyard. It was catastrophic.”

The hospital was power-less when they got there. They registered using pen and paper, not by computer. The grandparents had to make their own decision, should they stay or should they go.

They went.

“Everyone had no power, but I had just gotten my cell phone and she called me and said she was on the way to the hospital,” said Sarena’s mother, Grammy Robin Preve of Canterbury. “Jason moving trees out of the road and all kinds of stuff. I’m pretty sure we made it there and she was in labor. I was there when she was born. She (Preve) kicked me out of the room and I had to wait in the hall.”

“(Ernst) called me and told me she was going in and I said I’ve got to be there,” said Papa Bill Elliott. “Horrible, it was icy, trees down and limbs low. It’s a 45-minute drive. Took us 1 ½ hours. It was a rough ride.”

Preve had told me this week that someone in the family, one of the grandparents, had given Isabelle the nickname, and Papa Bill was quick to make sure I knew he was the one. 

“ICE-a-Belle” was clever, the perfect nickname. The storm’s rage meant the new parents and daughter had to stay at the hospital for a few extra days. They went home to a power generator, supplied, Grammy Robin said, by her brother.

They live in Exeter now, run their own business selling granite for countertops and bathrooms. They’ve since had another child, an 8-year-old boy named Jameson Ernst.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with Isabelle this week. This is a busy family, with parents who both work full time and two grade-school kids who do what grade-school kids do. Soccer. Scouts. Softball. Friends.

Preve said her daughter is “a very friendly, athletic, empathetic girl. She loves all sports, she loves art and she’s very artistic. She’s always writing stories and drawing pictures, mostly imaginary tales, using people in her life and pets. We have a dog and she has five fish.”

She had a birthday party last Saturday, four days before her actual birthday. The one in which she earned the nickname ICE-a-Belle.

She had a sleep-over with nine friends, using a big couch, a big chair and a couple of mattresses for beds. They ate fruits and vegetables and cake, posed for pictures in a photo booth, danced, performed skits, built a human pyramid.

Wednesday, while Preve worked, Ernst took his daughter out for a little one-on-one, father-daughter time, the final piece of fun to this year’s birthday.

The plan?

Ice skating.

What else?

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