You might have heard there was a bit of cold weather across the central part of the United States. You might have heard Texas didn’t cope well. Let me lay it out for you.
Let me start with the size of Texas for perspective. I know I have several European friends here. I’ve been there a couple of times: once was in June, once was in January. I have a pretty good idea how big it is and the different climates it has at different times of the year. Texas has all the major biomes in one state. It stretches from Rome, Italy to Amsterdam, Netherlands. It runs from Tours, France to Vienna, Austria. The panhandle, near “Amsterdam”, obviously gets winter a bit more often than the valley and coast, which would be Genoa to Rome and across the Adriatic to Zagreb. Our version of Lyon (the Big Bend area) sometimes gets winter because it has mountains. Small ones compared to the Alps, but mountains nonetheless. I live somewhere around Venice. So now you know.
Sunday night, we were alerted there was a windchill warning for the next day. It was the first time in recorded history our area even had a wind chill warning. Many people didn’t even know what a wind chill warning was or what it meant. Also, it started raining ice. Sure, we get graupel now and then. Sometimes we get hail. I haven’t seen real sleet since we lived up north. It rained ice for about an hour.
Also, we were told the energy company might start doing rolling blackouts to relieve some of the demand on the energy grid.
At 2:01 AM Monday morning, our power went off. At 2:10 AM Monday morning, it came back on.
At 2:30 AM Monday morning, our power went off. At 3:15 AM Monday morning, it came back on.
At 4:01 AM Monday morning, our power went off.
At 6:00 AM I alerted the utility company just in case we had a power line down and they didn’t realize we didn’t roll back on.
About 7:00 AM it was light enough to see outside.
It never got above 27F on Monday. The low dropped to 10F.
Tuesday we made oatmeal cookies on the cast iron skillet. Thank goodness the gas stove still worked. We checked in on our neighbors across the street. Another neighbor started shoveling the basketball court.
The high was 25F on Tuesday, and the low was 6F. For perspective, winter generally lasts 18 hours around here. We get snow about every three years. And by snow, I mean maybe an inch or two. You have to play in it as it falls because the ground is too warm, and it will melt in a few hours. It’s likely to be 60F the next day and probably 80F the day after that. Several days of sub-freezing temps so that snow can stick is practically unheard of.
As such, Texas homes aren’t winterized like they are up north. The insulation isn’t as good, and neither is the plumbing. Which leads me to… despite all our precautions because we know what happens when it gets cold outside…
About 4:00 PM we noticed water coming out of the wall four feet above the north-facing exterior faucet. Turning off the water to the house did indeed stop the flow of water from the wall. We fixed dinner, turned the water back on, and the water came from behind the faucet. Well shoot. So as of 4:30 PM Tuesday, we were officially without water. And still without electricity. And it was getting colder for the night.
Wednesday morning we heard rain. We woke up to a nice layer of ice on top of the snow. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw this. Definitely up north. Not here.
It warmed up a little though! The high was 32F, and the low was 23F. All this time we were sending reassurance to our family that we were fine. Just pray that the electric turns on soon. And that the gas holds out. We started making emergency plans if it didn’t. Our next door neighbor checked in on us. We told her about our faucet. She offered to fill up our water coolers.
We also finally cracked open the chest freezer. Everything was still pretty much frozen, except for the top basket. It was starting to thaw.
So Thursday morning, we dropped the kid off at a friend’s house (with electricity) to stay. She’s currently being spoiled rotten. We also made a stop for lunch. It took a bit of driving to find a place that was open, but we found one. And the cows were out!
After lunch we pulled out the ground sausage, browned it up, and canned it. Just as we were pulling the jars out of the canner, the electricity flickered on. It went out again briefly for about a half hour, but came on persistently at 5:30 PM Thursday evening.
So if you’re keeping track, we went 85 hours without electricity in sub freezing temperatures. More than half of that was without running water. We are still without water. Most plumbers are unreachable, and if you do get one on the line, they’re unavailable until March at this point. Fortunately, we think it’s a small break, and we have neighbors that have talked us through how to fix it. At least until the plumbers are available again.
Oh, and today, Friday, the electricity is still on. It got up to 38F. The snow and ice has started to melt. I can see my bluebonnets again. I think they might live.