Today is Saturday, February 20, 2021. I have not written anything more complex than a trio of Facebook posts and a few brief emails since last Sunday. At approximately 6:30 a.m., Monday, February 15, the power went out in the midst of what has become known as the Texas Snowpocalypse, and it did not return until Thursday morning. Temple and I live in an all-electric house in Hewitt, a suburb of Waco, about halfway between Austin to the south and the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex to the north.
|Look at the pretty snow.|
It’s trying to kill you.
We live in an area with unstable electric power, where power flickers off and on year-round. For that reason, two of our computers are plugged into uninterruptable power supplies, which shield the computers from surges and can keep them running for up to an hour during a power failure, allowing for safe and systematic shutdowns. As soon as we realized the power might not be returning anytime soon, I charged my phone and Temple’s Kindle using one the UPSes. We should have also charged her phone.
As day stretched into night and day and night and day and night, the house grew increasingly colder (ultimately reaching a low of 48 degrees), we learned many things:
Multiple layers of clothing works. I added a new layer each day. By the end, I wore a sweatshirt over a T-shirt, jeans over sweatpants over underwear, slippers (when inside) or boots (when outside) over two pairs of socks. Over all of this I wore a thick Land’s End robe (when inside) or a winter coat (when outside). Accessories included gloves and a scarf.
We come from families of quilters. We have a few store-bought quilts and many quilts made by our mothers and other family members. I’m uncertain how many quilts we actually own because we did not have to dig them all out, but by the end we slept beneath five quilts—without taking off any of the layers of clothing we already wore.
We could not open the garage door more than one-third of the way. The emergency pull that should have disengaged the door from the electric door opening system’s chain did not function properly and we could not fully open the door. Even if we could have opened the door, there was no place we could have gone because everyone around us, all our family and friends, were in the same situation we were. Unable to get the cars out of the garage, we were not able to safely use them to warm ourselves or charge our phones.
|Let’s have a cookout.|
Chili and tea on the grill.
It is possible to cook a nutritious meal over charcoal briquettes. We often use our grill during the summer for traditional things such as steak and burgers. I used it to cook chili and heat the kettle for tea. We had enough briquettes that I could have prepared a second hot meal if I had needed to.
When the house is almost as cold as the inside of the refrigerator, there’s no real danger in opening the fridge door and rummaging through the contents. Milk remained cold and drinkable, and other fridge items remained edible throughout.
A cat will learn to appreciate covers. Kiwi often sleeps in our laps when we’re seated in the living room and he often sleeps atop me at night. The first night, despite our efforts to cover him, he resisted. As the house grew colder and he began to shiver, we wrapped him up and held him so he couldn’t escape. By the end, he insisted on being wrapped in a quilt.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE
The power flickered off and on for about an hour and a half on Tuesday afternoon, allowing the HVAC system to warm the house by a few paltry degrees.
Wednesday morning, power was restored to Temple’s father’s home. He lives about seven blocks from us. When it appeared that his power was stable, I made a renewed effort to open the garage door. I am not mechanically inclined, but after scouring the internet, I learned how to completely detach the door from the automatic system and opened the door. Temple escaped to her father’s home.
A few hours later, I took Kiwi to his house and returned home. Mid-evening, with no change in our situation likely, I joined them, and we had a warm dinner (leftover chili!), spent the night in a warm house, and had a warm breakfast.
|Let there be light!|
I returned home Thursday morning to find that power had been restored and the house was slowly warming. Mid-afternoon Temple and Kiwi returned home, I reassembled the garage door, and I showered for the first time since Sunday morning.
We spent Friday listening to transformers explode throughout our neighborhood. Each time, the power would flicker off and then return.
Friday, our community was placed under mandatory water conservation restrictions. So, while we’ve never been without water, we are avoiding showers, have not washed clothes, nor have we run the dishwasher.
Today, with the midmorning temperature above freezing and the roads reasonably clear, we ventured out. We had bills to pay, medications to pick up, and groceries to buy.
I tried to fill my car’s gas tank, but could not find a service station with working pumps.
The crowded grocery store had limited supplies. But we found milk, cheese, and potatoes as well as some canned items that would supplement the food we already had at home.
Many of our fellow Texans have suffered far more than we have—and some even escaped to Cancun—so I’m not about to complain about our experience. Still, I certainly don’t want to ever repeat it.
It will take a long time to recover from what’s happened. In fact, we may have PTSD—Post Texas Storm Disorder.
READING AND WRITING
I did a lot of reading during daylight hours. (I completed two Peter Lovesey novels and am halfway through a third. I strongly recommend his work even if you’re not caught in a Snowpocalypse.)
What I didn’t do is write. I couldn’t. Survival took precedence.
I don’t believe in writer’s block, and I never have. This week, though, I experienced the ultimate writer’s block.
This week I was beaten by a writer’s block of ice.
Bullets and Other Hurting Things: A Tribute to Bill Crider, edited by Rick Ollerman. The anthology includes my story “The Ladies of Wednesday Tea.”
Family Films” was published by Close to the Bone on February 14.