Well, two weeks ago we were freezing our butts off. Two days ago, we are having to run the AC because it turned warm, muggy, and humid. And today it’s cold and rainy again. Welcome to Texas. Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes or a week or two, and it will change. Absolutely-freaking-guaranteed.
However, the damage that a week of sub-zero temperatures did to my neighborhood – the process of picking up the pieces is underway. For the civic stuff – a couple of burst pipes got taken care of by the utility company almost the instant that everyone thawed out. The one house in the neighborhood that burned is still a ruin: the FD had all their hydrants frozen on that night that it burned, couldn’t bring in enough water in the pumper trucks and so the house – which still stands, barely – is a total loss. The smell of burned wood lasts for at least two houses away. The pipes in and under my own house appear to have weathered through the storm all right – most of them are in the concrete foundation slab for most of their run, and the ones which come up through the exterior walls in various places were insulated sufficiently … and we left all the sink faucets and outside taps dripping, in any case. Yes, we have lived in places where this was expected. It also helped enormously that I had paid for a new round of blown-in attic insulation a couple of years ago, also that the new concrete siding was installed last fall, and the new and better-insulated windows had been installed a week before the Great Texas Freeze of 2021. All but the front bedroom, which was supposed to have been replaced with French doors, doors which unaccountably were not delivered with all the other replacement windows. So, it was not horribly uncomfortable inside the house during that week; we could boil water for coffee and tea in the morning and cook a hot meal at night on the propane grill on the front porch. Many of our neighbors also got by simply by having camping gear and propane on hand.
However, there are steps that we are going to take. Stocking up the pantry with canned and ready-to-prep foods is not one of them, as we have been doing that for years and will continue to do so. A stock of candles, matches, batteries of every dimension and all that … again, already done. What we will pay particular attention now is to get rechargeable lanterns and keep them charged, plus a really much larger stash of propane bottles (every outlet in San Antonio that we visited last week was totally out of propane in every conceivable form…) The Daughter Unit wants to explore getting a generator powerful enough to carry the house through the next outage. It may come to that once I finish paying for the new siding and windows. In the meantime, I look to a small but supposedly efficient rechargeable power source – meant for camping, basically.
It really shook our neighbors, I think – how fast we descended, even if temporarily – into Venezuela: erratic power, no water, dangerous roads, leavened with long lines outside the grocery stores and empty shelves inside. From talking to my neighbors and on the Next Door App, we all got by OK – through all the above workarounds.
Now comes the clean-up, which will be extensive and expensive. The week-long cold snap killed our gardens, even the things sheltered in greenhouse and garage, or covered. No way around it. The live oak trees are shedding frost-killed leaves like mad. So are all those other trees. All the citrus trees in my neighborhood are covered in dead leaves and withered fruit. The semi-tropical, ornamental and heat-tolerant palm trees, the cycads, esperanza, cactus, agaves, and oleanders – all brown and shriveled. Deciduous fruit trees, which need a hard freeze to bear fruit – might just be OK, out of all this. Perhaps the larger specimens planted in the ground may endure, but most likely, we have lost everything in a pot or hanging basket. Another two or three weeks and I will see what has made it.
The one thing that all the neighbors that I have talked to agree on – is that renewable wind and solar power is as dead in Texas as our gardens. None of us will soon forget the misery of that week, and I don’t believe that Governor Abbott, or the Texas Legislature (in session since January) will forget – or be allowed to forget it, either. Discuss as you wish.