A winter storm/extreme cold front has hit this weekend, with overnight temperatures falling into the ‘well-below-freezing’ range; rare indeed for this part of Texas. Our planting zone falls around “9” – which generally means that warm-weather plants – banana trees, citrus, ferns and the like – generally do rather well. The occasional snow that stays for longer than a couple of hours after sunrise is a rare happening. Like about every twenty years or so. But one of those last long-predicted winter blasts hit a little less than two years ago and hit so catastrophically that everyone’s memories are still quite unpleasantly fresh … especially memories of how badly our civic power authorities bungled a long-predicted cold front which left much of suburban San Antonio freezing in the dark, and without tap water.
A foot of snow on the ground, too – which would have left places in the northern tier doubled over laughing; ‘That’s not winter … this (pointing to four feet and more on the ground for weeks and months on end) is winter!’ But the naked fact is that places like Ogden, Utah, Denver, Colorado, and Truckee, California are set up to cope with lots of snow and prolonged freezing temperatures, and South Texas is not. (What we are set up for is months of summer heat at temperatures in the three figures.)
Every one of my neighbors whose memories of the Great Snowmagedden of February, 2021 are uncomfortably vivid grimly prepped for something like it to happen again: stocking up on any groceries to be needed in the next week, making certain that electronic devices are charged, and that we are stocked up on propane, bottled water and toilet paper. The word on Next Door is that various HEB groceries are entirely out of canned soups and the like. Probably bread, milk and sandwich fixings, too. What saved a lot of my neighbors and I during Snowmagedden was having camping gear, propane camping stoves or barbeques, and a lot of blankets and firewood. We made out OK, generally – not happy about it all, especially the owners of one house which burned because the fire department couldn’t pull water from the hydrants because the pipes were frozen or empty – but we all remembered the week of misery. Hence the grim preparations, just in case. Our faith and trust in the power grid and those who manage it has been considerably reduced in the last couple of years. If what I heard on a walkabout during the last prolonged power outage this spring, at least a dozen neighbors have bought and set up household generators.
Right now it’s overcast and 30 degrees outside, and it’s late afternoon. The temperature will drop after sunset: a hard freeze is predicted for tonight, and pretty much the same for the next few days. We’ve taken the few tender plants that the hot, rainless summer didn’t kill into the garage, hung a blanket over the front door, and drawn the curtains and shutters over the windows to preserve as much of the warmth as possible. The dogs and cats are all inside and sheltered – at least this time around, we don’t have chickens to keep inside, too. The battery lanterns, our cellphones and my Kindle are all on their chargers – so, we’ll see what develops. Already, the inside walls and windows are cold to touch. We’ll keep the heat on tonight, which is not our usual custom, but with Wee Jamie as part of the household now, we can’t long endure an excessively cold house.