If you are in the United States this past week, I am sure you heard about the massive winter storm that tore through Texas. I’ve lived in Texas for the past 25 years and in San Antonio, Texas for the past 19. Never have we seen an arctic blast like this one. Typically weather in February is in the 60s or 70s in the day time and it dips down into the 40s at night. We don’t get many evenings where we hit freezing so when we had a series of days of freezing temps and evenings in the single digits, it was an unusual event.
In fact it was the second coldest week ever in Texas, and San Antonio hit a record low of 12 degrees (beating a record set in 1895). In addition to the cold, we saw 4 inches on Sunday night followed by another 4 inches on Thursday. The last time San Antonio had a big snowfall was back in 1985 when more than a foot of snow fell over two days.
Since this is such a rare event – snow and frigid weather – the City and its residents were not prepared. And more importantly, the electrical grid wasn’t ready. To prevent the whole state from losing power, they implemented what should have been rolling blackouts. Now, our power never went off. It turns out my power grid also supplies a nearby hospital. But, for many neighbors, power did go out, but not for a short time. They lost power for 2-4 days – in freezing weather.
The loss of power also took out some of the water pumps around the city. This meant that some people lost water in addition to their power. Our water became a trickle Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning it stopped. It would be 36 hours before it came back on.
You never know how much you rely on something until it is gone. We couldn’t take showers. We only had what little water we had put in bowls before it stopped for cooking and cleaning dishes. We only had a few bottle of water at this time but went and picked up a few more from my husband’s work (which was without power). To flush the toilet, we used melted snow. If you have ever tried this, you know that it takes a lot of snow to melt into a decent amount of water.
By Friday morning, our water was back to normal though we are still under restrictions even this morning to keep boiling the water before drinking or cooking with it. But man it was nice to take showers Friday and be able to do laundry. Like I said, you don’t know what you have until it is gone.
Because many people lost power – and because people in Texas tend to panic – stores were hit hard before, during and after the storm. Shelves were empty. In fact, I had to rely on a neighbor to provide me with a gallon of milk since I couldn’t find any.
And of course because much of the city was without power and/or water, school was cancelled for the week. I know you people who deal with this snowy mess all the time are shaking your heads that we are freaking out about snow. But the city really isn’t ready for such a rare event. We don’t have snow plows and very few trucks that can salt or gravel the roads. Our buildings are winterized so pipes burst and the lack of power crippled repairs.
Now, we fared way better than many others across the state of Texas. We were at least warm and could cook our meals. And even though we did have a pipe burst from being frozen Monday morning, my husband was able to patch it at least temporarily. Or at least enough until the plumber can fix it which won’t be until this Wednesday.
And then just like typical Texas weather, we went from below freezing temps on Monday to 70 degrees by the weekend.