Hello! If you live in Texas: congratulations. You made it through last week. A typical “week from hell” in Austin happens in mid-August, when temps range from 105-108 and the sidewalk is still too hot to touch at 9 pm after the sun sets. We survive those weeks because, after all, we signed up to live in Texas. We go to the pool (but only before 10 am), crank the air conditioning, and drink iced coffee and lots of water. It’s annoying, but expected.
But last week was a different animal entirely. I’ve lived in Texas for 25 of my 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it!
Valentines day was a cozy, family day inside. I made some red velvet waffles with cream cheese glaze, and we hunkered down and and stayed in our pajamas. Milo watched some Daniel tiger episodes, Nate and I took turns watching him, and we looked forward to the snow that was forecast on Monday. It was already freezing cold outside, and we were starting to go a bit stir crazy but doing ok!
Monday: Sometime around 1 am on Monday morning our power went out. I woke up around 7 am on Monday morning to a FREEZING cold house and Nate saying, “hey babe, the power’s out and my wound vac is about to die and I need to plug it in.” Gahh! We have some very kind friends nearby who offered to drive their truck over so Nate could get plug in the vac for an hour.
The whole state was doing rolling power outages, and we were lucky that our power was only off for about 12 hours before we got on a semi-regular schedule of about 3 hours on, 3 hours off. This lasted for the next two days, so whenever the power was on I had to remember to do things like grind my coffee beans in the electric grinder (so I wouldn’t be stranded at 7 am if the power happened to be off at that time) and charge my phone.
Two of my friends lost their power completely, so they stayed with us for a few nights. It was an unfortunate situation, but I had a lot of fun getting to spend that much time with my friend Grace! (The last time we spent that much time together was when we were roommates right after we both finished grad school at UT…it’s rare to get 3 days with a friend as an adult, so actually I really cherished those days together last week!) We lit candles and bundled up when the heat turned off and made the best of it.
Tuesday: I didn’t anticipate a state-wide power outage (who did???), and my fridge and pantry were very bare at the start of the week. So Grace and Jon and I braved the roads and went to the grocery store at noon. Y’all: we stood in line for 1.5 hours before we even got to the front door! I’m sooooo thankful it was sunny, because the last time I took outside in 20-degree weather was when I lived in Chicago and I definitely don’t have the wardrobe for it anymore!
The store was a madhouse, but I got nearly everything I needed to get through the next few days. Right as I was heading to the checkout line, I got a call from the tenants of a rental property that we own: a pipe had burst and there was water flowing out of the laundry room wall. Awesome.
Again, super thankful for my friend Grace last week! She watched Milo for me all of Tuesday afternoon while Nate and I went to deal with the flood at the rental property. (Finding a water main that’s buried under snow is no joke! Haha. At least we know where it is for next time.) Nate, the tenants, and I spent an hour digging through the snow and FaceTiming a plumber until we finally found the water main, located a water key at Home Depot, and got the dang thing shut off.
Roads were insane, but we decided to drive to another property that we own to see if we could turn off the water main there to avoid another burst pipe. It’s a bigger lot, and the sun was setting and we couldn’t find the water main in the dark. I definitely had a little cry while I was out the in the below-freezing temps, completely exhausted from the day, and knowing there was a 50% change I’d be returning to a home without power that night. (And AGAIN, Grace saves the day! She made a delicious pasta and sausage dish so when I got home I had a warm meal and a snuggly little baby in jammies who was all ready for bed.)
The good times just kept on rolling on Tuesday (it longest day of the week for sure!) when my neighbor texted me and said they had just lost running water. She encouraged me to fill up some water bottles, since ours would probably go soon. So late Tuesday night I filled up every pitcher in the house with tap water, filled the tub (for water to flush toilets), and took a quick shower to wash my hair for the last time that week.
Wednesday: our running water tricked to a complete stop, and I’m so glad I filled those pitchers with drinking water to get us through the day! The rest of the week was a blur of figuring out how to find water to drink. I made one trip out to find a few water bottles at a nearby gas station, but nearly everything was sold out. The roads were still icy (it snowed again on Thursday, and the temps would dip down overnight so that everything would freeze over to a layer of ice) and my car was slipping and sliding around. By the time Thursday and Friday came along, a lot of local breweries and businesses started offering free drinking water to the community.
Anyhow, I feel like I spent 100% of my time on Wednesday-Saturday surviving. Ha! Does anyone else feel that way? Something as simple as washing some dishes could take a couple hours, from harvesting snow, melting it on the gas stove, creating an assembly line of rinse/soap/rinse, and getting dishes washed while keeping Milo entertained.
^ Snow week #mood.
Our power came back on permanently on Wednesday evening, and that made a huge difference! I’m so thankful we had heat and wifi for most of the week. And our running water came back last night (Sunday) after 5 full days without it. I’ve never experienced so much joy from flushing a toilet.
One of my biggest takeaways from the week was how privileged I am to be able to complain about something like this. You know how I just wrote that surviving felt like my full time job? Well, it’s not lost on me that those who live at or near the poverty line deal with that full time job on a day-to-day basis. Simply surviving, finding enough food and heat and keeping the water running, takes sooo much energy. I was also amazed at how emotionally drained I felt by all of it. The whole experience made me want to live with more compassion. When I see someone lose their cool when they don’t get a parking space, or talk angrily to someone in the grocery store, I’m going to try to think back to last week and the complete fatigue I felt, and remember that they could be experiencing the same thing.
Things are looking brighter this week! Plumbers are busy fixing all of the broken pipes in homes, Austin Water has gotten running water to almost everyone in the city, and we all have power again. The sun is shining, grocery stores are being re-stocked, and restaurants and businesses are slowly opening up again. The repercussions will be felt for a long time, and I’m hopeful of a state-wide overhaul regarding our power system, but as I’m sitting at my desk on this Monday morning and typing to you, I feel hope instead of despair. And that is a beautiful thing.