By John Toth / The Bulletin
Something very unusual happened a year ago this week. The lights went out in the middle of the big freeze.
We prepared for it the best we could. Temperatures in the teens and 20s would be just another day in many parts of the nation, but in the subtropical Gulf Coast, this was gearing up to be the main event just bursting with surprises.
The news warned of possible rolling power blackouts, but come on, this is the 21st Century when computers take care of these kinds of problems. It was promising to be cold for several days, but we’ve had it colder here before.
I remember at least a couple of winters when we sank down into the teens or 20s, albeit not for a week, and nothing happened. The power stayed on; the house stayed warm; and the pipes remained intact.
It was going to be tough and uncomfortable, but I honestly didn’t expect anything major to happen. I covered up the outside pipes and went about business as usual.
Then it started. The temperature sank into the 20s on Sunday, Feb. 14. At night, it got into the teens. On Monday, Feb. 15, I woke up to eerie silence. There was no humming of the refrigerator, nor the water cooler. The house was cool - in the 60s. The heat was not coming on. My alarm clock was blank.
I was not all that concerned. I figured the power would come back in a little while. We’d have cereal and milk for breakfast. At least I didn’t have to worry about keeping perishables in the refrigerator cold. If all else failed, I could just put them outside.
I put on five layers of clothes and jumped back into bed, where I could barely move. I laid there like a mummy.
The power came back for about 15 minutes and went off again. Then it stayed off. Things were getting more serious. The house was getting colder. It would have gotten a lot colder were it not for the new storm windows that cost us an arm and a leg the previous summer. Now I was glad that I got them.
Outside it was all iced up. The driveway became a skating rink, so we stayed put.
On Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, we woke up to three cats on top of us, trying to keep warm. Some of the faucets were not working. I knew we had problems and started filling up the guest bathtub with water. I filled it almost to the top - just in case.
We took morning showers, enjoying the gas-heated water as we warmed up some. The problem was that we had to come out of the shower and into the freezing cold.
Then it started - noises I had never heard coming from the attic. It started raining from the guest bedroom ceiling. We had a problem, as millions of others in Texas did also. Our old copper pipes were no match for the ice inside them.
I tried to turn the water off by the side of the house, but that valve has been bad for years. I ran to the city’s main valve and turned it off. The noises stopped. The freeze continued. How much damage did the pipes suffer? We had to wait a while to find out because the city lost water pressure. Nobody had water, whether their line was turned off or stayed on. Water in all those lines kept freezing.
We spent the whole day in the cold house, keeping as warm as we could. We had plenty of water in the bathtub and plenty of drinking water.
On Wednesday morning, Feb 17, the temperature in the house dropped to 52 degrees. We got up, and I ventured out in search of gas. We were getting used to living like we were in a Third World country. I did find gas, and we also got our second Moderna shots ( the clinic never lost power). We even shopped for some food in a Dollar General with no power. We were on an adventure.
Then we went home and started eating cold sandwiches for lunch.
“Turn the light off. It’s daytime,” I said to Sharon.
We had power again, but for how long?
“Let’s cook up as much food as we can before it goes out again,” she said.
The power stayed on, and we ate well. We prepared a lot of food. We were panic cooking.
The pipes were fixed, the damage to the house was repaired, and we considered ourselves blessed. We made it without anything major happening. Our damage just cost money and a lot of inconveniences. Unfortunately, the rolling blackouts and the freeze killed a lot of people and caused a lot of lasting damage.
For the last time - I hope and pray. So far, so good.
(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)