written February 18, 2021 Snow Day
I have always loved snow days! It’s as if God says “hey! I think you could use a break. Here’s some time for you, free time! There’s nothing planned, nothing on your schedule, so indulge yourself without the guilt! Spend your day doing just what you want to do.” I can remember a snow day in El Paso, standing in the kitchen making brownies and fudge and watching the snow coming down on the Franklin Mountains in the distance.
This week’s snow days have been different. The sleet and snow started sometime in the late hours Sunday, Valentine's Day, more ice than snow at this point, but enough white stuff to cover the streets and sidewalks.
Our power went out about 2am Monday. The beeping on the modem battery backup woke me, the only sound at all. It’s really amazing how much noise things like refrigerators or heating units make. As I was trying to fall back asleep, there was thundersnow!
For those of us in the south, winter wonderland means I wonder when this winter will ever end and that has certainly been the case for me. After losing electricity Monday morning, we were in the dark and cold for 34 hours. There was no WiFi and cell phone service was very limited. I passed the time reading hardback books during the day while there was daylight, saving my Kindle on my iPad at night, cut off from the rest of the world. I snuggled in a chair in multiple layers of clothing and a heavy fleece robe underneath three fleece throws and for the most part was comfortable. My hands were another story. My fingers were so cold they hurt.
I have heard the cliché “chilled to the bone” and now understand what that means. I was that cold! I have a gas water heater and thought taking a hot, hot bath might be akin to time in a hot tub. When I got out of the bath, the hot water was warming the bathroom so I didn’t drain the tub. That would later prove to be a blessing in disguise.
My son dropped off handwarmers, telling me to put them between my sheets to keep my bed warm. I laid them in a row and as long as I stayed on their track I was warm. Any movement to either side meant instant chill. One of the cats slept under the covers next to me, the other as close as she could get on top of the layer of five quilts.
When the lights came back on just before noon Tuesday, the temperature in the house was 37 degrees. It quickly began to warm up, getting to 55 degrees before we lost power again at 530 that afternoon. I am not sure I have ever been as disappointed. To make matters even worse, the city was forced to curtail water service at about 9 o’clock Tuesday night – there was a problem with a valve upstream in the distribution channel. I went to sleep Tuesday night with no heat, no water and very little hope.
Wednesday was a new day – power was restored about 7am and, other than a brief outage yesterday, has remained on. Still no water: while it is slowly being returned to the island, we have a leak caused by a frozen pipe bursting and have had to turn water to the house off at the street. Once we do have running water, it will need to be boiled to be potable. The bathtub water has become a valuable resource since I can use it to fill the tank of the commode.
I was concerned that everything in my refrigerator and freezer would need to be tossed, but I think it’s okay. The milk still tastes like milk and the ice cubes are not stuck together as they would be had they melted and froze again. That’s one less expense!
My daughter is on a work trip, is on her way back today with a carload of supplies graciously donated by the National Guard troops with whom she works. While they wear dog tags, not capes, these guys are heroes. Her 2-year-old daughter has been under my care but spent the weekend – and these cold, cold days – with her dad in his heated apartment with plenty of water.
I am so thankful for these small mercies, these “small or minor benefits, advantages or opportunities one is afforded, particularly in the midst of an otherwise difficult, frustrating situation or circumstance.”
We are still without water, but a plumber has been scheduled and could even be here later today.
The weekend weather forecast is calling for highs near 60 degrees.
We have all survived the winter wonderland.
****** Here we are, a year later.
We are still dealing with the aftermath of the freeze. Our vegetation here is meant for a sub-tropical climate, not sub-freezing temperatures, and much of it died. We lost almost everything in our jungle-like yard, including our 25' queen palms. Some of the plants have come back, along with some surprises, like the papaya we cut down six years ago!
Everyone I know has a little PTSD from last year's storm and rightfully so: it was a very, very traumatic experience. There were times I honestly thought I might freeze to death. How ironic would that be, to freeze on a sub-tropic island? Hundreds did die in Texas and while the freeze did not kill my sister, I'm sure the stress didn't help her already fragile heart. She died two weeks later.
When last week's weather forecast called for freezing temperature, my heart began to pound. ERCOT and the powers that be in our state have done nothing to strengthen the grid. We were better prepared this time: the generators were ready to go.
We did not need them.