Texas Weather

How to Freeze to Death in Texas

One story of a blue norther and a failing power grid.

I woke up a week ago last Tuesday and decided to place my order for groceries, just in case there was a run on everything like there was in March of 2020 when COVID-19 lockdowns began. I planned ahead, menus for three weeks, groceries, water, snacks, gasoline, anything I could think of.

Good thing I did. Now all the shelves are bare — AGAIN!

Then on Saturday, with the cold front bearing down on us, we went to Braum’s and bought two gallons of milk and a few last minute, just-in-case items. Sunday night, it hit. Wind whistled through our back door for two days.

The news told us to conserve energy. Turn off all lights when we weren’t in the room. Reduce our thermostat to no more than 68°. So we put on more clothing and sat in the dark.

My brother-in-law calls anyone who does not live on the Colorado continental divide ‘snowflakes’. He drives a snow cat for the highway department and regularly clears the roads in rough conditions, but I don’t think even he would have liked our weather. He told me to leave the third world country we live in and move to Colorado.

I am not a snowflake!

This past week, we have lived in fear. Fear that our power would go out in our all-electric home and we would have no heat, hot water and could not even cook hot meals. Our fireplace has tall candles in it with hurricane glass over them because we never, ever use it. Decorative, but useless.

In 36 years, we have never cleaned out the flue and we don’t have a pile of firewood rotting in the backyard. It just attracts termites and carpenter bees. To say we were unprepared is an understatement, but so was our whole state. To be fair, the last time this happened was right before Christmas in 1989.

But wait! We had a power grid problem in 2011. This was not unexpected.

The power grid began to go down by Monday night because the providers failed to adequately predict that we would have such a fierce storm, so had failed to prepare for it by properly weatherizing the supply lines. They chose to save the money it would take to do the work properly, and ERCOT, the entity that oversees the utilities didn’t do proper inspections.

Wind turbines froze. Natural gas lines froze. And millions lost power and are in danger of freezing. Many have been without power and water since Monday night, and today is Friday. What was supposed to be rolling blackouts to preserve our grid became days for millions who lost power.

North Texas broke a record low set in 1989, -2°. People who have been without power for days are now having to wade through water from broken water pipes and try to figure out how to pay for thousands of dollars in damages while already struggling with the financial impact of COVID.

This is on top of a shortage of water caused by the power outages, which required boil orders to be put in place in many North Texas cities.

My friend went without power for 40 hours with temps hovering at 0°. An apartment balcony had three foot icicles hanging from it after a water pipe broke and created a monsoon inside the dwelling. Another friend took his family, including a newborn baby, to his parents Monday night. They are still there.

My son’s employer was without power for more than three days. My church had pipes break in the sanctuary and ministry offices, so we will only have online services for the foreseeable future, and no youth or outreach ministry.

My friends, the energy capital of the U.S. is freezing to death.

Then Thursday morning, we learned that our infamous U. S. senator, Ted Cruz, took his two daughters to Cancun on a long planned trip because their school closed due to the weather. Hmmm, does anyone else have a problem with that last sentence?

And isn’t the U.S. Senate in session? So we are paying him to take a vacation instead of representing us? Why am I not surprised.

Maybe it is time for change on many fronts. Pun intended.

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Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.