Winter in Central Texas is usually an enjoyable thing considering the season. In fact, a lot of RV’ers choose to spend winter here because it is so mild but this year, 2021, it has been the hardest in living history. Normally, for us, a couple of freezing nights and occasionally a dusting of snow and then the following day, back up in the 60° area and that is it. This is generally followed by an early spring just to get us started for the year. This year however, things have been different, very, very different. We had a very mild fall and early part of the winter until a couple of weeks back, we had about 3 inches of snow that fell with the temperature above freezing. It didn’t last very long and was gone a couple of days later. That by itself was not normal but we said to ourselves,”This is Texas, expect the unexpected”.
Now, two weeks down the road, we get hit by a deep freeze that has lasted for several days followed by a 6-7 inch overnight snowfall. The snow stayed on the ground because of the very low below freezing temperatures both day and night. One night the thermometer dipping below zero. For us, this is totally unheard of and definitely one for the record books. As you can imagine, everything came to a stop including a lot of traffic as most Texans are not used to or equipped for driving under snow and icy conditions. The sensible ones stayed home by the warmth of their central heating and fireplaces trying to wait it out, me included although I still went walking in the afternoon mainly at the insistence of the little girl, Sandy. The little boy dog Mikey, not so much but he came along in case he was missing out on something. I tried my fireplace but managed to fill the house up with smoke as something seems to be blocking the chimney. Probably a squirrels nest. I will check it out when it warms up. Couldn’t happen at a worse time.
To make matters worse, many people were without electricity as Texas went into rolling blackouts that were put into place to redistribute the energy in a more even fashion. This also meant in many cases, that residencies were also without heat. As the freezing weather lingered on, indoor plumbing was affected as pipes froze which put them out of water with many suffering from plumbing leaks. Many more leaks will be discovered when the pipes thaw and normal water supply is resumed. Any plumbers out there should be prepared for a rush for their services. The State even issued a plea for residents to conserve water as the system was in dire straits of imminent failure because of the demand. Seems reminiscent of the first announcement of Covid and the rush on toilet paper as this time around, a lot of people filled bathtubs and containers. For those living in an apartment or a neighborhood where the houses have no backyards or were on top of one another, being without water also meant that the toilets no longer flushed. For us country folk, that was not so much of a problem as we could always use the great outdoors. A little chilly perhaps but needs must. A lot of people have taken shelter elsewhere with relatives and friends or even at the local hotels, many of which quickly filled up and eventually, also suffered from the same lack of electricity and water.
The roads are a mess with still some snow remaining in places and icy patches in others. As the snow thaws, ice forms under the top layer of snow making for both treacherous driving and walking. I noticed a lot more vehicles today as the roads began to thaw most of them driving real slow. A lot were equipped with 4 wheel drive which really helps. My truck is so equipped but unfortunately for me, it is in the shop getting worked on. The timing couldn’t be worse and the loaner that I have is no match for these driving conditions. I don’t really want to chance it anyway. I can remember sliding sideways, very slowly down a hill when I lived in New York State before ending up in a deep snowbank with my stepson imploring me to “Straighten up the station waggon because he was scared”. We waited there in the cold with the car heater running to keep us warm until the tow truck arrived to pull us out. This was before cell phones and I had to sit and wait for the next car to come by to get them to make the call for me when they reached a phone. Those were the good old days…
Tomorrow, after more than a week of this weather, it is supposed to warm up through the day but still be below freezing at night for at least a couple more nights and then, hopefully, back to normal temperatures for Texas for this time of the year which should put us in the 50°-60° range. With the snow and cold weather gone, it will be cleanup time of the many branches that have fallen because of the weight of the ice and are laying around my yard. So far, none have fallen on the roof or the house itself.
That will still leave us with the questions that remain to be answered such as why did both the electric and water grids collapse under these extreme conditions. One answer of course is that this is an abnormality, something that has not been seen before in most people’s lifetime. Because we are geared for the summer when the temperatures rise above 100° and AC’s are running full blast which is what we expect, most major maintenance work on these systems is performed in the winter resulting in a lot of equipment being offline. That plus the demand for power outstripping the supply will also bear looking into.
When this first started and the roads were still driveable, I managed to get over to Henly to check on the Eagle, my RV and change out the gas tank. After the storm, I also was able to get the Park Super to change it out a couple of days later but since then, the Park has run out of propane with delivery dates unknown at this time. I can’t wait for the roads to become driveable so that I can check on her. Hopefully, with the water tanks and plumbing drained, there will not be any problems. I suppose in some respects, I should be grateful that I was not living in the RV as it would have been really cold and difficult with no way to stay warm or cook food or worse yet, make coffee. I do have a couple of space heaters which I could really use in the house but of course, they are in Henly.
In either case and whatever the reasons, this will be a winter to remember and it is not over yet as we still have at least a month before our expectations of what we consider a normal Spring to be realized. Is this a forewarning of Global Warming? Many will suggest that it is with worse to come down the road. If this is true, then there is an awful lot of preparation for future winters that needs to happen here in the great State of Texas.