heads up this post is a huge bummer. seriously, please stop reading if you don't want to be sad. we all have sad things we are dealing with. mine are far from the worst, but they are mine. i'm not fishing for sympathy, i just got to get this all out of my head.
as i write this it is thursday february 18. i haven't really found the words to convey the situation in Texas, and specifically in our neighborhood in austin. winter storm, blizzard, extreme cold don't capture it. this is unprecedented but may be a new normal event. we all saw the forecasts and knew it was going to be extremely cold.
last thursday, feb 11 it was sleeting when i was in the car in front of the veterinarians office making the decision to put our dog to sleep. it was icing while i waited for my wife to arrive at the vet to come say goodbye. i was scared for our safety but we needed to say goodbye. we had to say goodbye to him in an entryway to the office because we couldn't both go in due to covid rules. i went inside with him and walked out without him.
the next day we ended work early and made a run to the grocery store before it dipped below freezing again. it was precarious and we almost didn't go. i had a very scary experience in a sudden ice storm a few years ago and am very wary of going out in winter weather. we got supplies for the weekend and made a plan to stay inside through monday. the forecast was for it be very cold and some possible snow, with the temperature hitting its lowest monday morning.
that is not what happened.
late sunday night we got notice that due to incredible demand on the power grid there would be rolling blackouts. they were to last around 45 minutes. the power went out and we went to bed. i woke up, surprised, in a cold house the next morning. the power had been out all night. we filled bowls full of snow and put them in the fridge and freezer to try to protect our perishables. later we moved our supplies of milk and eggs to a cooler filled with snow. my saltwater aquarium full of delicate corals had dropped in temperature and not had circulation for 12 hours. i start heating tank water on the stove, thankfully the gas stove was working. and then floating the bags of hot water in the tank to try to keep it warm. i blowed bubbles with a tube to oxygenate the water. i've done this before. ive been in blackouts. ive been in cold weather. but never anything like this. we got power again in the afternoon on monday for about an hour. but lost it again very soon after that. i couldn't keep up with the regimen to take care of the tank, and take care of the house, and myself and my wife, and running the stove in these conditions is a carbon monoxide risk. plus i couldn't keep doing it throughout the night. the temperature kept dropping. everything in the tank died. i shut the door to the room and can't bear to look inside. aquariums aren't like other pets. they don't love you back. you don't miss looking into their eyes and taking them on trips with you. but you still care. i had grown most of the corals from little rescued pieces into big thriving colonies, a lot of time and energy went into it. it is a source of warmth and joy. and i couldn't save it. after losing my dog i thought i would redirect my energy into my corals. but i then i lost them just a couple days later. i couldn't save either one.
we had another hour with electricity on tuesday. on wednesday we never got power. even just a few minutes to reheat the house helps a lot. as the ground and walls lose heat the house gets that much colder. we had taken to doing chores, cooking, and cleaning when there was daylight. and then sheltering in a bedroom to concentrate our heat at night. thursday morning, today, we got power back. we are keeping the house warm but largely trying to act like we were, to conserve energy. conserving power helps the grid expand back out to more people.
my mom in south texas lost water and power but she managed to get a hotel room. it was awful knowing that my 72 year old mom was trying to get through the blizzard by herself but she did ok. thankfully our family in other parts of texas are doing ok too. there are many who are much worse off than us.
its been infuriating but not surprising seeing that the neighborhoods that lost power were historically segregated parts of town. all the critical infrastructure in austin is built in wealthier, whiter, parts of town and didn't lose power at all. and if people who had power had reduced their usage more homes could have kept their power but that largely didn't happen.
some local leaders showed initiative and moved heaven and earth try to help but most relief came from individuals helping each other, neighbors helping neighbors. the governor and a particular senator are damn cowards and are not accepting any of the blame. they've been in charge for decades yet somehow say this catastrophic failure is the fault of people who literally and figuratively have no power.
we still have power now but are ready and expecting to lose it again. normal feels so far away. we can't even shelter with friends and neighbors because there is still a pandemic raging, the one that again state leaders have made so much worse.
it might be days still before we reliably have power. between dealing with my dog's illness and death, and then a week without power i've been mostly away from work and feel tremendously guilty and anxious about it. i usually wait until night to use my phone's internet connection to get online. its something i can do in the dark. but seeing horror stories, blame, and sadness on social media isn't helping. if you read this, i'm sorry. we all have our own bummers to deal with, and these are mine.