Submitted by maifeld on Mon, 02/15/2021 - 06:46

For a part of the country that only rarely gets snow, we are having an event.  One weather site calls this Winter Fest 2021; my favorite is our bookstore calling it the Ice-pocalypse and that's probably closer to the reaction.  We had freezing rain last night.  The weather person had to explain to Houstonians what "sleet" is.  Then, there was some snow overnight on top of that.  We noted blips in the power Sunday evening and were familiar - we shut down computers and other consuming devices planning on a power outage.  Around 2 am ours went out and still is, presumably from lines being down.  Other parts of the metro have rolling blackouts because some generator stations are down because of the ice.


When we first moved here, lots of people were getting pools in the back yard or outdoor living areas added-on.  We assessed the risks of the area and decided it was having a hurricane in August when it's 100 degrees and losing power.  We had a whole-house generator installed.  It's been hotter than ever last summer and tonight could be a record low in the single digits.  Though we didn't think of ice glaze in Houston, I guess the generator works at both ends of climate change extremes!


So, we are OK for now, limiting consumption.  This will be a memorable event for this area for years to come; Iowans would call it "Monday".


We didn't see many people out this morning.  Wilson insisted I take a photo to commemorate the event.


Then, he went digging around in the garage.  I had to ask what for - he wanted to scoop the walk!  "Where's our snow shovel?!?"  I had to admit we gave all of ours away when we moved to Texas since there's never any snow here...

Our house with snow on the ground and Wilson in the garage

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Last night was supposed to be the worst.  I see at our airport's weather station that it got down to 13 degrees.


Homes here are slab-on-grade, so the PEX pipes run through the attic.  The plumbers string them wherever it's convenient because part of the cost savings of PEX pipe is labor.  Sometimes they are in the insulation, sometimes not.  When the temps are in the teens, it seems conceivable that our ventilated attic could get below freezing.  We got up every hour last night to run every tap in hopes of keeping anything from freezing up.


We are fine with the generator, but we hear news reports (as during any cold weather) of people dying from CO.  I'm glad to hear of the federal disaster declaration with funding!

As Mitch mentioned, fortunately the whole-house generator has been chugging along, annoying our neighbors but keeping our heat on.  1.3 million homes/businesses in the Houston area are without power this morning.  They are claiming supply/generation issues and not ice damage.  They originally claimed they would be doing "rolling outages" to restore power temporarily, but now they say there is not even enough generating capacity to do that.  We will have more freezing rain tonight and tomorrow, and temperatures won't stay above freezing until Saturday - so I'd be willing to bet we will be on the generator for a few more days.

Our power returned at 13:18 Central.  We are relieved, but possibly not out of the woods yet.  There are more below-freezing lows and freezing rain tomorrow.  At least we are past last night's record low.  Wilson is elated that school is cancelled tomorrow and overmorrow.

After supper we were cleaning up when we noticed just a trickle out of the tap.  Now this! I'd figured maybe after so much time without power for the pumps that our city water towers went empty. We heard from neighbors there was a water main break.  At least that should be hours instead of days.

Then, 9 hours after the water pressure is almost nil and we are sure we should not be drinking the water - our city issues a "boil water" advisory.  This morning I took a bucket on our dog walk to get pond water to flush toilets. And, the power went out again overnight.  This time, the distribution company texted to call it a "rolling blackout" and blame it on the upstream company.  Usually, "rolling" means it comes on again at some point. This lack of modern conveniences reminds me a bit of heating our log home with firewood.  How did people 100 years ago get ANYTHING else done?  

I was hoping for a better update today! Yikes. You could drive north. It’s not warmer, but we do have power currently. Stay safe! I’m currently reading a book about the 1930’s in northern Texas, including the “Dust Bowl” years. You’re right, it was all hard work, just to eat and to stay alive. And sadly, many didn’t make it. It does make us realize how dependent we are on modern technology. For us, that was during the derecho last August, and it’s after-effects.

We are definitely experiencing the legitimate rolling blackouts today - our power has been on and off all day. I have heard from coworkers that their natural gas pressure is low.  Yikes!  That would mean no generator for us.  Fingers crossed that doesn't happen. Most of the Houston area, including Houston itself now, is under boil water advisories.  We do have a little bit of water pressure, but not much.  It is raining today, so we've been able to capture some rainwater for the toilets.  Actually, we could probably drink it.  It's probably better than what we get out of the tap during normal times! - just roof-flavored. Mitch is troubleshooting some minor water leaks in our attic and ordering parts while he still can.  7 million people in the Houston metro area will be needing them too. School was cancelled for the whole week, so Wilson is happy!  I think he's the only one...

Let us know if there’s anything we could send from here! And yes, kids are the only ones excited for no-school days.

I'd bought new water heater connections and Amazon can still probably beat you - but thanks for the offer!  In the hopes of a shower soon, I just tightened up the leaking parts and will watch for further leaks.  The power was only out once for a time overnight, so that's getting better.  Our generator is complaining, "Maintenance Required" though.  There's a bit more water pressure this morning.  We'll see where today ends up.  One more hard freeze tonight.  Yes, Kem, this is sort of like the derecho event!  Considerably less clean up and no trees fell on someone's truck just after they got out of it.

Politicians from our local Congressperson Dan Crenshaw, Railroad Commission guy Sid Miller (it's a misnomer since they control oil & gas), all the way up to our governor Greg Abbott have said that wind turbines solely to blame for our power outages - claiming they don't work when the temperature is below freezing.  Do our friends and family in Iowa and Minnesota have a perspective on that?

I tightened up the leaking connections on our water heaters and we all got showers late yesterday.  Two of us appreciated a shower.  A teenager in our house gave it a shrug and said he still didn't need one.  It's still a boil-water, so we are careful and kept it short.

There were no outages overnight, our last hard freeze of this episode.  We are still supposed to conserve because some people are still without power since Sunday night.  Tomorrow morning will be the last light freeze and we are out of the woods.  Then we have to pick up our Presidents' Day flags!

Thanks to all for your words of encouragement!

We are empathizing with you this morning, with a water main break at 63rd & Center. At least we have snow to melt for flushing. 😬  No wind turbine experts here, but Ed says maybe ice could cause a problem, but surely not low temperatures or they wouldn’t be used all over the upper Midwest. It might have been some finger-pointing. Maybe.

Hopefully you've gotten your water back by now, Kem.  We can flush again now, it's a bit of work to fill tanks manually.  There's still an advisory, likely until Monday.  They say testing is needed, so we presume the testing lab is closed over the weekend.  Harumph.

Last night was the last freeze for a while so I think we made it.  Lots of neighbors have some sort of damage.  Even people who figure they did everything right valving/draining-wise, but didn't have power.  Yesterday, I turned off someone's water at the meter since they were gone and had geysers out of their backflow preventer and water softener (they install those outside here - smart!).  I've ordered another heating pad and controller just like I installed at Mom's house for the exposed portion of our water supply where it goes around the slab.  Once we get the generator serviced because of so many run hours and I get these things installed, we should be ready for the next time.

Figuring we are now out of the woods, Amy and I celebrated with cocktails from our previous natural disaster.  The "Houston Hurricane" is actually a real drink I found in one of my old cocktail recipe books.  The "Hurricane Harvey Wallbanger" is another I mashed up from two drinks by those names.  Neither one is very good, but they put a colophon on our experience.

Things are about back to normal, hopefully for you too, Kem.

The Boy Scout building didn't do as well: it's supplied with water, but is an uninsulated metal building (at least in that section).  I brought them Dad's bucket of copper fittings and he had all the right ones.  Several of the Assistant Scoutmasters were there fixing the leaks.  They would fix one, turn the water on, then find another.  They were on 7 by the time I got there.

Our boil-water was lifted yesterday, but there's still no school today.  I suppose maintenance would like to have a day to flush endpoints.  Wilson is excited for another "snow" day and we hear from the state education agency that we get a makeup day waiver for all of it.  Boo!

Thanks to everyone for all your well-wishes!