On Friday, Jo and I went to the grocery store hungry and ended up with twice the protein we normally buy because we shopped separately and each of us loaded up. By Saturday, it had been below freezing around here long enough that the ground was pretty cold and ice was beginning to collect on the trees. Saturday also marked another ice storm in Texas 17 years ago – the day I asked Jo to hang out with me on a more permanent basis and she said yes. On Sunday morning, as I walked to Central Market, long stretches of the sidewalks were icy and the trees glittered like crystals. The streets were almost empty and the store was uncrowded, so I got last-minute roses and king crabs to celebrate Valentine’s Day. That night, as we gathered around the dining table to work on Jo’s Golden Girls puzzle, the snow started falling gently, and unlike a couple of weeks before, it stuck. Even the streets, usually reservoirs of stored heat, turned white. The temperature dropped into the low single digits (in F). The cats and Ouiser and the kids woke up to a brilliant sunny President’s Day Monday morning with six to seven inches of beautiful dry powder outside.
On Tuesday, Vivian turned 14. Schools were cancelled. Karen brought us chocolate brownie mix that Vivian baked for her birthday treat. Ava gave Vivian a beautiful vase of white roses. Evan made her a birthday card. Nicolle and family had lost power in New Braunfels and decided to shelter at Lariat Ridge instead, which we could tell still had power because the remote security camera was still working. But their all-wheel drive Subaru didn’t make it up the last big hill and they walked the final three quarters of a mile to find that there was no water. The pipes from the well to the house had frozen and shattered. So they melted snow.
Shit started to fall apart. Power providers who depend on oil and gas started seeing disruptions in their supply of fuels due to freezing pipes and a competing high demand for gas from residential customers. Generating equipment started freezing over. Wind turbines in the cold and windy west and high plains froze. Millions of people started losing electricity and then water. Temperatures inside homes without power plummeted down to the 40’s (in F). Grocery stores were either closed or empty. The roads weren’t drivable.
On Wednesday morning we heard that Manju (Mummy) had passed away earlier that night.
Things didn’t get any better Thursday or Friday. But by Saturday, temperatures were above freezing for the first time in more than a week.
By Sunday it started warming up. One Monday morning everything was still white but by that evening most of the snow was gone. Schools remained closed because staff and teachers were in the same boat, many without power or dealing with plumbing wrecks. Remote school wasn’t an option either because WiFi requires power.
We were lucky to have power and water throughout and a working freezer full of food. Vivian and Evan liked having an unexpected 10-day long school break. Eventually things shuffled back to normal. The long lines outside grocery stores disappeared and people stopped buying an extra jug of milk and another carton of eggs for neighbors and friends. One night it got warm enough to run the air conditioner. Strangers stopped asking each other how they were doing at street corners. After a few more days, the only reminders were thawed piles of toppled over cactus in front yards and Ted Cruz jokes.
It was a week or two to remember.