We woke up to a chilly apartment with no power. We weren’t too concerned until we saw the news that the storm caused state-wide outages and that it was unclear when power would come back.
We quickly realized that all of the appliances in our apartment required electricity to operate. This rendered our freezer full of meat completely useless. We typically prepare all of our food ourselves, so we didn’t have any ready-to-eat meals that could be cooked without any heat source.
So, we set out to see if we could find somewhere to buy food. We bundled up in our less-than-adequate clothing to see if any stores were open.
Wandering the streets of Austin looking for food, along with hundreds of others, was a bizarre experience. “Was the grocery store over there open?” people asked. Unfortunately not.
The only open shop we could find was a small convenience store. After waiting in line outside, we were able to secure a few cans of soup. At least we would have the option to eat them cold.
The World not Working
There were countless side-effects of the power grid being out. We didn’t have any phone or 4G/5G service for much of the time, which made communication with family difficult.
On the third day, our apartment's first floor flooded due to burst pipes, which meant our building had to turn off our water.
No power plus no water quickly turned a challenging situation into a survival situation. There was also a city-wide “boil water notice” after the water treatment plants lost power and could no longer sanitize the water supply.
The Harsh Reality
Austin has a large population of people without permanent homes who live in tents. This freezing weather was a life-or-death scenario for them. There have already been at least 80 reported deaths across Texas, and more are likely more unreported.
Following other’s stories online, I also learned about the terrifying experience of trying to keep newborns, pets, and elderly loved ones safe and warm. Some people’s homes (whose insulation wasn’t designed for this weather) hit as low as 35 degrees - cold enough to cause hypothermia.
There’s lots of blame going around about this problem, and I’m sure the full details will emerge over time. Regardless of the root cause, the most important things to focus on now are the people’s lives who have been impacted and the best way to help them going forward.
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If 2020 wasn’t already a tough enough teacher, this experience taught me to focus even more on self-reliance and emergency preparedness.
Things I will change going forward:
- I will always have a few weeks supply of ready-to-eat food on-hand.
- I will keep a table-top propane stove with plenty of extra fuel always on-hand.
- I will always keep a buffer of multiple gallons of extra water. Being without was a far too scary situation to ever be in again.
Ultimately, I’m fortunate to have made it through this challenging situation without long-term consequences. In the future, I hope to be more prepared and in a better position to help others in need.
On the bright side, all the snow is now gone, and power and water are back. Stores are re-opening, and shelves are being re-stocked. It’s amazing how much more I appreciate these things now that I experienced a week without them.