The Blog Single


    This guy bought six dozen eggs! “And look at all the water!” I exclaimed, staring at my friend’s local grocery store photo on her phone. It’s going to get colder and snow a little, but this isn’t the end of the world! This guy seems to be going too far.

    She laughed and said, “Right?” before returning to drinking her wine.

    “Yeah it’s not like water is going off,” I replied.

    It turned out it was The Apocalypse, and the water was going off.

    Growing up in Boston, I am used to snow. It snows a lot, and it can last for months. It doesn’t bother me. It’s become more common for me to live in Texas during the colder months.

    I am aware that the state cannot handle more than dusting. When snowfall forecasts are available, people rush to the shops to prepare for Armageddon.

    The snow melts in contact with the ground, and then we move on to our daily lives.

    I didn’t worry about Valentine’s Day’s snow forecast. I had already prepared food for the day, and I remember how Hurricane Sandy in NYC made me realize how unprepared I was for disasters. I keep a small prepper kit with basic survival items in my home: water, batteries and candles, flashlights, and other essential items. It’s not something I expected to have to use.

    So, I fell asleep fast when the snow fell on Sunday night.

    I woke up in a new world.

    Rolling blackouts have never been rolled.

    It felt like Monday was a snow day at first. Six inches of snow fell on the ground, which is unusual in Texas. Everyone was out playing in the snow. Children were out sledging. People were building snowmen.

    Even though we didn’t have power, some parts of the city did. Nearly everyone had water. Everyone in my neighbourhood seemed happy to have their electricity back by Tuesday.

    I could not work, so I spent the day reading, cooking and cleaning my gas stove before my food went bad in my dark fridge.

    I slept that night, only to find an even worse situation. The city was losing more power, the pipes were freezing, and the water system was shutting down. There was no relief from the cold. Officials have stopped giving estimates on when water and power will be restored. The city was on a boil notice by Wednesday because the treatment plant had also been shut down.

    In 2011, a severe cold spell caused a similar, though not quite as intense, situation. A post-mortem was then conducted. These recommendations included weatherizing power stations and making sure that there was enough natural gas backup. Most of the state’s energy comes from natural gas, and power plants rarely have a backup supply. ERCOT, the state’s energy regulator, issued voluntary rules that suggested power companies weatherize. They didn’t do it because they knew it was optional.

    Ten years later, another severe cold snap decimated the entire grid. Because they were not weathered, power plants couldn’t work. Power generation continued to fall as natural gas pipelines, nuclear cooling pools, and wind generators froze. We couldn’t get any power from other states because Texas isn’t connected to the national network. This was to avoid federal regulations. There was no backup power, so there was no electricity.

    As the cold worsened, more pipes burst and froze, and Austin lost more water.

    That fun snow day quickly turned into something much more dangerous. Everyone who was able to evacuate East Austin, where I live, had to go. I headed north to visit a friend with water and power and then waited for things to resolve.

    However, by Wednesday, her water had gone bad. We were able to fill as many pots and bottles as we could.

    On Thursday, power was restored to some parts of my building, so I returned to my apartment.

    Friday was my last day of power, and I had enough water to drink, even though I still had water to boil.

    The power was restored only after the weekend. Our boil notice was lifted by Monday.

    Life is now back to normal. Everything is open, and temperatures are back in the 70s. Although grocery stores have limited supplies, most people are moving on with their lives and dealing with the aftermath.

    I consider myself fortunate. I found a place to eat. I could eat. My friends knew where to find it. My only problem was three burst water pipes that could be fixed. Some of my friends suffered from massive leaks but are now safe.

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