Deep Freeze Deep in the Heart of Texas

In Austin we are lucky to get one snow fall each winter and we had ours on January 10th, 2021. Only a couple of inches of snow fell, but enough for excited kids to build snow people and have snow ball fights. By the next day it began to melt. We had gotten our snow for the year and were satisfied with what we got. Little did we know that much more was to come.

We had seen the forecast for the polar air to sweep far south, deep into Texas and surrounding states. On the evening of Saturday, February 13th it got quite cold. By early the next morning we had a heavy sleet storm.

Sunday, Feb. 14th- Valentines’ Day- We woke up to an ice covered lawn and found a dead, frost covered squirrel at the base of our burr oak. I recognized it as one that had suffered an injured leg at least a month ago. I guess this round of cold was too much for it. Later, while taking bird seed and warm water out to the birds, I slipped and fell and hit my head on a rock. I got up quick, assuring my husband, “I’m okay!” But, he saw blood running down my neck. He cleaned the scalp wound (and yes, scalp wounds bleed a lot!) and we monitored me for any signs of concussion. The roads were too iced over to drive, so I am glad my injuries were minor. Even ambulances were having a tough time responding to all the falls and car accidents. The first responders were working overtime.

In the afternoon the snow began to fall. So, now we had snow over ice.

Millie our elderly dog late that night

Monday, Feb. 15-More snow had fallen in the night

Millie in even more snow 7:16 a.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 16th- Happy Birthday to Me! Had to postpone my Birthday dinner of chicken fajitas from Chuy’s restaurant. We still have power. Many people do not.

Cold Cardinal

25 degrees and it began to snow again.

Wednesday, Feb. 17th-Our water pressure was very low in the morning and my husband was quick to fill a couple of pots with water. Later in the morning we had no water at all from our taps. The high was 32 degrees and it began to sleet again. A neighbor stopped by to see what we might need. Later, she and another kind neighbor brought us 2 pitchers of water (she had filled all her sinks and tubs in anticipation of the storm). It was still not safe to drive on roads and we heard that many stores had run out of drinking water and most food. This was like what happened during our initial covid lockdown the year before. At least we had plenty of food in our fridge and pantry. Days of no sun started to wear on me.

Ice Covered Trees

Ice Covered Crepe Myrtle

Thursday, Feb. 18th-Still no running water. Our high today was 32 degrees and it snowed again! Our Desert Willow tree on the side of the house lost two large limbs under the weight of the ice. We melted lots of snow on our gas stove to use to flush toilets. We are lucky our power is on and our natural gas is okay. At 9p.m. a boy from next door brought us a large bottle of water!

Friday, Feb. 19th- Sun! Melting has begun and we gather more snow because we still have No Water! At 1:37 p.m. the temperature outside is a glorious 39.4 degrees. I have not bothered to record the lows because they are so low that I don’t want to think about it (I think the lowest it got was 5 degrees). With the sun come clear nights and we can see the stars again.

Happy Squirrel

Chipping Sparrows Bathing in Snow Melt

Saturday, Feb. 20th- Day #4 of no running water. Sun and 57.9 degrees! Our snow melt is running out.

Robin and Snow Melt

I am in my 60s and have never had to experience the lack of running water unless it was my choice (back country camping in Big Bend or a trek into an Amazon rainforest village). This is a life lesson in gratitude and recognizing how lucky and privileged my life has been. We are grateful for snow and kind neighbors and that our power did not go out and our pipes didn’t burst and that I did not get a concussion or break any bones when I fell. I am also grateful that I was not alone during this ordeal.

So many Austinites lost power and water. Many were left in the cold for days. Some died, including a young boy. And there were people left in the cold, without water, that were also suffering from the covid virus. A woman gave birth at home in the cold. A family with many kids lost power/heat at home and survived huddled in a van for several days.

Sunday, Feb. 21st- Our water came back on! But, we are under a boil water notice. And it is good the taps are running because there is no more snow to melt. Sunny and 72 degrees. I heard a screech owl trilling in the evening, so I know at least one owl survived the cold. I have heard many birds died.

Monday, Feb. 22nd- 75 beautiful degrees and I saw my first crane fly of the season.

Tuesday, Feb. 23rd- The City of Austin lifts our boil water notice. We are blessed to have clean, running tap water. This winter storm has been a humbling experience. Things have become more normal again. Knock wood, this will be the last of the Winter for us Central Texans. Repairs to burst pipes and water damaged homes are keeping plumbers and others busy. Our concerns will become “normal” again…like where we can find a covid vaccine shot.

Spring is Coming Soon

(photos by Betty McCreary)

Published by

bettymccreary7347

Born and raised in Central Texas. Spending time outside brings me joy and I love to share my observations. I also belong to two writing groups and enjoy researching my ancestors. I find people interesting, but Nature keeps me sane.

10 thoughts on “Deep Freeze Deep in the Heart of Texas”

  1. Thank you for the personal blow-by-blow. I, too, am grateful you didn’t suffer more serious injury due to your fall (and that you had a nice husband there to pick you up). I am a desert rat and cannot imagine a more miserable climate crisis than extreme cold and snow that goes on for days! The news reports were just awful. Glad you came through it okay! Also thank you for the beautiful pictures.

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  2. Betty, bravo for chronicling the daily blow-by-blow! I regret not journaling each day during this – each day brought additional challenges, upping collective angst. We are FINALLY back to “normal” as of Friday night’s late-hour installation of a new hot water heater (ordered the prior Sunday – the install team told us they’d been working 14-hr days all week!) Must now replace the wall clock that plunged to the floor while hot water heater was being brought into the house and now refuses to move its minute hand past the 9 … I’m taking this “failure” as a sign that nothing is ever really the same afterward. We’re also planning to acquire at least one propane heater and maybe a pond heater that we could insert into our rain collection tank to thaw that for water (we had lots of water out there, frozen solid!)
    So glad your injuries were self-healing.

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    1. Sorry about your hot water heater and clock. I like the idea of the clock signaling a transition to a better time. Yes, I may get a little heater made for bird baths so they can have water if it all freezes over again. Someone has suggested getting a type of water filter so we can drink our rain barrel water without any worries. I guess we can’t be too prepared! I didn’t really journal so much as just take notes and photos.

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  3. Dear Betty,

    What a wonderful illustrated diary of our “Deep Freeze Debacle!”

    Because I forgot the events of each day and wished I’d kept a diary, your day-by-day account is so welcome! It’s an excellent reminder of exactly when we lost power and then water. And your bird photographs are lovely!

    Those Deep Freeze days were humbling, distressing, and so cold the temperature in our house got down almost to the 30s. But, the snow and ice were beautiful. And the days were full of gratitude for the kindness of neighbors who brought food and water and shoveled our driveway. And, whenever anyone had to drive on the icy treacherous road, they sent texts to everyone asking what they needed. A reminder there are many caring people in this world!

    Thank again for your wonderful diary!

    Fondly,

    Carol

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  4. Well, no wonder I may not have sent you a birthday greeting! I am so glad you are okay after that fall Betty.
    My story is also a dramatic one but I did not venture outdoors knowing ice was under the snow on my wooden porches and walkway until I was rescued from my home Tuesday morning the 16th of Feb. I had bundled up under blankets in a sort of cave with water near me and a phone with very little power. Kids called me the night before and that morning, one helped me with how to conserve phone power and one was trying in Cedar Creek way North from me, to get gas in his truck with 4 wheel drive. Feb 16 it was 37 degrees inside after no electricity since Monday, Feb at 2a.m. I was ready to leave but fearful of my son coming from way across town in the ice and snow. THen I got a text from my neighbor with 4 wheel drive offering to take me anywhere. Then one son was coordinating with others to get me help because of little power for my phone. My brother in the country near Elgin found a place for me to go and still another for my cat to go.

    I had 20 minutes to throw necessities together, Marc carried things to his vehicle, then first took my cat to one friend’s home and then me, to my friends just 2 miles from my house. She had gas and electricity but no water. My phone was at 1percent of its battery when I arrived there. We melted snow as well for dishwater and flushing. I brought all of the containers I’d taken up before the water was off and we managed to get by with drinking water. I went back home on Saturday noon as electricity came on Friday evening the 19th at 7:30. I had minimal drinking water but my brother came from Elgin with more water jugs for me and also for my friend who housed me. That was the afternoon of Feb 20th. after my house had a chance to warm up to the ’60s. and on Sunday afternoon, my water came on as did most of South Austin’s supply with a boil water notice.
    I feel such deep gratitude for all those who helped me and for the small serendipitous events which were amazing. It seems to me that the universe was working in my behalf. At 76, I never imagined that I would witness such an event. I know many died and suffered while I didn’t even have a pipe to burst, how fortunate am I.

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  5. Damn Joan! So thankful for family and friends! So sorry you lost power, but glad you got out to a better place. It is one thing to have the power out and no water, but the not being able to drive safely on the roads to get away adds so much to the picture. Am so happy you are my friend and still kicking!

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