Postcards from the frozen tundra of Austin, Texas

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On February 14, 2021, a winter storm unlike anything I’ve ever seen before descended upon the shorts-wearing, taco-loving, generally good-natured city of Austin, Texas. We knew it was coming. The week prior, we all laughed at the predictions in our weather apps. More snow? Ha! Single digit temps? Ha! Ice on the roads? Yeah, okay, that happens. But no one was expecting what came next: no power, no water, and horror stories of people struggling to stay warm.

In so many ways, we got lucky. We stocked up on food a couple days before the storm hit. We wrapped the outdoor faucets in moving blankets. And what really saved us: our gas stove. We all slept together in a big bed under goose down comforters at night and wore every jacket we owned during the day. Others weren’t so lucky. People were freezing all over Austin. Pipes were bursting. Our beloved HEBs were closed, so food was scarce.

It was the kind of disaster that made you wish you could run off to Cancun and just leave everyone else to suffer. But seriously, who would do something like that while their neighbors froze?

Anyway, here are some photos we snapped of this hopefully once in a lifetime event.

It started with ice on February 11, 2021. Trees with leaves started to bend unnaturally back to the ground.
One poorly wrapped outdoor faucet froze right away. It took a pitcher of hot water to revive it. Afterward, I wrapped it in more towels and a moving blanket.
The storm blows in on Valentine’s Day, and the next morning, we’re “snowed in.” The power went out at 2:00 a.m., but Matador is excited about going out to play in the snow.
Day 1: The temperature in the house is already falling, but the sun is finally coming up.
Cheyenne loves the cold weather, but the deep snow weirds her out a little. It took a few minutes for her to warm up to the zoomies.
We’re not the best survivalists, but even we know when the fridge turns off and it’s below freezing outside, you move your food.
It is an absolutely beautiful day in the neighborhood. Our neighbors offer Matador some ski pants so he can run through the snow with abandon.
By Day 2, Cheyenne has had enough. It’s much colder in the house, and the water has stopped running.
Birds descend on the neighborhood in search of food. For hours, they pick the trees and bushes. Inside the house, all you can hear is the THUNK of bird after bird flying into the dining room windows.
Day 3: Still melting snow on our gas stove. There was a slight thaw the day before so the snow is covered by a thick layer of ice, which is more dense, which means less trips outside to fill up the pot. This excites only me.
Matador starts to go crazy and requests a popsicle. Kids.
We need clean water to wash dishes. Luckily we have 80 gallons of hotness just sitting in the garage.
After three days of no power and no water, things are looking bleak. We don’t know when it will end, but just like that, it does.

The water came back late Wednesday evening, with the power following it a couple of hours later. We didn’t know if it was going to stay on, so we shut down everything non-essential and charged up our phones, iPads, and dead power bricks. Luckily for us, the power didn’t drop, and we woke up in a warm 68-degree home.

Not all of our friends and family have been so lucky. Some don’t have gas stoves and had to cook food using their camping stoves. Others are still without power and water as I write this on Friday morning. We’re keeping in touch to make sure everyone gets things they need.

We survived this disaster (so far) without any major damage to the house, ourselves, or our marriage. We’ll be under a boil water notice for a week, and I’m super thirsty, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing to complain about.

The power will come back. The water will come back. HEB will be fully stocked again in a few days. Fingers will be pointed, no one will be held accountable, and life will go on.

All that will change is that we’ll be better prepared for the next one.

Stay warm. Stay safe.

About the author

Daniel Verastiqui

Daniel Verastiqui is a Science Fiction author from Austin, Texas. His novels explore relationships and identity in the context of ubiquitous technology, pervasive violence, and frequent nudity. His most recent book, Brigham Plaza, is now available in print and digital formats on Amazon.

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