The Great Freeze-up: Winter 2021

I’ve started this post several times, only to lose it as the power went off again. This is our fourth day with intermittent, unpredictable power. When I can get email, I can see numerous thoughtful messages–thank you. I won’t be able to answer each one, so please consider this quick post an answer to all, and a thank-you for thinking of us.

We can’t complain, really. Seriously. There are just the two of us (plus Molly, the Girls, and Blossom, of course). We manage to do what has to be done during the periods we have power, and we spend the rest of the time reading. (My e-reader is backlit and Bill reads audiobooks.) We have a fireplace and plenty of firewood.

We do have water issues: there’s about 60 yards of frozen piping between the well and the house. We won’t know how much has to be replaced until the pipes thaw–and break, if they’re going to. But we have a 1500-gallon emergency tank, so we won’t run out of water anytime soon.

But most of all, this has been an intense learning experience. Learning what makes our Texas power grid work–and what doesn’t. Learning who controls the electrical energy and how those people are appointed. Learning what resources we have here at Meadow Knoll and what we need to do to improve them.

Also, I want to give a very loud shout-out to the folks at Pedernales Electric Coop, who have stayed on the job around the clock to keep as many people online as possible–in a rural Hill Country area of over 8100 square miles. It’s not their fault that the grid was crippled–and that’s just another of the many things this situation has taught us.

Bottom line: While it’s not business as usual at our house, we’re not suffering. Plenty of people are–and there will be deaths, when all is said and done. If you’d like to help, look here for suggestions.   Help if you can.

And the larger problem is political–isn’t it always? Texas is a “small-governement” state that does not sufficiently regulate its power suppliers. Until things are changed (one way or another) we’ll continue to see crises like this one. And it will be the most vulnerable–those who are supported by a government that works for all the people–who will be hurt. More here about the politics behind the way the Texas grid works–and doesn’t.

Reading note: For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Update: Thanks for all your comments. Special thanks to malamalamasEllen Zepp for sharing the lovely poem by Maren Tirabassi in the comments section!







32 comments on “The Great Freeze-up: Winter 2021

  1. Was so glad to read that you and Bill and the animals are managing to stay warm and that you have water. I hope the people inTexas will have learned from this disaster and willl not continue to elect the same politicians who created it. We are all guilty of wanting reliable power and water and access to quality health care but we don’t want to pay the price. As long as profit is part of the equation people will always lose out.
    I love the Dahlia books because the characters do such a good job of making do and also helping their neighbors in an extreme economic situation. We could learn from them. I am in the process of rereading the China books and I always learn new things from them. Thank you for all your books. I love them all

  2. Susan, thank you so much for posting the article about the energy grid in Texas I learned some things! Other things, I was aware of but figured it would happen when Hell froze over. Well guess what happened in Texas last week? I’ve shared this with family and friends

  3. I don’t know why I didn’t search out your blog or your Facebook presence before now ! I LOVE your China Bayles books and your Darling Dahlias as well – going through both series right now for the 3rd time…just delightful. I learn something new each time I read them. As I was reading about China and Ruby et al, I wondered how “real life” is right now in Pecan Springs what with the deep freeze. It is good to know that you and your close ones are safe. Hopefully the weather will warm up soon, and help can quickly take care of those who are so desperate. Joyfully awaiting the next installment of both China’s adventures as well as the Dahlias’.

  4. I’m so glad you all are doing well during this thing. We live in rural southwest Tennessee and understand the problems with wells and things during this kind of weather. We have been blessed to keep our electricity all through this and were able to keep the water dripping. My heart goes out to all the people who have been impacted and hope everything is back to some semblance of order soon.

  5. Thankful you are safe there. I always love your writings. You are such a positive person! Praying for all those who are suffering because of weather or pandemic.

  6. I’m glad you’re doing ok and hope that keeps on keeping on. The poem is wonderful. Stay well.

  7. There’s something about the way you speak and write honestly, directly, authentically, and with your special wisdom that warms (thank you, since it’s 26 today here in Cedar Park) my heart. Texans are now waking up to issues many of us didn’t even know we had. Sending warm hugs to you and Bill.

  8. Hi, Susan, I am glad to hear you are warm and have a fireplace and wood. I hope your pipes survive without flooding you out. I, too, have been thinking and worrying about Texas, hearing that nobody thinks of owning a winter coat or wooly hat, and thinking of those who lost homes to last year’s hurricanes and floods. And outraged at hearing Senator Cruz opted to head to Mexico instead of helping out. What was he thinking of? Here in Seattle we had a couple of days of heavy snowfall but it is already melting fast. I hope things warm up for you seen.

  9. Sounds like Texas is having a rotten winter. No water, no power, no heat – and ice storms. I can (sort of) remember weather like that when I was living in Denver all those years ago. Then I moved out here to go to UCLA – thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

  10. Susan, I have been thinking of you and Bill and your animals during this unusually cold Texas weather. I’m glad to hear that you are prepared and doing Ok. All the best from snowy Pennsylvania.

  11. Another abject failure of elected leadership. Texas is cursed with a governor, lieutenant governor, senators and congressional representatives who haven’t a clue that they are in office to help the people. Instead personal gain and self-interest are their motivating factors. Glad that you, Bill and the animals are able to take measures that allow life to be bearable.

  12. Dear Susan, I’ve been watching for your post on the TX weather tragedy…happy to hear you are OK and pray you all get your power and water (and pipes repaired somehow). Wake up Gov. Abbot and others to climate changes in yr state and do something before this happens again…and it’s always the poor who suffer the most. Stay well and enjoy your fireplace and books.

  13. I am glad you are safe and reasonably comfortable. My heart goes out to the vulnerable who are truly suffering and may not live to see the end of this. I am so “done” with the powers that be who keep putting profit before people. We have much work to do to change our way to move forward. Thank you for your ever gentle way to share these difficult realities. I want to shout and rale against the idiots who created this (and many other) desperate situations. But I know that focusing on blame doeas not help. Your example helps me “go high when others go low”.

  14. So glad to hear you’re all doing OK. I’m in the Willamette Valley (western OR) and we’re still struggling out of an unprecedented ice storm that hit last Friday. In my small town, still nearly half the homes are without power. My neighborhood, thankfully, has power restored and cellphones have worked since Monday. We got internet back mid-day yesterday. It’s amazing how dependent we’ve become on technology in such a relatively short time! At 71, I count myself fortunate to have lived without a lot of all this. But it was still COLD here without heat. Glad your fireplace is keeping you warm and especially thankful for printed-on-paper books! Stay safe and warm and I’m praying you won’t be going through major pipe damage.

  15. For Texans to out-freeze Canadians has to be one for the books! Speaking of books, I’d love to see you convert this experience into a novel, complete with your critique of public/private management.

    But meanwhile I wish you safety, warmth, and maybe chocolate (the CDN prescription for cold weather).

  16. It’s a kind of Katrina for Texas. I am so sorry for everyone who is dealing with this situation. Thank you for the links to how to help.

  17. I was wondering how you were doing. I have many Texas family and friends. Praying for all of you and wishing the weather would right itself and the cold would return to its traditional paths! In years without COVID, I would be planning my semi annual trek to come down and visit people and bluebonnets in a few weeks.

  18. I am so glad to hear that you, Bill and the animals are safe. Thank you for your list of suggested donations. We gave a donation to Austin Pets Alive. Stay warm.

  19. Susan, be safe and stay tucked up inside with your blankets and books. Too bad no one has figured out how to move the weather effects. California could take all that snow in the mountain ranges and maybe build up a water reserve for the never ending fire season.

  20. My brother moved to Texas from up north about 10 years ago and it is a learning experience. Here in Ohio utility companies are regulated and even with some political interference, we do pay taxes to maintain the systems. Our taxes are higher, but I feel it is worth it. We had 14 inches of fresh snow and are grateful for our heat, electric and water. And when it is 100 degrees in the summer, I am very very grateful for air conditioning too.

    I pray for the lives lost in all the southern states. I do hope that voters make better choices to allow the states to update and afford to winterize and “summerize”? their utility systems. I know it was an eye opener for my brother and his family to find that Texas is the only state who does not follow federal regulations with utilities.

  21. I had just been thinking about you, wondering how you are faring, and getting ready to check your blog when I saw this email. I’m so glad you’re safe! I was saying to my neighbor earlier that
    even though we have miserable dreary rain here in Delaware now, we can’t complain after seeing what’s happening in Texas.

  22. I was very glad to see this post in my inbox and to hear that you’re okay so far. It makes such a huge difference where one lives–planning for extreme cold and snow is expected here. The plows are out, the water lines are buried at 6 feet, the power is on. We can still be overwhelmed by ice storms, but snow in northern Indiana is NBD. And we look like amateurs compared to Minnesota.
    WaPo had an article on the reasons for the overwhelm–short-term profit over long-term planning was the gist. A poster on a political blog I like expanded at some length on how Texans and other warm-climate people rely on electric heat during cold snaps, which had never occurred to me–of course you wouldn’t spend $$$ for a furnace that was hardly ever used, but explains why the power grid took such a hit.
    Stay safe and warm.

  23. I’m relieved to hear from you. I was worried about Blossom and the girls, as well as you I’m in the redwoods of Northern California. All we have is some rain. Hoping it warms up soon.

  24. This showed up on my facebook feed this am. Written by Maren Tirabassi ( a New England pastor who has a gift for song and lyrics and poetry. Glad to hear you’re coping.
    Prayer for Texas
    God, they are boiling water
    and it is simply to drink,
    except in places
    where they is no power for boiling.
    They are lighting candles
    when the lights have gone out,
    and there are fires.
    They face frozen pipelines
    and frost-bitten fingers,
    icy highways,
    desperate nursing homes,
    hospitals, and dialysis centers,
    waiting lines for propane,
    blankets, shelter and food,
    new guidelines
    for using melted snow.
    Mostly, there is this new fear
    among the hurricane-wise,
    drought-savvy, tornado-ready,
    even, thanks to Harvey,
    who are so blizzard-innocent.
    As winds, snow, deep cold
    endanger lives
    across all the country,
    and we grieve losses,
    encourage those who restore power,
    enable vaccine lines,
    support those who offer shelter
    with as much
    pandemic-protection as possible,
    we pray especially for those
    across southern states,
    who learn quickly,
    but find themselves saying,
    like folks in an old church hall –
    “we’ve never done it this way.”

  25. So glad to hear you all are doing okay during this dangerous weather event. We are in Victoria and are so much luckier than many in our community. We have never lost power, and have been without water very little. We are under a boil water order. It breaks my heart to hear the stories of how so many are affected. Stay warm and safe. Prayers for better weather to return.

  26. Hi, Susan. My husband and I are in NorthTexas. We consider ourselves fortunate to be coming out of this unusual deep freeze relatively unscathed. There are many who will need post storm help in getting resettled as we see pipes bursting and water flooding homes and apartments. There is plenty of finger pointing and blame to go around, which isn’t helpful unless we get to a sort of solution for the future. But complaining and finger-pointing make the helpless feel less helpless. As you know, Texans are known for rolling up their sleeves and getting things done. Politicians will always get in the way in the mistaken impression that they matter. We’ll pull through this. And, we’ll take care of the most vulnerable. We do that. Stay warm and thank you for the positive thoughts.

  27. Wishing you warmth from Nebraska. Today will be the first day in a while that we do not see the temperature drop below zero. Hopefully that same warm-up is headed your way.

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