Austin’s Snowpocalypse: The Storm that Took the Metropolis Down

Snow and blue skies in Austin, Texas during the snowstorm
Posted: 2/25/2021

“That man is shopping for six dozen eggs? And take a look at all that water!” I stated, observing an image from an area grocery retailer on my pal’s telephone. “I imply, it’s going to get chilly and snow a bit, however this isn’t the apocalypse! I feel this man goes overboard.”

“Proper?” she stated laughing, earlier than going again to sipping her wine.

“Yeah, it’s not just like the water goes to go off,” I stated.

But it surely turned out it was the apocalypse — and the water was going to go off.

Having grown up in Boston, I’m used to snow. A number of it and for a lot of months at a time. It doesn’t faze me. Over the previous couple of years, as snow and chilly climate have change into extra frequent, I’ve even received used to it down right here in Texas.

However I do know full nicely that the state can’t deal with something greater than a lightweight dusting. Forecasts of snowfall ship folks dashing out to the shops to refill for Armageddon.

After which the snow comes, melts when it hits the bottom, and we go on with our lives.

So I wasn’t too nervous in regards to the snow forecast on Valentine’s Day. I had stocked up on meals a couple of days earlier than and — since I’ll always remember how Hurricane Sandy in NYC confirmed me how unprepared I used to be for any catastrophe — I all the time have just a little prepper package in my home: bottled water, batteries, candles, flashlights, and different primary survival stuff. Not that I ever thought I must use it.

And so, because the snow fell that Sunday evening, I confidently fell quick asleep.

I woke as much as a distinct world.

Our rolling blackouts by no means rolled.

At first, that Monday felt like a “snow day.” On the bottom had been six inches of snow, an unheard-of quantity right here in Texas. However everybody was outdoors enjoying in it. Youngsters had been sledding. Folks had been constructing snowmen.

Though we didn’t have energy, elements of town nonetheless did. And virtually everybody had working water. Having been suggested that we might get our electrical energy again by Tuesday, nobody in my space appeared too involved.

Nomadic Matt in the snow during the Texas snow storm

Unable to work, I spent the day studying and cooking as a lot meals on my gasoline range as I might earlier than it went dangerous in my darkish fridge.

I went to mattress that evening solely to get up to a fair worse scenario. Extra of town was shedding energy, pipes had been beginning to freeze, and the water system started to close down. The chilly continued, and there was no aid in sight. Officers stopped giving estimates of when energy and water can be restored. By Wednesday, the whole metropolis was beneath a boil discover, because the remedy plant had additionally shut down.

Again in 2011, a crippling chilly spell created the same (although not as intense) scenario. After that, a autopsy was performed. The suggestions included weatherizing energy vegetation and ensuring there was backup pure gasoline (a lot of the power on this state is generated by pure gasoline, and energy vegetation don’t typically hold a backup provide). The state’s power regulator, ERCOT, issued a set of voluntary guidelines additionally suggesting that energy corporations weatherize. It being optionally available, and this being Texas, they didn’t try this.

Quick-forward ten years later, and one other chilly snap took out the whole state’s grid. Energy vegetation merely couldn’t perform as a result of they weren’t weatherized. As pure gasoline pipelines, nuclear cooling swimming pools, and wind generators froze, energy technology saved falling. And we couldn’t get any from different states, as a result of Texas isn’t linked to the nationwide grid, to be able to keep away from federal laws. And since there wasn’t any backup provide, there was no energy.

Because the chilly worsened, extra pipes froze and burst and extra sections of Austin misplaced water.

Immediately, that enjoyable snow day changed into one thing extra lethal. The place I stay in East Austin, everybody who might achieve this evacuated to some place else. I went north to stick with a pal who had energy and water and wait matters out.

However by Wednesday, her water was off too. Fortunately, we had stuffed as many bottles and pots as doable.

By Thursday, a few of the energy to my constructing had returned, and so I went again to my residence.

By Friday, all my energy was again and I had loads of water, although I nonetheless needed to boil water for ingesting.

It wasn’t till the weekend that energy was absolutely restored. By Monday, our boil discover had been lifted.

Now, life is again to regular. Temperatures are again into the 70s and the whole lot is open. Grocery shops nonetheless have restricted provides, however for probably the most half, life strikes on, and we’re coping with the aftermath.

I depend myself fortunate. I had a spot to go. I had meals. My mates had locations to go. I solely had three simply fixable burst water pipes. A couple of mates had large leaks, however we’re all secure.

However the identical isn’t true for others.

A snowy park in Austin, Texas

The storm killed virtually 60 folks (although it should takes months to study the true toll), created a humanitarian disaster, and induced billions of {dollars} of property injury.

The federal government of Texas failed its residents. Who is aware of if something might be accomplished about it? 5 members of the board of ERCOT have resigned. There might be investigations. Our governor says there might be reform.

However I’m not that hopeful. That is nonetheless Texas and all of the folks in energy don’t have any need for regulation. Wind energy is already being falsely blamed, despite the fact that it solely produces 23% of the state’s energy, and ERCOT stated it carried out above expectations.

Perhaps a couple of minor adjustments might be made. Perhaps they may pressure vegetation to weatherize now. Perhaps.

That stated, folks got here collectively to assist out strangers.

Neighbors helped neighbors. Motels, eating places, and common folks opened their doorways, providing meals, water, and shelter. Throughout Texas, organizations pulled collectively for these in want. Thousands and thousands of {dollars} had been raised free of charge meals, water, and groceries for folks. Social media had been alight with info on the place to go and locations to get free meals, water, and provides. Strains at grocery shops had been lengthy however moved shortly. Folks had been orderly. No chaos ensued.

We received by this additionally with the assist of our fellow residents from across the nation.

It was a surreal week. It can take some time for a lot of on this state to rebuild and restore their properties. The prices might be monumental. However, as darkish because it was, we received by it collectively, and that was fairly heartwarming.

That me hopeful that the world may not finish like Mad Max.

However I do surprise in regards to the man and his six cartons of eggs. Did he eat all of them when the facility went out?

And I’ll undoubtedly weatherize my pipes once I purchase a home later this 12 months!

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