Last week, Texas experienced weather unlike any it had seen in the last century. Certainly, it was different from any I'd seen in my lifetime. The entire state, the second largest in the United States, was enveloped by five winter storms in a row — within seven days!
Temperatures which had been in the eighties the week before dropped into single digits, with wind chills below zero. Ice and snow fell as fast as the thermometer readings and then that mess stuck around all week. In fact, we got second and third rounds of ice and snow. Driving became treacherous, then all but impossible.
Worse still, the State's electrical grid, not properly weatherized, was put under tremendous strain. Rolling blackouts became long-lasting power outages happening at the most abysmal time: during sub-freezing temperatures with wind chills so low that they warranted their own weather warnings (even the weather forecasters had never seen a Wind Chill Warning in South Central Texas).
A lot of people lost water, too. Water treatment plants shut off during the power outages, causing some to have to boil their water (if they had the means to do so). Some people had to boil snow to get water.
Our household went without power or heat for twenty-eight hours straight, right when temperatures were dipping to their lowest. We had water, thankfully, even if we didn't have hot water.
It was the uncertainty that was the most stressful. At first, it seemed like we'd only have a couple of days to get through. Power was only supposed to be out from fifteen to sixty minutes, which was way beyond optimistic. We had no idea when power and heat would return.
We had the kids with us and we were all safe. But we had to keep warm, layering our clothes, and covering the living room window with a blanket to keep the cold out. We put perishable food from the freezer and refrigerator into thick bags that we packed in snow on our porch.
Truthfully, there were some tense moments. Conditions worsened outside more than once and we did start to get low on provisions, but we never ran out.
My wife and I had to pray for guidance. And the Lord provided through the kindness of family, friends, and even strangers. Our neighbor even lent us a cooler to help out with keeping our perishables cold. And since the outside temperatures were colder than the freezer anyway, it was the one advantage to the wintery conditions.
My sister-in-law shared an idea with my wife to make a tent in the living room. We didn't have an actual tent, but we pulled all of our chairs and taped brooms and other objects to act as "stakes" and covered them with blankets and sheets (held together by bobby pins). Putting more blankets inside and adding some battery-powered lights, the tent held in heat and provided a cozy space to tell stories, play Uno, chill out or sleep. Our facemasks came in handy when things got really cold, whether inside or outside.
We ate cold sandwiches, cereal, fruit. snacks, and even did some rudimentary heating of already cooked items using an improvised oil lamp and a metal pie pan.
My wife and I went out daily to start up the car to keep it functional. We knew we weren't going anywhere until the ice started melting, but we wanted to make sure the car was available for any emergency if we needed it. Thankfully, we didn't.
Though power and regular internet were out, we used our phones to keep track of the forecast, news, and stay in touch with the outside world. I even did some editing of The Former Things on my laptop, using its fully charged battery while also recharging my phone.
Every day, we prayed. We prayed individually and we prayed together as a family. We appreciated everyone who prayed for us on social media (especially our Facebook friends). So many people were praying for us and the people of Texas, all over the world. It was heartwarming and inspiring.
By Wednesday, the power was back for good and by Thursday, some of the snow and ice had started to melt in places. I risked driving to the local grocery store (H.E.B.) with my oldest son. We had to wait in line in the snow, but it wasn't bad. We made it inside in about forty-five minutes, as H.E.B. was letting fifty people in at a time. There was no produce, little beef and no chicken. But there was turkey and pork, so I got some of that. We found other things we needed by getting off-brand or store brand items. We restocked, for all intents and purposes, and we got back home safely.
Friday night was the last hard freeze, dipping below thirty degrees. Saturday, high temperatures reached into the low sixties and were expected to stay above freezing for the foreseeable future.
The worst may be over, but there are many people still in need and the Texas recovery is just beginning. At least twenty people died from the extreme cold. Tragically, some died or were hospitalized from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in efforts to stay warm using cars and stoves. There were many dozens of car collisions due to ice and snow. One hundred and thirty-three of those happened in one pile up in Dallas. Another twenty-six car collision happened just a few miles from where we live. And all across the state, there were injuries from slips and falls.
Schools, businesses and residences have suffered tremendous damage from burst pipes, collapsed structures from built up ice and snow, and more.Some people are still without power or water. A lot of us were unable to work and had no paid leave to cover the time we were out. And people who work from home couldn't do so without power. There will be short-term and long-term hurtles ahead.
Please continue praying for the people of Texas. We need your prayers. They already made a real difference this week and they surely will in the days and months to come.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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