SNOVID-21

I’m sure plenty of you heard, Texas experienced a state-wide catastrophe when the artic blast hit us, starting February 14 (my birthday, btw). Sub-freezing temperatures, resulting in residents using a higher demand of electricity to keep their houses warm, lead to rolling black-outs to help ease demand on Texas’ power infrastructure (I won’t get into this part of it, except leave this article here why it failed) to eventually infrastructure failing, resulting in power outages up to 72 hours (some still without power as I type) water shut-off in some areas and water boil ordinances in others.

Brrrrrr

For us at Cinco de las Harts, we lost power about 4am Monday, February 15 and didn’t return until 2:30pm on Wednesday, February 17. That’s 58 hours of bitter cold. The interior of the house reached a low of low-40s! You could see your breath when talking!

Hotels were either booked up or also didn’t have power, plus we had 5 pets to care for so someone still had to stay behind regardless.

The biggest hurdle was power to cook & heat the house. We never had to boil our water here, and thankfully, dripping our faucets constantly helped them not freeze up (more on that later)

Food was fine. I have plenty of meat in the freezer. Just little things like bread we were low. All said and done, after this experience I thought I’d blog about it and give *my* recommendations for how to better prepare for this should (heaven forbid) this should happen again.

Food

As I mentioned, food was fine. I just broke down two whole chickens and added to my freezer. Already had 1.5 lbs of ground beef, cubed brisket I planned to make for chili. Plus we had all other sundries: eggs, milk, vegetables, lunch meat, etc. With the power out, we just loaded everything into tubs and set outside. Nature’s refrigerator!

What would I do different?

In this case, not much. Check for paper products like toilet paper and paper towels and plates. Disposable stuff to not wind up with a sink full of dishes (we have a gas water heater so always had hot water, but who wants to wash dishes when it’s 45 degrees in the house?)

Cooking

Monday morning: frying bacon for an egg casserole and making cowboy coffee

Cooking was relatively easy for us. I have a propane grill and a camp stove. Propane was an issue, but that’s discussed later.

After finally getting propane for the camp stove, percolated coffee!

With both stoves, we had plenty of resources to cook whatever we needed for hot meals. Boil water for oatmeal and tea, reheat some leftover soup I fixed before this happened, grilled cheese, etc. All worked out pretty well.

What would I do different?

I can’t think of anything, except maybe related to the propane issue I’ll address below.

Heat

A godsend!

This was a huge challenge. No electricity means no heat. We have a gas unit, but need the electricity to blow the warm air throughout the house. For the first night, we bundled in blankets. The next morning, we realized this wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, one of my kids had a friend loan us a portable propane indoor/outdoor heater. It really helped keeping the immediate area warmer (not really warm) but it was something. (Don’t worry, we had a rule of not leaving it on when we slept. Only if at least one of us would be awake to monitor)

On day two of no power, we also got blankets and covered open entryways to the kitchen and hallways. The idea was to trap the heat in a smaller space instead of dissipating throughout the house. And it actually worked! There was a definite difference in temperature in the living room vs other parts of the house.

What would I do different?

I think the obvious thing is, get my own portable heater and put the blankets up sooner. Also, someone mentioned there is an electrical outlet on the heating unit for external power to run the fans, should power go out, find it, add a power cord and plug into a generator and you still have central heat.

Power

In this case, there’s two sources of power needed: electricity for charging phones & propane to heat and cook. And I had little of both when I started.

Outdoor grill was at a quarter of a tank and drained significantly when trying to cook Monday’s breakfast in 9 degree weather with the wind blowing. The grill won’t last through dinner at this rate. I had a spare tank, but it’s empty and needed to exchange it.

For the outdoor grill

The portable heater we were loaned had 1 1/2, one lbs bottles. Seemed to last well the first night, but between that and using the bottle for the camp stove it also wouldn’t last long.

For indoor use

And no one had propane to sell. Wife and I trekked out Tuesday and hit I think 8 different places trying to find either an exchange propane place or the small camp bottles. Anything. Nadda.

While driving we also loaded up electronics to charge in the car. Phones and battery back-ups and charged as much as possible while we were out. As for propane itself, we gave up. Until two things happened:

Got a text from my sister and she had a full grill tank we could have. So at least we can cook! (Even though it’d be outside where it’s cold) but we’ll take it!

THEN, got a message from a friend who had 2 1/2 camp bottles and to arrange to meet him to give us!

Things were looking up! We had propane, was able to charge our phones and batteries and got to warm up some.

What would I do different?

Obviously, stock up on propane. Generators are an option also for the above central heat, but I don’t know if I can justify spending $1,000 for one I may never need again. Maybe when there’s an Artic front coming, rush to Lowes to buy one and maybe return if not needed.

Another option is a 20 lbs tank to 1 lbs connection I found on Amazon. This allows using the larger tanks on smaller appliances like the heater and camp stove.

Another option I’m looking in to are portable rechargeable generators for charging phones. I’m currently researching a balance of price vs ability to use for the Heater Unit or just for the phones and maybe fridge.

Any other tips?

There’s a few.

  • Fill your bathtub with water. If your pipes freeze, you have water to fill the basin to flush
  • Get a hand-crank storm radio. I didn’t need this, but nice to have in case of emergencies and it’s self-sufficient
  • Terra cotta pot candle heater. There’s conflicting reports whether this works or not. For us, it didn’t. However I think we didn’t build it right. The idea is to use nested clay pots to compound the heat and radiate. I will be conducting experiments on this soon.
  • Candles. It’s soothing to have them lit and does provide some warmth. Just stock up. They don’t expire.
  • Drip your faucets. All of them. Constantly. This helps prevent your pipes from freezing up and possibly rupturing. Simple drip should suffice to keep the water moving.
  • If you have a pool, turn off the pump if it freezes or you lose power. Should power return and the pump tries to run on a frozen pond, it might pose problems and damage the pump.

Other than that, there’s an old saying “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.” Go in with this in mind and hopefully you’ll come out okay.

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