Life is full of experiences, mostly good, some bad; however, the best part of life is overcoming the obstacles stronger and smarter. February was one of those bad moments for me personally and millions of my fellow Texans as we all suffered without electricity in the bitter cold. Temperatures reached as low as -1 in my area of Bell County, Texas. My rental was without electricity for 6 days (about 153 hours). The electricity finally turned back on the 7th day at 1:41 PM. They had a crew of 6 or so trying to figure it out outside our duplex. As the lights came back on, the emotions that flowed through my body were just as exciting as hitting nitrous in a speeding race car down the road. Hell yes, no more cold showers, crappy sandwiches, dripping water faucets, worrying about if my family is warm in all our blankets, and worrying about our pipes from bursting.
What Was The Problem?
Relying on the electric grid is what went wrong. Being without power for almost 7 days made me realize how much we depend on the electric company. It’s making me think about how can I power my equipment when the power company fails the next time? How can I ensure I can provide heat for my family?
The electric power grid in Texas seems to have a weakness, temperatures below 20 degrees. What happened in February 2021 was a repeat of the Texas blackout of 2011.
ERCOT back in 2011 told Texans to “conserve energy so as not to overburden the system.”
As if the customer is the issue here. What we witnessed today in February 2021 and 2011 seems to be an ERCOT issue with their equipment. Telling the customer to “conserve” usage because they cannot provide reliable electricity is wrong. Get it together, ERCOT. It has been 10 years since the last blackout. If you cannot offer reliable service, then what good are you?
“The system broke down this week when 185 generating units, including gas and coal-fired power plants, tripped offline during the brunt of the storm. Wind turbines in West Texas froze as well, and a nuclear unit near the Gulf of Mexico went down for more than 48 hours. Another problem emerged: Some power plants lost their pipeline supply of gas and couldn’t generate electricity even if they wanted to capture the high prices. Such mechanical problems might have been avoided if operators had chosen to equip their plants like those that operate in traditional cold-weather states.”
When Did My Power Go Out?
It started Monday at 3:00 AM. The night before, I had no idea how just like that, my life would change. Not just for me but also for my family and kids.
- Schools shut down.
- Government offices empty.
- USPS mailbox wasn’t accessible due to covered in ice. No mail service.
- Doctors couldn’t provide service.
- No jobs to go to without electricity.
- Loss of job pay.
- No productivity.
- Everyone was in survival mode, not knowing when the power will return.
What Went Right
I already had a propane stove. I was able to cook food and boil water. We also had several instant lunch chicken flavored soup stocked up, bottled waters, LED flashlight lanterns, bread, and peanut butter. We barely had enough to survive. Thanks to the help of our neighbors we were able to help each other out.
We charged our phones and iPads in the car. I had no way to charge MacBook Pro. The vehicle also provided much-needed heat at different parts of the day. It wasn’t until Saturday that the snow and ice cleared up to where we could drive. Before that, we were stranded at the house. Too dangerous to drive.
Saturday was the best as I ordered a double steak hamburger at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. I was finally able to have a real meal with protein.
What went wrong?
Since the power went out at 3:00 AM Monday by the time we woke up for the day, our food was spoiled. It’s incredible how fast heat gets inside our refrigerator when turned off. Had to be over $200 worth of food in our refrigerator, freezer, and backup freezer.
Having a propane stove is invaluable, especially in times like this. However, most of our food was already thawed out, so the propane stove became almost useless.
We tried to salvage what we could by putting food outside. The temperatures were in the single digits then. We should have acted sooner as soon as the power went out and placed everything outside, but of course, this was one of those, could of, would of, should of things you think about after the fact. At that given moment, there was no way of knowing what would happen to us for the next several days.
What I Wish I Had – How To Be Better Prepared Next Time?
During these 7 days of bitter cold and suffering, I wish I had a battery-powered generator with solar panels. Something strong enough to charge my Mac, phone, and wifi modem. At least I’d be able to continue working and kids entertained.
I wanted a propane heater, that was until I did further research to find that is not safe for indoor use. A cool hack we did to stay warm in the house is to spend the day inside a tent inside our living room. Surprisingly with everyone inside, the tent keeps the heat inside and it was toasty to where I can to get out because it was so hot. We also had blankets covering all the windows, doors, and hallways. Wore jackets all day and bundled up.
That would have made this whole blackout less of a burden.
Food Shortages at Stores
It took the stores a couple of days to restock and deliver fresh food in our town. As soon as the shelves were stocked it was emptied shortly after. The year 2020 and this power blackout is a warning to us all to be better prepared next time. That’s for sure.
The Texas electric grid seems to be vulnerable and must get fixed. What I experienced this past week was something I hope no one has to go through, as it was horrible. My heart and prayers go out to my fellow Texans who also suffered through this. We couldn’t have made it without our neighbors who came together. This was definitely a learning experience I hope we can all learn from and never repeat again.
What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, right?