Winter storms can be incredibly damaging and Winter Storm Uri proves that. They can also teach us important lessons. For me, the things I learned from the Texas blackout and Winter Storm Uri will help keep my family safe the next time it happens and they can help you too.
10 years ago I left Ohio and moved to Texas and I lived happily ever after.
😂🤣 I wish.
I should say that I lived mostly happily ever after until this past week when winter storm Uri bore down on the entire state causing widespread issues that some are still not lucky enough to have gotten through.
and then my happily ever after was delayed for a bit like millions of other Texans.
How Cold Did Texas Get During Winter Storm Uri?
Because I know what you’re thinking, I want to go ahead and address it now. Yes, this is Texas and typically we do not have harsh winters. In fact, the coldest I can remember it being in the past nine or ten years is around 15° F once or twice. Typically for February, my area of Texas is around 60°F during the day.
So I do get it. Texas, winter, yeah right.
But Texas winter 2021? Well, that was a whole different ballgame. We saw temperatures like I haven’t seen since I left Northern Iowa or Ohio.
Case in point? The wind chill at my very own home reached a frigid -15°F. Yeah, you read that right. Negative fifteen degree wind chills; in Texas.
and that my friends is on top of the 6″ or so of snow we got along with the ice that followed.
What Winter is Really Like in Texas
While that be normal to someone who is from the north, please bear in mind that Texans and southerners in general are not in any way shape or form prepared for that kind of cold and they definitely aren’t making preparing for winter storms a top priority.
Heck, most of them aren’t practicing any form of emergency preparation period.
Our homes are not prepared for that. In fact, they’re the opposite of prepared for winter storms. Texan and southern homes are designed to stay cooler; not warmer. Texas homes typically have single pane windows.
Most Texans have never driven on snow or ice and if they have, it’s been an incredibly light dusting that is gone by noon. We have all season tires on our Subaru but snow tires? Well I’m fairly certain they don’t exist here.
Snow plows may be normal in the great frozen north but they are an illusion in the South. I once spent time in Little Rock during an ice storm. Ya’ll they were plowing the streets with a tractor.
And even if we did have plows, they don’t typically salt the roads. They use sand only and only after they have already iced/snowed up. Anyone from the north knows this isn’t how it’s done for maximum effect. It just doesn’t make sense for the DOT offices down here to keep salt on hand when winter storms like we had last week happen so rarely.
Want to shovel your walkway? Grab a broom because snow shovels like THIS one can not be found in stores down here.
Do you have a heavy winter coat? I mean a true winter coat? I don’t. Why? Because even the winter “coats” sold in store are simply heavy jackets.
So what happened then?
Honestly things were fine at first. Sure, it was cold and snowing but we were all tucked inside of our homes, nice and toasty ready to ride it out. Then we had a 100+ car pileup in Ft. Worth because of the road conditions and people who either didn’t know how to drive in those conditions or people who simply did not care
But still, for most, preparing for a winter storm never crossed their minds. They just went on with their lives. Until they couldn’t anymore because the power went out followed by no water from the taps followed by natural gas shortages.
And that is when things became very dangerous.
So how did your own family fare during Winter Storm Uri?
Well, to be frank, things sucked for two days and still sort of do. But with that said, we fared far better than a lot of others. We were frozen but we had food, water stored and we were able to see due to prepared lights.
I am a prepper so I had done what I thought we needed to do in order to surive.
However, even preppers make mistakes and I am not ashamed to say that there were mistakes made that had they not happened would have kept us a whole lot more comfortable.
But, it is those mistakes that are the reasons this post is being written. They are the lessons in winter preparation that I was taught by this huge winter storm. And it is my hope that those lessons will help you if you should find yourself in the same situation.
Wait, you prepare for emergencies? How did you get caught unaware by the Texas blackouts?
Well, since we’re being honest with each other, my family got caught in the Texas blackout due to a little bit of normalcy bias combined with a whole lot of over-confidence I’m sure.
I am prepper and therefore I am ready for whatever comes.
Yeah no. I could not have been more wrong and the lessons the Texas blackout taught me prove just that.
Start Preparing for Your Event Early
One of the things I did correct was to start preparing my home early. I started 3 days before the storm was scheduled to hit which left me plenty of time.
In that time, I was able to cover my windows with 4 mil Visqueen using all-weather tape to attach it. I was also able to cover my outdoor faucets with faucet covers and add thermal curtains to windows I normally leave with only blinds.
I also took the time to able to pick up extra pet food for our dogs and cats and top off my gas tank without taking from others.
Finally, I picked up long john bottoms, beanies and mittens for me and the girls and extra butane canisters for my Coleman camp stove so I was able to warm food and to keep water boiling for a humidity raise in the house. Raise the humidity, raise the temperatures.
Humor is So Important
We are one of those loud and goofy families normally so when something like the winter storm that hit Texas happened, I was sort of shocked to see that sense of humor stick around even through the coldest nights.
And it helped.
Laughter has long been shown to reduce stress and in times like a winter storm, a power outage or other emergency, anything you can do to reduce stress will help.
Always…and I Mean Always…Test Your Equipment
I have been practicing emergency preparation for almost two decades now and honestly, that kind of experience will often lead to over-confidence.
Which is exactly what I ran into this week. I had gotten so over confident that I did not bother checking some of the most critical equipment; including my generator before the storm hit.
As a result, I was stuck in the middle of a snow and ice storm with sub-zero temperatures and wind chills; an older generator that would not fire up and an unusable propane lantern because the base that keeps it stable has gone poof. . Both could have provided not only light but heat for my family.
I was cold but even worse, my kids were cold.
Because I failed to check that generator, we spent the majority of our time in the car, wasting gas just to keep my kids warm. Because I had underestimated the storm and had overestimated my prepping, my kids and I stayed in what could have ended a very bad situation.
So lesson learned; test your prepping items and test them often. Then replace the ones that need replacing like I’m fixin to do with that old generator.
Always Top Off Your Tank
Like I mentioned earlier, I had topped off my gas tank before the storm hit and I am so glad I did. If I had not, we would not have been able to use the car to stay warm.
On day two when the local gas station got power for an hour, I took the time to drive over and top it off a second time. Because I had no idea how long we would be without power, I wanted to ensure that I could keep the car running if I needed to.
I am normally really bad about running my tank below half tank but after this week, I won’t be doing that again.
Thinking Outside the Box is Necessary
By night two, we were tired of being in the car and since the temperature was a lot milder at 17°F, I wanted to move us back into the house. That temp is mild enough that blankets and body heat would keep us warm if we all huddled down in one room.
So, when I heard that the local Dollar General was open for a couple of hours, I took a chance on running over there to see if they had any candles left. We had candles already but since I am partially night blind, I was having trouble seeing and the extra candles would help with that.
I knew that my store sold the 5 or 7 day religious candles and that they were in a different area than the regular candles so I was hoping against hope that I would be able to find them. Boy, did I luck out and find not only the 5 or 7 day religious candles, but also 3 large pillar candles.
Bringing them home, I moved us into my room, shut off closets and my bathroom and then lit what amounted to around 30 candles across the room . Yes, I was safe about it.
Those candles ultimately ended up raising the temperature in my room enough that it was comfortable enough for us to get a very good nights sleep under the blankets.
But those candles reminded me just how important it is to think outside the box during an emergency. While I didn’t intend to heat that room with those candles, by finding an out of the box use for them this time, I will know next time.
Cash Is King
As a frugal blogger, I will tell you that for most people using a cash only budget is probably best for your budget. I do believe its best for most, however, that for some people cash is not a viable budgeting option.
However, in an emergency, cash really is king. I had the foresight to pull $100 in extra cash from the ATM before the storm hit. Normally I do carry a little on me but that extra $100 saved our bacon.
When the gas station did not have access to the debit/credit card system, I was still able to top off my tank twice, buy the candles that I heated the bedroom with and so on.
Old Skills Die Hard
I grew up in an area that had cold winters and I grew up in a trailer that my parents had to winterize every year. So I learned very early on how to keep a house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
But I had not really needed to flex those preparedness muscles for a very long time.
Luckily, old lessons like that die hard and as soon as I started preparing for that storm.
However, looking back, I should have tested them over the years instead of hoping that when I needed them.
Carbs Can Be Your Friend
Normally we eat a GF, LC, LS diet, but when the power went out followed by the water and you’re working to try and keep your family healthy, warm and fed, you need energy. So in this case, we ate like we normally don’t for energy’s sake.
Yes, I have home canned food but I really wanted to save those until I really needed them and as a result of the storm, the only fresh, gluten free, low carb foods we had were what we had bought before the storm.
But those carbs that were in the foods we were eating helped fuel us – which ultimately helped us to stay warmer – during a time that we truly needed that energy.
The Best Purchase I’ve Ever Made
A few years ago I bought a small Coleman camp stove for obvious reasons but also to have in an emergency.
Best. Purchase. Ever.
The stove not only helped us stay warm but also helped us to have warm food while the power was out. If you don’t have an alternative way of cooking indoors, I highly recommend THIS camp stove.
It is small enough to be used inside in a clear area and since it runs on butane there are no smells or gases released into the air.
Rain Barrels Are A Must
We have water storage in 7-gallon water storage containers but this week has driven home the realization that we really need rain barrels set up. If you’ve never thought of rain barrels, they are large, food grade barrels that you collect rainwater in. Each barrel has a mesh screen to keep leaves and other debris out of the water.
They’re a fantastic way to store hundreds of gallons of water for your family in a completely passive way.
You will need to decide what is best for your family, but for mine; we will be setting up THESE 55 gallon rain barrels before next winter. Winter is the “rainy” season in Texas and my best chance of catching the most water.
Alternative Heating is a Must
While we do have other heating options here besides our furnace, they all happen to be electric. The Texas blackouts really nailed down the importance for having either a propane heater or a kerosene heater.
I had expected to be able to use the electric ones but as my generator failed, I wasn’t able to. As a result, we struggled to stay warm. See where that test your gear comes into place?
So lesson learned; alternative heating is a must have; even when you live in Texas.
Snow Can Be Useful
In the middle of a winter storm, snow can be one of the most useful things around you. I just didn’t realize how much until the other day.
First, snow can be insulating even though it’s cold. While we didn’t need to use it for this, it is good to know.
Secondly though, it was amazing at helping to keep my refrigerated groceries and my insulin cold. We simply packed the fridge into 5-gallon buckets like THESE and sat them outside. We then surrounded the buckets with snow to help keep them even colder.
Finally, the snow on the ground became incredibly important in the later part of the Texas deep freeze when our water had gone off. We were incredibly lucky in that we did not have any frozen pipes – due to what I had done to prepare beforehand – but we were a lot lower on useable drinking water than I had realized. Even though I had filled bathtubs with water before we lost the taps, I knew that water would not last long. Que melted snow.
Since we were already under a boil order for when the water came back, boiling the snow was not an extra step. So as we used the water in the tubs for washing bodies, dishes and so on; we simply topped them off with snow to keep the levels in the tubs up.
As the snow started to melt, we filled both of our bathtubs to the brink just to be sure we’d have usable water -after we boiled of course – for a few more days.
Having a Food Stockpile Paid Off
I have long promoted the need to build a stockpile, but never has something proven that need as much as Winter Storm Uri and the Texas blackouts did. While I was doing my winter storm preparations, I did not even have to think about what we were going to eat.
I already knew.
During a time when the last thing I needed was one more thing added to my plate, not having to worry about my girls being fed was a bigger blessing than I could ever explain.
Always Go With Your Gut Instinct
My children both learned a very important life lesson as we did our winter storm preparations and it is one that I hope they never forget.
Always go with your gut instinct.
As we put Visqueen over the windows, Laura – my logical child – made an off-handed comment about how “stupid” I was going to feel when the temperatures did not drop as cold as hat was being predicted.
Oh child. Oh, sweet innocent “16 going on 40” child. No.
The truth is that growing up north gave me the tools I needed to recognize what to do but my gut – which has literally saved my life before – gave me the instinct I needed to put those tools into practice.
Had I not learned to listen to my gut, I would have very likely had normalcy bias like Laura and had been caught extremely off guard.
But I didn’t always know how to listen to my gut. In fact, it’s a fairly recent thing within the past three years. I clued into it and learned how to listen to it after I read a book called “The Gift of Fear.” I will now be making both of my girls read it as well.
Knowing the Layout of Your Local Stores Is Important
As I said earlier, I ended up going to my local Dollar General to get extra candles, but what I did not fully express was that the only reason I was able to even find those candles is because I knew the layout of the store.
Had I not known it, I would never have realized they may still be in stock.
What is especially important about those candles is that I did not realize is that those candles – since there was over 30 once combined with what I already had – would heat the room enough to make it tolerable. It wasn’t warm by any means but it was tolerable.
And the only reason we had them is because I knew the layout of the store.
We Have Gaps that Need to Be Filled.
Even though we faired better than others, I am able to look back now and see glaring gaps. We do not have enough blankets, I have gear that needs replaced or repaired. I had allowed my water supply to get dangerously low.
In other words, we hadve gaps that need filled.
And it only took subzero temperatures in Texas for me to see them.
Bonus: Community is So Incredibly Important.
I have always been a lone prepper meaning that I did not expect to have anyone to rely on during an emergency and felt it was better that way. We have lived in this community for almost three years and up until this winter storm, I viewed it as a regular “small town Texas ” environment. And then Winter Storm Uri hit.
I watched as the people in my community reached out to help others in ways I never expected people who were already hurting would ever do. They offered showers when they had power and water. They offered strangers guest bedrooms because they had power and heat.
I watched store managers cross dangerous roads just to open their stores for two hours so people could get gasoline for cars and maybe something to feed their kids while warming their bones for a few minutes.
Once the power came back, I saw businesses and residents alike oay for restaurant meals for others with no strings attached. You just had to call and order.
Those same businesses passed out groceries – much needed milk, bread and eggs and water – for days after the storm passed while local food pantries hosted emergency giveaways to help keep people fed. The stores were empty so even if you had money, it would do you no good.
My neighbor and I worked together to make sure that both of our homes had enough water to last until ours was safe to drink. As of the date of this writing, it has been a full week and we have still not reached that point.
My other neighbor checked on me and the kids many, many times. On Tuesday night, she brought us dinner that had been made at her Mom’s where they had power. Just so she knew we had eaten.
When I took my girls to a local truck stop on Tuesday to shower, we were only charged for one shower instead of three.
And I realized just how important community is in an emergency and that I absolutely love my super small Texas town.
And I have never been more proud to be Texan than I am right now.