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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

The Great Texas Freeze of 2021

Snowed in. Now there’s a phrase I never expected to use again. Not when hubby said to me, just prior to our move here, “we’re going to love those warm and mild Texas winters.” It’s true that we’ve had more than several days these past few months where I could walk in shorts, or in leggings and a light jacket. Sometimes it was kind of a fashion thrill to wear a knit cap on a chilly day. But I never expected THIS!

What THIS is, is a deep, prolonged freeze, the kind you might expect in a northern state or somewhere on the east coast. And I’ve lived in this kind of weather before, but I was also equipped for it – as was the infrastructure around me. In my Sunshine Canyon days in Boulder, Colorado, if we got a foot of snow, the roads were plowed and sanded by 5:30 the next morning. I don’t think we have many snowplows in central Texas.

There was a time when my husband and I were thrilled for a snow day, the kind of day when the 9th street park became a cross-country ski track; when driving down the mountain at 8:00 AM to the park was filled with exhilarating anticipation. Since arriving in Austin a couple of years ago, my blood has thinned. In the “I used to” category is a sense of hardiness brought about by early morning winter hikes, where the only other being on the trail was the otherworldly silver crane meditating in the creek bed. But then, I had the luxury of playing in snow. In the area where I live now, snow and ice for a long period of time is uncommon, and without good infrastructure creates misery, not joy.

We’ve kept our outside faucets trickling for the past few days in an attempt to stave off broken pipes. Now we’re hearing that this is contributing to a water shortage. Hubby and

I have bundled up and cuddled up feeling like hibernation would be the best recourse. Someone just wake us up when this is over.

And we’ve been incredibly lucky. All around us are millions of people who lost power and therefore heat, people who lost water and had to deal with broken pipes. Ice has forced road closures, and worse, grocery store closures because they lack power.

Everyone is a little on edge. People worry about their families, worry about a lack of heat or broken pipes. And we all hope and cling to the promise of the coming thaw. Dark and harsh events tend to shine a light. This light is an interrogating one, illuminating what cannot be escaped when circumstances are not of your own doing. I’ve gotten a real education the past few days, reading about how the unique, private, electrical power grid was created to enrich its owners, but not to function for its citizens. The grid has never been winterized—even when Texas had a bad winter event similar to this one in 2011 and winterization was recommended. That winterization of power plants would have kept the heat on for millions of people.

Sunday is the turn around day. We’ll finally get out of freezing temps. It will be 45 degrees here. The ice and snow will melt and the roads will be drivable. Then we’ll settle back into dealing with things like when and where to get a COVID vaccine. We’ll dream about meeting up with family someplace other than on Zoom. And maybe we’ll get inspired to replace the greedy politicians in our state with those who understand the notion that governing is made up of the wise logistical choices of keeping its citizens safe.

The world continues to change at a rate that leaves me breathless. In viewing the damage, I try to hold onto to possibility that will push its way up like a young, green shoot. So much hope, hung upon a small green shoot, reaching upward from the cold ground.

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