The San Antonio Snowdeo

You get used to ignoring the weather reports in San Antonio, especially if you have lived in other parts of the country- the weather here is pretty stable, hot during the summer, colder and rainy during the winter months, and the rest of it just gorgeous af. You keep an ear out for hurricanes, but they tend to have a problem with Houston and hit the larger city repeatedly, with gusto.

What I’m saying is, that even up to Sunday morning the storm crept up on me. I heard we were going to get “weather” on Saturday, but dismissed it with the experience born of the past 12 years living here. Foolish me.

Sunday, Feb 14th, “Realization”

Valentine’s Day! Was planning on doing Uber Eats a bit, making about $50 bucks or so over 1, 2 hours. Woke up to a weather alert on my phone – apparently this storm I dismissed on Saturday was a real thing and that the evening was going to be, as far as making money is concerned, ruined. And, I’m sitting there, reading the weather forecasts when Uber sends out two notifications of their own:

  1. A Valentine’s advertisement for a service called “Uber Connect”, the first time I had ever seen them advertise this service. “Deliver your gifts via Uber Connect”, or some such shit.
  2. Earn extra money by delivering on V-Day!

And I have no idea why, but I turned on the driver app, set it to that “Connect” only… and made $200 over the next 3 hours delivering space heaters from one house to another, people tipping large, etc. And it was only space heaters – 4 packages, 4 space heaters.

All of them electric.

I quit by early Sunday afternoon, filled the car with gas, returned home and watched the developments. I wrapped the outside pipes with blankets (the precipitation had started by then), but did not do much inside, as the electricity was still on and there

Monday, Feb 15th, “Yay, A Snow Day!”

Woke up a few times as the rolling blackouts began around 3am, my subconscious pinging onto the silence. But, early in the day, the blackouts were OK… 15 on, 15 off… so you could sneak loads of laundry, if needed, cook something in the air fryer, more. Also saw that Biden had already signed a disaster declaration for TX, which I was surprised to see, given that the situation didn’t appear that bad.

I couldn’t work, doing sales via phone during the COVID area, not with my computer taking every quarter-hour off. So… snow day!

Took Luna, my dog, out to get some awesome pictures of her glossy black coat in the fur, maybe make some cute viral videos of my dog in the snow – she’s a collie mix with a heavy coat, I’m sure she’ll love it like all those dogs I’m seeing on Twitter, right? Finally, Luna’s chance to gain some clout!

Nope. Luna did NOT like the snow! Quickly laid down and refused to frolic, looking about her, aghast, wondering what had befallen the world, the looks given me vaguely accusatory:

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We retreated to the house, where the blackouts got worse, eventually 3 minutes on, 30 off, really worthless stuff like that, which is when the rage started. I texted my councilman, saying that CPS Energy (CPS, our power utility) wasn’t doing anyone any favors and if they didn’t have the power, they’d do better to shut it down. Which they did by 7:30pm, with a final, 15-second, burst of power.

It was during this time that I started taking assessments. Turned the water on, not “dripping”, like people say, but actually “running”, like it’s supposed to be done, for all interior faucets (Fortunately, the main water pipe runs through the interior of the house, not the side (like in many TX homes), so I was saved bursting.) This wasn’t my first “power out for a while due to ice” situation, so I put the freezer food outside (where the temp was 28-degrees F) and the fridge food in the garage (38F). I turned on the gas fireplace (not to stop until Friday morning) and placed Luna’s bed near it.

Still thinking the power might be restored, I went to bed around 8pm – it was dark, cold, and hopefully the power may be on when I woke up.

Tuesday, Feb 16th, “We’re in trouble.”

Woke up shivering Tuesday morning, around 3:45. Ice cold, the comforter I have not being suited to Nome, Alaska temperatures. Laura, my ex-wife, was already out in the living room, adding logs to the fire. She didn’t know that I had additional wood in the garage, even so, she went on a hunt for extra wood that day, securing two shipments (one @ Home Depot, the other delivered to us), getting enough to get us through the crisis.

I then made the decision to shut down most of the house, with Laura and I taking alternate turns tending to Luna and staying the night. We got blankets, sheets, anything we could which could be draped over the windows in my house:

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I then moved furniture and boxes to block off the back half of the house, including my and Sophia’s (daughter, who is in NYC at the time) room. Given the only source of heat was the fireplace, preventing the cold from seeping through the windows and minimizing the space the fireplace needed to heat was paramount:

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Ourselves taken care of, we then looked to see what we could do for others. Laura is Volunteer Coordinator at the San Antonio Food Bank, so she worked to help with food and water security throughout the city. I kept it more local, walking door-to-door, hitting about 40 homes, doing wellness checks on the neighbors. I had a list of cold-weather tips I would read out to them, asked if they needed any official assistance (food, medical… none of them did), and in the way of the modern world, the one thing they needed most, especially the elderly?

They needed their phones charged.

Taking down names and addresses, I spent a few hours in my car, driving to different homes and using my car to charge their cell phones. Many of the elderly people didn’t have cars (or don’t want to sit in a 12-degree car interior while it warms up), and they were frantic because they couldn’t reach their grown children. I got their phones, turned them off, and sat in my car while they charged to 50-75%, handing them back when done so they could call their kids. Luna is in the car with me, bored but warm.

By this time, Laura had found some firewood at Home Depot – they were cutting untreated lumber and selling it in 15-pound blocks, so she got 2. I helped her unload, then went and continued my rounds. I also got hungry, and cooked myself some sausage and eggs in the fireplace:

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Not every place was without power, and Laura and I knew people where we could stay, so we could rotate being at the house, making sure Luna is fine (to be frank, I didn’t want to sleep in the same room as Laura, and I assume the feeling is mutual). Fortunately, the hot water was still on – the gas was flowing and my HWH is not hooked up to the power grid, using some sort of internal battery spark or whatever. Ask my plumber: all I know is that hot water, including showers, were available for me throughout this disaster.

Cathy had power – she lives near the FBI building or something and her grid remained (comparably) rock solid since all this began. I went over to her place Tuesday afternoon, helped her winterize a bit (from Indiana, this isn’t her first Snowdeo either, but, to her point, Indiana doesn’t lose power.) She had asked a patrol officer to see about her mother, who lived in a rural part of the state, but the guy had run off the road and never reached her. Fortunately, her mother got power early Tuesday morning and wasn’t in any real danger for the remaining 3 days of this disaster.

Cathy and I went driving around – most stores and restaurants were closed due to lack of power, however, Cathy also lives on the same grid as Walmart, so Walmart had power and was open… but there was a line to get it. So we went to Target, they had power AND no line to enter, and we went in and bought some staples – peanut butter, cereal (I had a lot of milk and figured the Lucky Charms turns the milk into food), dog food, stuff like that. We remarked on the long lines of cars at the few drive through restaurants still open, and we went back to her place to effectively bundle up and wait out the night.

Wednesday, Feb 17th, “Rush to Cancun”

Woke up, Cathy still had power, and Laura had texted me there was a delivery of wood coming. Went home to check on Luna and take her out, wood had already arrived. Fed dog, we went to the greenspace where the #1 clock was reset, but nothing on #2, meaning the last verified time she took a shit was Sunday. Great. (Laura, very into exercise, walked Luna throughout this as well and can verify as to the stress-related constipation. This wasn’t easy on the dog, either.)

I check on my neighbors w/ cell phone issues, only had to charge 1. The day was above freezing, up to 42 degrees F or so, but the forecast called for another 2-day plunge into sub-freezing temps, with more precipitation. However, San Antonio being SA, most of the snow which had covered the ground the day before was largely gone from all sun-exposed areas by Wednesday’s end. It seemed over to a lot of people, excepting the power, of course.

While I’m tending to Luna, I get the news from Cathy – Rush Limbaugh had died.

I head back to Cathy’s heated house, laptop in hand. Banged out 1,300 words on Rush and his death in about an hour, and then posted it here.

Laura was staying at her friends who had power, so I had Luna/house duty, so I left Cathy’s around 7pm and came home, getting my “bed” ready for the night:

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And it was here, my 3rd day without power, sleeping on my (short) couch in front of my fireplace, using my car to charge my neighbors phones, that I find out that Ted Cruz may have flown to Cancun, Mexico, fleeing the state.

Thursday, Feb 18th, “Misery”

Looking back at it, most agreed that Thursday was the worst day. Monday was fun, Tuesday was exciting/worrisome, Wednesday saw some improvement… but then Thursday came, and it was sheer misery.

Cathy lost power early Thursday morning, probably about the same time I was finally able to sleep – 2am. One of our State’s US Senators was flying to Cancun, after his party spent the week lying about the causes of the issue, and it started snowing/sleeting again around 8am… and didn’t stop for 10, 12 hours, the temperature never getting above 28F.

The birds were screaming. I’ll always remember that. 3 days, no water, no insects, freezing temperatures, they were as loud as I had ever heard. Muttering to myself for my idiocy, I went to the bird bath, worked on getting the block of ice out, and then filled it with very warm water, so the birds would have about 1, 3 hours of drinkable water. I refilled it later that day, after it had frozen again.

Luna and I spent much of the morning in the car, charging phones and doing social media. I had better phone connectivity outside the house anyway, so the two of us spent time in the car when I wanted to post on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. Pathetic, but true. I blame Ted Cruz.

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Around 130pm, still snowing, I had enough of the boredom, and… putting the dog back in the house, just in case… left the house and drove around. The main roads were pretty drivable – enough cars had driven over them already so they were heated/slushed up pretty good, and I drove around my part, seeing where power was on (stop lights) and where it was not.

I eventually make it about 3 miles north and notice a long-line of cars at Raising Cane’s. What the hell, I thought, as I wove to the back of the line. I call Laura (no answer). I call a couple of friends of mine in the neighborhood – “At Cane’s, what do you want?” I didn’t call Cathy, wanting to surprise her. And I ordered about $40 worth of chicken fingers, cole slaw, and Texas toast, taking Cathy’s hers first, then Laura’s, then my friends, where we sat and talked for an hour or so, enjoying the taste of our sputtering civilization.

I went back home, made sure Luna was OK. Laura was going to be there as she was insistent on going to work the next day, hell or high water, and wanted a hot shower in the morning, so I went to Cathy’s that evening, where we worked on the puzzle we began on Tuesday before going to sleep.

Friday, Feb 19th, “… and, it’s over. Just like that.”

Sometime Friday am, wake up, notice the ceiling fan is running, Cathy mutters “power is back on” and we fall back asleep. Finally getting out of bed around 7ish, I tell her to keep her taps running until noon, when it was predicted it would get above freezing for good. I went home to check on Luna and to see if our power was on: It was, but my grid was subject to blackouts (rolling? Who knows) for another 3, 4 hours, so I texted my boss an update – I may be back this afternoon!

I wasn’t, though. I decided to just get the house completely back together, inspect it for insurance claims, run the pipes and the appliances to make sure they weren’t damaged, filed an insurance claim for shed damage (weight of snow collapsed the roof), and effectively put everything… as much as I could… back together, in a pre-Snowdeo state, running no fewer than 7 loads of laundry. And, by 5 pm, the disaster was over, the power back on… restaurants still closed, but they were definitely going to be open tomorrow. And why not? The forecast has us going back to the 70s within 2 days, where now, as I type this (Sunday, Feb 20th), the neighborhood now looks like:

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When it looked like this, just two days earlier:

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And it was over, just like that. The power came on, the restaurants and stores started reopening, and the snow went away, even in the shaded areas. It was 73F and a typical San Antonio late February day today, and Luna eventually had her first verified #2 in five days. Good girl!

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I am in awe of your initiative and just plain good-heartedness. Of all the stories of neighbors helping neighbors, yours is the most poignant. Thank you for being you.

Glad you had Luna and Luna had you. My son just moved to San Antonio last spring. He told his brother that he was sleeping with his dog Mia and darn glad of the shared warmth. Mia is a rescue dog about Luna’s size and she lived her first two years here in Nebraska so bathroom duty out in the snow doesnt bother her but she has gotten it down to a 30 second chore.