A week of bitter cold, lost power, boiled water and hot Texas tempers over outages

Today’s the day!!

It’s the day we *finally* escape the subfreezing captivity that has gone on for what seems weeks — but has been only 10 days. The day we finally start to see some of the snow that has blanketed North Texas since Sunday begin to melt. The day we can look up and see nothing but blue instead of nothing but a grayish-white expanse hovering over us and feel bitter cold — both outside our homes and inside, thanks to the power outages that have tormented millions of families across Texas since Monday, leaving them suffering and sullen.

We had the lowest official low of 2 below in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Tuesday night, and other nights with wind chills well below that. We’ve had nights with lows in the single digits. We’ve had frozen, bursting pipes (luckily, not at our house) drenching residences, including at Edgemere, the senior community in North Dallas where Kay’s 86-year-old mother Caryl lives. We’ve had water main breaks cause numerous area cities to issue boil-water notices — including here in Arlington, where we’ve been boiling our water since Wednesday.

Last Sunday, the temperature and snow began falling in North Texas — and it didn’t stop all day.

There have certainly been other long stretches of bone-chilling cold in our state over recorded history. But to have Old Man Winter hold every part of Texas in his grasp for this long, squeezing so hard and causing so much devastation and distress? It’s a first in my lifetime, which will reach 60 years in nine short days.

This has been a week unlike any other, one that my family sure didn’t see coming, at least from the standpoint of the power snafu that Texas officials will be answering questions about — and hopefully *doing* something about — for months to come.

Many have seen their electricity yanked away, returned briefly and turned off again repeatedly all week. Others have gone days without power, lifesaving heat and internet capability, unable to charge their phones to stay in touch with the outside world or be aware of what’s going on.

Yes, the elements took down the electrical grid, but the state simply wasn’t prepared for a winter storm of this magnitude. And there are plenty of folks to blame for that, from legislators to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to the state’s Public Utility Commission.

We kept our outside and inside faucets dripping all week. Before we realized we should keep the outside spigots on, they’d already frozen, but we used a hair dryer to get them thawed.

When the Great Ice Storm of 2011 paralyzed the state and caused widespread power outages, Texas leaders had their chance to make fixes to ensure it didn’t happen again.

But instead of “winterizing” our power supplies and putting other protections in place, leaders decided, in effect, to put the lives of Texans on a back burner and focus on the partisan issues so commonplace in our state. And, if we shared a power grid with other states like the rest of the country, rather than exerting our independence as we do in so many other ways, this disaster could’ve been avoided.

As for our home, thankfully we were only without power for about 30 hours, from around 6 a.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday — and once it came back, it stayed on.

When it was clear our house was going to get frigid Monday night, Kay and I thought it best to look into a hotel reservation. But every place we called was booked, because everyone else had the same idea. We finally found a Days Inn across from AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) in North Arlington — on the other side of town from us — and booked a room.

I knew it wasn’t the best hotel because I’ve driven past it for years, but we thought it’d be worth any discomfort. So we piled our elderly dog, Maisy, into the Forester and headed out, leaving our cat, Teena, with plenty of food and water.

Once we got there, saw the rundown, dirty place, the long line and all the people with multiple dogs, it was clear we’d made a mistake. Standing in line to check in, I called Kay in the parking lot and we decided to cancel and take our chances back in the cold house. We picked up some snacks at QT and headed home, where Alex, who’s been taking guitar lessons since September, gave us a mini-concert by candlelight after “dinner.” It got down to 44 that night in the house, but the four of us were well-bundled, with enough blankets piled on to stay relatively toasty.

I thought this was a cool shot of the sun shining off an icy patch on our driveway this morning as the sun finally started melting everything away.

One thing I’ll say about this week is that the snow was beautiful. After all, we rarely get any around here. About 3 inches or so fell on our place Sunday, and then we got more Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Because it was so cold, it didn’t melt all week — and I can’t remember ever having snow on the ground this long since moving to D-FW in 1987 to work for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

As always, my colleagues at The Dallas Morning News have done superhuman work not only covering a huge ongoing news event under dangerous and difficult circumstances, but producing the newspaper both digitally and in print with extremely early deadlines. Unfortunately, many readers of our print edition have not received their papers because distributors haven’t been able to deliver them. The only day our DMN was delivered was Thursday, and we haven’t gotten mail all week and there’s been no trash or recycling pickup. With any luck, all should be back to normal tomorrow. 🤞

We hope all of you who have had to deal with the difficulties of this winter storm, whether you’re in Texas or elsewhere, are safe, warm and dry — and have power and drinkable water. And we sincerely hope better days are ahead, weather-wise, pandemic-wise and otherwise. Hugs to all! ❤

On the sixth day, the snow finally began to melt at the Christlieb home in southwest Arlington, TX.

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