It is 8:30 am on Wednesday, day 3 of a 6-day cold spell across Texas. We lost power around 2 am Monday and have been relying on our fireplace, camping gear, and friends for warmth. I once laughed at the fact, 90% of homes in Houston had fireplaces. Thank goodness we bought one of those homes, as the fireplace is keeping our living room a toasty 48 deg F!
In addition to losing power, our water has stopped flowing, and the technique of dripping faucets is no longer available to prevent frozen pipes. As a result, we shut our main waterline off and are waiting until the warmth of Saturday to test for damage. We know the possibility of frozen pipes is all too likely, as friends without a main shut off have experienced caved in ceilings and inches of water in their homes.
In Houston, Texas water lines enter the home above ground and the lines continue through the attic. In our home’s case, they are above the insulation in the attic as well. We are forced to rely on temporary insulation outside the house (if you have installed it – see photo) and heat loss from the furnace and through the walls when inside the house. A design that works in a warm south Texas, but not in freezing weather and definitely not in freezing weather without an internal heat source. Fireplaces and natural gas stoves have been heating our homes, with these comes hope against frozen pipes.
As for my children’s experience, Nora (6), Isaac (4), and Marcus (4), view the cold weather, fire, and blackouts similar to a 6-day camping adventure. For instance, as I type with frozen fingers, they are running across the living room in front of the fire. The couches are spread apart so we can sleep on the floor and the space has since transformed into a gymnasium. They have mastered 180 jump spins and are now working on leap frogs that transition into flying summersaults.
I am blessed with a hardworking and practical wife who has shut off our main water supply, adjusted the water heaters down to pilot only, and is currently cleaning up the ashes from our indoor camping adventures. Stoking the fire every hour for two nights straight has given me even more appreciation for moms up with newborns during the night. I’ve also found myself thanking my wife again for allowing me to sleep while our three youngsters were babies.
Severance, To Be Determined
On a different note, I have worked as an upstream oil and gas engineer for the past 13 years and recently volunteered for severance. This was supposed to be the week I’d find out if it was accepted. Yesterday I missed a call from human resources while being without power, water, and phone service. Although it looks like I will receive severance, I can still call my brilliant, caring, and hardworking colleagues at ConocoPhillips co-workers for at least a few more days.
The beginnings of financial independence have been unique, and we are thankful for friends, fireplaces, and kids full of adventure. As I sign off to do another round of damage control, my thoughts and prayers are with those who’s somber reality is not so lucky, especially those depending on electricity for oxygen and other necessities of life. For their sake I hope the electricity comes back sooner rather than later and that from this experience, our southern community will learn from our northern neighbors in how to prevent these catastrophes in the future. The cold weather that is causing a state of emergency in Texas, would be an ordinary school day in my hometown of Putnam, Illinois.
*As of publishing time, Thursday 2/18/2021 we have regained power, still working on water.
*Temperature of the Globe photo courtesy of Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model on February 15