The text that you read below does not overwhelm the scale of Hollywood disaster films, it is a description of what has been happening in Texas since Friday last week. Someone was lucky to live in a house where there was electricity, but there was none on the next street. Someone froze in their homes, someone was a little more fortunate. But the abnormal weather, temperatures of minus 11-12 degrees during the day and up to minus 20 degrees at night, one day turned the world of ordinary people. Sitting warm, it is good to argue that people in Texas have not seen real Siberian frosts, and such a temperature is nonsense. But the question is not the temperature, but the fact that this state is not adapted to such weather conditions, the houses are built by different standards. To get a feel for what it was like to be in Texas these days and to be a well-to-do person with an upper middle income, read the text below. This is not a literal translation, the text is compiled from several conversations over the previous two days. To create a complete picture, individual moments are supplemented, after all, this is not an interview or direct speech, where every moment is important. My task was simpler than ever – to convey the mood and feelings of a person in a difficult situation. And nothing else.
We were frightened by the weather and the fact that power outages were possible, a cold front was approaching the country. The presenter threw up his hands on the screen and showed how it would snow diagonally across the country, it looked beautiful and not at all scary. The weather did turn bad, but nothing unusual in the sky over Austin was visible. We left a little earlier than usual, so as not to get stuck on the highway, we planned to drop into the supermarket and buy groceries. My husband picked me up from work, on the way we argued about where to stay, go to the central market or stop at Whole Foods, we chose the second option. No one received any warnings to buy food, to stock up on water and other supplies, life went on as usual. Looking back, I can say that already at that moment it was necessary to act in the same way as other people, to buy everything that was possible. I remembered how some elderly man stuffed a cart with candles, he muttered that the burners had been taken apart and this is better than nothing. We laughed and joked about what kind of alarmists are around and how afraid they are of some kind of snow. There was no panic, it didn’t suck in the stomach. Everything was absolutely normal.
We left groceries in the trunk, drove into Starbucks on the way and grabbed coffee, anyway, you will have to stand on the highway at the exit. We chatted, discussed some TV series, my mother called and scared that you need to be ready for anything, in some program on CNBC they said that problems are possible in our state. The husband was outraged that as soon as the mother got carried away with the stock market, she began to tell us all her discoveries and constantly calls us when we are on the road, as if she feels this moment. God gave us signs, but we stubbornly stuck to our routine.
When we got home, the weather turned bad: chilly wind, drizzling, the temperature was just below zero. We were going to go out for a walk on the weekend, but the forecast was such that we decided to do household chores, go to a local restaurant and a gym. On Saturday it seemed that life was getting better, the sun came out, the street was not so chilly, and we even walked to the restaurant and back. But on Sunday it got colder and we woke up in a cold house. It was snowing all night, a strong wind, the house was cold, it was 18 degrees in the bedroom, no more. I didn’t want to get out of bed, my husband, jumping up from the cold, ran away and turned all the batteries to the maximum. It didn’t get any warmer, they decided that they needed to buy a heater, plans for Sunday formed by themselves. We traveled around all the shops in the neighborhood, there were no heaters, gas burners – nothing that gives you warmth. At the sports store, people bought thermal underwear, and my husband was surprised that they were open on weekends. The seller said that the store made weekly sales, all the warm jackets, underwear, hiking bags for sleeping were sold, someone was buying tents. We continued to laugh, my husband bought fire pills – just for the future.
We went home, had dinner, watched a movie on Netflix, went to bed. We woke up from the fact that the house began to creak in the middle of the night, the sound was unpleasant and accompanied by rhythmic beats, the shutters on the first floor were not fixed. It was very cold, I wrapped myself in everything I had, slept in my pajamas, socks, put on a warm sweater, and threw two blankets on top. My husband laughed and joked at me.
In the morning we had to go to work, usually my husband leaves for Austin first, I have to inspect an office on the other side of the county at the beginning of the week, so we each leave in our own car. We had breakfast, my husband got into a Tesla and drove off. I chose warmer clothes, I could not figure out what to do best. At that moment, he called me and told me not to go anywhere, there is a traffic jam on the highway, several accidents, an overturned truck – this is for a long time. I talked to my boss, he was also stuck somewhere in the other end of Travis, we decided that we would wait until the situation returned to normal, canceled the meetings. It was not yet eleven when the lights went out for the first time. I was sitting at the computer and at first did not understand what was happening, the Internet was gone. The lamp by the bed also went out. Usually the lights turn off when the wind blows down the lines, this was a couple of years ago, and everything was fixed in a few hours. But here everything looked different, the light was returned in ten to fifteen minutes. But before lunch, it turned off several more times, it so happened that the lamps flickered as if they did not have enough power.
I talked with my mother on the land line, home phone. At some point, the sound simply disappeared, the connection was cut off. I called her back on her cell, at that moment the light disappeared. She calmed her mother down, called her husband and asked him to buy fish for the evening. At that moment my phone also stopped, there was no connection.
Usually at this time it is light outside the window, but it was gloomy. It’s cold, the house got very cold overnight, I turned on the stove in the kitchen to keep warm. She took out lanterns and candles and prepared for a romantic dinner, if the light was not given until evening. My work is tied to the Internet, without it nothing can be done, neither log in, nor upload files. Therefore, I took out a book that I could not finish reading since my summer vacation, and continued reading by candlelight.
Our area is usually very quiet, two-storey houses, all the neighbors know each other. Nancy lives two houses away from me, a sweet old woman in her late eighties who loves to pester me with questions when you’re jogging or carrying bags out of the car. Knows how to choose the moment. But for her Thanksgiving cooking, all of that can be forgiven. This time she had a real case, a wire cut down the street, and she tried to call 311, but the phone didn’t work. It was not possible to get through, went out into the street. Accidentally saw the car of doctors, they promised to transmit about the wire by radio and advised to go home, since there is no electricity anywhere around. Keep warm, do not lose heat, otherwise we will have to come to you! Encouraging, you will not say anything.
She waited for her husband until late at night, there was no connection, he never returned from Austin. I wrote a dozen messages in the hope that he will read them when the connection appears. In the house, the temperature dropped to some terrible level, a tent would be useful in the bedroom, my blankets were no longer enough. From blankets, rugs collected around the house, I created a nest for myself, into which I crawled in clothes. She flicked the switch in vain, there was no light.
The socket worked, it was warm inside. As in childhood, I read a book with a flashlight, listened to the sounds from the street. The wind has calmed down, the snow seems to have stopped falling. In the morning it turned out that the phone had caught the network, although there was no light. My messages to my husband and messages from him – all mixed up in one pile. In his office building, the lights went out earlier than mine. He could not charge the car and stayed at the hotel until everything was resolved. I returned only in the evening, when I burned all the gas in the cylinder, since the kitchen remained the only place where you could live or, more correctly, survive in my house. In the bedroom, the temperature dropped to 8 degrees, in the kitchen it stayed about 15 degrees, but only near the stove. You step back a couple of steps, and immediately the cold sneaks under all layers of clothing.
Closer to noon, a car drove down the street from the sheriff’s office, went into houses, asked how things were going. They promised that the connection would appear during the day, but did not say when the electricity would be available. There are breakdowns everywhere, accidents on the roads. They asked not to warm up in the car, on the next street someone was warming himself in the garage, neighbors found them by the rumble of the engine, the mother and child suffocated. It sounds awful, but I didn’t even have a thought that you can bask in the car, an idea in case of emergency. They say that perhaps you need to go to Austin, in the “Archer” it seems there are even places. But I am afraid that my husband will return, but I am not.
I can’t read, it’s cold, I want to sleep, but because of the cold it’s impossible. It seems warmer in the refrigerator than in the house. In the evening my husband arrives, we have a quick dinner with hastily warmed food, chatting merrily. In the backyard, he commits the worst crime possible – we make a fire and sit almost on fire. Warmth is happiness.
The nest moves to the first floor, it doesn’t blow out like that. You can live together, it’s not so cold and more fun. At night, the network appears again, they send a message that there is no need to call 911 if nothing threatens our life. A lot of people really need help. Calling 911 is not possible even if something happens. The husband says that it’s more fun in Austin, the lights are turned off, but he quickly returns.
At the nest, we had a family council, stay in the house, or go to Austin, perhaps San Antonio. You need to understand where there is light, where you can survive this local apocalypse. I have never been in a combat zone, but this is how I imagined it – there are no basic amenities, nothing works. We go to the toilet and wash it off with water, which thaws in the kitchen from the snow collected in the yard. Little snow! There was only one gas cylinder left, then it was not clear what to do, not even to melt the water.
There is not much fuel in the tank of my car, about half. We may not be able to refuel on the road, it is not clear what awaits us there. The familiar world has narrowed down to our street and it’s very cold. We have a lot of food, but when the gas runs out, they will have to be cooked over the fire. We jokingly discuss that it is possible to disassemble the fence and then we have enough of these “firewood” for a week. I pray constantly, sometimes cry, it seems that my husband is trying to be strong, but he is also very worried.
We stay for one more day, our neighbor found a gas station where he could get hold of gas and fuel, he shared one bottle with us. Cellular communication appeared, we sit in the kitchen and read what is happening around. My phone is stuck in my MacBook as it has run out of battery these days. I hardly need a computer, but a phone is important. I read aloud the survival guide, my husband laughs and says that we have already lived through these stages. They advise to close all doors tightly, leave high floors, and if the electricity is on, then do not turn the heating to the maximum. If electricity worked, but it is not! The house is frozen through and through, but there is clearly more than one trouble ahead of us. My husband went to the second floor for batteries to the lamp, in the bathroom he looked into the toilet, it was covered with cracks. There is ice inside, it’s scary to think what’s in the pipes. I read tips on the local forum, even if I were smarter, it was impossible to save our pipes without light. They cut off the water, anyway it’s not there. Through three streets, drinking water is distributed, four small bottles in one hand. We went there by car, the queue stretched for several miles. We still have water, but we need to make supplies. They didn’t even try to poke their heads into the grocery store, the queue stretches for 3-4 miles, people stand on the street. The lucky ones who come out with cardboard bags say that there is nothing to buy, the shelves are empty.
New day and after breakfast we were given electricity! The house comes to life, but there is no water in the taps, apparently, it is frozen. Later we find out that the problem is in the pressure, the water station does not cope, in the emergency messages there is a reminder that you need to boil the water, since it is not purified. Civilization is collapsing before our eyes.
We were lucky, the house withstood subzero temperatures, the losses are not so great. The pipes of the neighbors burst, the ceiling no longer exists, instead of it there are some sticks, everything is flooded with water. The house is cold, they are afraid that the water conducts electricity and they can be killed.
The weather begins to improve, we see our neighbors, as if life had returned with electricity. Mary says that she went to Austin, found there a cafe where people were sitting. They almost fought for sockets to charge their phones and computers. There was no food, only drinks and only in limited quantities, then they ran out. The owners left the cafe open so people could charge their devices. There are a lot of such stories, each with its own story of survival without light. Someone tells the horrors of people frozen to death in their own homes, suffocated in cars. I think that I could have suffocated in the kitchen, they say that it is dangerous. Twitches.
The phone works, after talking with my mother and other relatives I try to call the insurance company. Mission impracticable, but I find the secretary’s phone and call her directly. In a very tired voice, she insists that I need to photograph the damage, and after the governor cancels the emergency, they can do something. But don’t count on it happening earlier than a month later. She puts us on some kind of list, we are 864th on it. The husband is depressed and believes that the insurance company will not be able to compensate us for anything, and it is not worth waiting for money from the state in the required amount, they will definitely not cover our expenses. We are lucky, many neighbors are unlucky.
Within a week, I realized that my house, which had always been my fortress, had turned into an ice trap. Without communication, without basic amenities and, most importantly, without information about what will happen next. I only pray that this experience will never be repeated in my life, once is enough. In the local shop, I can hardly restrain myself so as not to buy everything I see, just to have it all at home.
A Korean restaurant opened, we feasted and ate as if we had long forgotten what the right food was. Almost a week, but the feeling that all the good things remained in the past life. I look at familiar things and do not understand what to do now, how to live with them, what is important and what is not. I don’t read our street page on Facebook, it makes me sick and worse. People share how they warmed themselves with candles that were placed in clay pots. It’s impossible to read, the cold penetrates to the bone like a memory. The coldest temperature at night was minus 20 degrees. The weather forecast says another ice storm is coming to our area. We filled the car, packed our things and are going to leave for the city, we will stay at the hotel. God, thanks for my family’s money for this.
PS I must admit that the text above is composed of two stories, they were told by two different people. Initially, he wrote them separately, in many ways they repeated each other, although people live at a distance of a hundred miles from each other. It turned out not very interesting, since many moments were repeated, they were similar. The idea to combine similar things led to the emergence of this text. Someone stands up for the purity of the genre, so that everything written is true from the first to the last word, but I wanted to convey the mood that I heard in these conversations. The same approach is practiced by most of the writers of business books, the dialogues that are given in them, alas, do not correspond to reality, this is a kind of approximation to reality, the same technique is used here. Whether you like it or not, I don’t know. But I hope that I succeeded in keeping the mood of the people and what they were going through. And lastly, I want to wish you that you never find yourself in such situations.
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