80+ hours. I can’t remember the last time I have been without power at subzero temperature for this long.
Austin (and Texas) just went through a disaster. A winter storm devoured the city, turning it into a frozen world for a week. On Monday, January 15, 2021, temperature dropped below -10°C, coldest over the past century. Snow was thick enough to sink your entire boots in. While such cold weather is nothing special in northern states like Michigan, it is nothing the Texans have ever seen. The electricity infrastructures in Texas were absolutely unprepared for such extreme condition, leaving millions of people out of power throughout the week.
Unfortunately, I am one of the witnesses and sufferers in this historic event. To make things worse, both of the kitchen stove and hot water in my apartment rely on electricity, so we are out of every possible source of energy.
Long story short, we survived. And here is how.
First of all, I am thankful to have been staying with my girlfriend this year. The support and encouragement we provide to each other is the most important reason that we stayed positive and endured this hardship. It is true that a long-term relationship compounds its value over time and can be your lifesaver in unexpected events.
Second of all, getting helps from our neighbors was the silver lining during the week. After a day without power and heat, I started asking around for help on my phone. Eventually, I was connected to a friend’s friend who lived nearby and was fortunate enough to still have power in their building. It was also important that we could just walk there because you don’t want to drive on icy roads in such weather. So from Wednesday on, we could have something hot to eat for lunch and bring some hot water home. I sent food pictures to my family far away so that they knew I was doing fine.
Preparation also made a difference. We stocked up some food before the week because we paid attention to the weather forecast. This turned out to be one of our best decisions because later in the week we didn’t have to stand in the cold in long lines outside of HEB. Ironically, the freezing temperature helped preserve our food during the week-long power outage.
Daily activities became simple. We went to bed before 9 PM because there is nothing much you can do in a cold dark night. We had more than 12 hours of sleep every day to save energy and stay warm. During the day, when we were not busy surviving, we spent most of our time reading which distracted us from the frigid reality. I also did exercises and lifted weights at home, which I think is an acceptable compromise for my 365-day challenge since it was unsafe to be running outside.
The weather warmed up towards the weekend, finally above freezing on Friday. Our building got its electricity back on Friday afternoon and it had been more than 80 hours since we lost power.
Looking back, I think it is equally important to survive both the physical and mental challenges. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were enduring all this all by myself and had no one to talk to. Staying calm and positive during a hard time can make a huge difference. Once you have hope, the physical challenges look easier to defeat. I wish everybody who suffered the power outage during this brutal week had found someone they can reach out to.
As the driving condition was improved, we went to stay at our friends’ house during the weekend. Because of COVID, it’s been a long time since we could spend a day or two with people we care about. I feel grateful that a harsh situation like this became the best opportunity to bond again.