Texas Blizzard/Freeze 2021 – Revisiting Preparedness
Upcoming Online Classes Related to this Topic:
Almost two weeks ago I heard alarm calls from a few robins while I was walking under our big oak trees, on my way to feed the chickens and rabbits in the morning. That unmistakable “peet peet! tut tut tut!” that I miss so much from growing up along the Colorado front range. That might not seem like anything unusual to a lot of people many places in the USA, but here along the edge of the Texas Hill Country, it is very rare to see robins. Then, a few days later I was down at our 50-acre campus (aka Cibolo Gardens) and it was literally overrun with robins. I have never seen or heard anything like it in the 14 years we’ve been living here. Huge flocks of them had taken over where the cardinals normally are nesting. I wondered at the time if maybe this was a sign of some huge impending weather or natural disaster even… What caused these robins to fly down here in these numbers? My suspicion is that it was related to the cold front coming a few days later.
Whether connected to this event or not, we have just had the coldest days on record in San Antonio and Austin, along with extremely rare snowfall. Power outages are rampant all throughout both of these cities, water is off, pipes are frozen, all the highways and most roads have been closed or are practically unnavigable (remember, there is no infrastructure like snowplows here to deal with this type of weather), and people are of course still dealing with COVID health issues. While things can always be worse (and for some folks, there are far worse tales going on right now than just dealing with no power/heat/water and being sick), as always, we try to use every opportunity here to make anything positive happen that we can in a disaster or other negative turn of events.
Now that we are somewhat settled in (until I probably have to start repairing blown-up pipes), Suchil and I have done a bit of discussing the good and bad of how we did, bearing in mind that Suchil’s mom lives with us now and is elderly with severe respiratory and immune issues. It’s always a lot different to plan for and deal with disasters of any scale when you also must take care of young children or elderly. So how did we do? Here are my thoughts, as well as some herbal medicine that we may still need to turn to as I write this.
- Drinking water – I have to admit that I never anticipated my outdoor water storage being frozen solid for days!We got lazy and have always assumed our outdoor water supply from our rainwater cisterns, etc. would be our primary backup. Normally I like to keep at least 5 gallons of drinking water PER PERSON inside in storage, but since we have 1000’s of rainwater catchment outside, I got lazy and didn’t replace our indoor drinking water. We were fine with melting ice and catching roof melt until our outdoor storage thawed, but in the future (or if we lived in a colder climate) we need to not let our indoor water storage run out and consider shelter/insulation for at least the smaller outdoor storage barrels prior to a cold front like this.
We set up 3 stations in the living room with our water:
1. Initial straining through cheesecloth & strainer (toilet flushing)
2. (1) + Boiling (dish- and hand-washing)
3. (1) + (2) + run through a Brita filter.
I used a backpacker stove I bought last year during an REI sale, that is very compact and a perfect stove for my bugout bag. This was a perfect chance to test out the stove as well!
- Food – We made sure to stock up when the weather was coming. We always keep a good supply of food, between freezers, wet and dry canning. Aside from the nutrition we need, it’s important to make sure we have some kind of comfort food. For me this includes Cashews, high-protein RX Bars and chocolate. Food can be cooked using a campstove, the regular oven/stove (when power is on), the BBQ grill, over a campfire (e.g. chiminea). I will get into this subject in much more detail in another separate blog in the future, but having your own food independence during a disaster is easy to plan for on even the smallest budget. Our grocery stores were sold out of everything during the first few days they re-opened, and we had neighbors lining up to buy cartons of fresh eggs from us.
- Medicine – My elderly MIL’s severe asthma and respiratory condition, combined with all pharmacies being closed and our nearly being out of prednisone for an acute flare-up she was dealing with, meant looking to herbal medicine. This is not unusual in general, and in fact her pulmonologist has become a huge fan of herbal medicine as adjunctive therapy as he has seen it literally be a lifesaver for her over the past four years she has been living with us and under our care. However, there is no such thing as an “herbal prednisone” (see my podcast below for more on this) so I reached into my apothecary for six very good herbs to create a strong formula that supports respiratory tissue while also being strongly anti-inflammatory. These herbs include: Gumweed, Yerba Santa, Pleurisy root, Chameleon plant, Butterbur and Evening Primrose (leaf)
- Warmth – If you can, tighten up and decrease the size of your living space to make it easier to heat. Close curtains and/or tape plastic over windows that aren’t well insulated, push towels or other material up against the base of outdoor doors that have cold seeping in under the door, let common heating sources such as ovens and stoves (when power is working) be a part of the heat. More people, dogs and pets helps keep an area warmer. Pull out the blankets, sleeping bags, winter clothes and bundle up. If you need to take turns in a car (OUTSIDE, NOT IN THE GARAGE!) for heat, then make sure you are using that gas to also charge up phones, batteries, laptops and other devices. This is one reason to have a good cigarette-lighter inverter with an AC plug-in as well. Also, dogs make great foot-warmers!