J. Darris Mitchell
Ice... so much ice...
Not sure if you heard but Austin specifically and Texas at large were hit by a catastrophic ice storm last week. Watching friends, family and entire neighborhoods lose power, heat and water had a way of cutting into my efficiency.
I’m working hard this week though, and hoping to get back to editing The Crane and The Wolf this weekend.
I’ll let you know how it goes!
A winter storm the likes of which Texas has never seen descended on my home town of Austin, Texas last Friday.
It came in stages.
The first was a freeze and a bit of rain. The roads became slick. A harbinger of what was to come.
Next was freezing rain that coated all the leaves in sheets of ice that dripped into icicles. Let this alone be a reminder to my northern readers: how many times have you seen broad leafed plants covered in ice? Plants like my precious orange and olive trees do not exist on the north. Seeing them coated in ice (as I write this, they’re still coated) is… uncomfortable, to say the least.
Next came the snow. Six inches of it. More than enough to cover every road, every sidewalk, and the solar panels on my roof. If there are snowplows in Texas, I never saw one. If there is salt to be spread on the road, it was not spread in front of my house. For a day, no one drove, and when they did venture out, the snow did not melt and was instead compressed into sheets of ice, slick and treacherous.
Massive power outages came with the snow (Personally, I blame our sycophantic anti-regulation state republicans and governor, though the democratic mayor also performed exceptionally poorly during this crisis). Somehow, we kept power, so I went to work clearing the snow of my solar panels with a long pole wrapped in towels. By doing this, our panels were able to dump a small quantity of electricity into the grid. Thus, I did more to ease the burden on our state’s electric grid then either the mayor, the governor, or our coward of Senator, who literally fled the state for warmer weather.
More rain came after the snow, glazing the soft white powder with an eighth of an inch of hard ice.
Then came a final dusting of snow that took the strength out of my legs when I saw it. Fortunately it did not cover my mostly cleared solar panels though.
We lost water somewhere in there, which our mayor said was caused by the pipes bursting (obviously) as well as people dripping their pipes (even though those that properly dripped PREVENTED their pipes from bursting and spilling hundreds of gallons), and—get this—PEOPLE FILLING UP THEIR BATHTUBS TO HAVE DRINKING WATER. He also asked us to conserve electricity while in the background of his home he had neglected to turn off the FRICKING ACCENT LIGHT on a painting. I mean… come on! Still, wouldn’t have happened had our state actually regulated our power producers and push them to properly protect their pipes from popping.
Finally, a week later, the ice and snow melted, filling the air with the smell of rotten vegetation.
All and all, we were some of the lucky ones. We did not lose power like some of my friends who had no electricity for a week of freezing temperatures. Our pipes did not burst like at least three thousand other Austinites. Nor did we lose both power and water at once like my disabled godfather, who called me after three days of no water or electric to tell me his phone was running low and juice, and that he was getting ready to go to sleep in the cold and sent me into a panic. (We mounted a rescue operation, picked him up, warmed him up with a hot lunch and cup of tea, and charged his phone before he demanded to be returned to his frozen apartment).
It was, quite simply, a week of frozen hell.
But the ice is all melted now, the grass dirty with the leftover gunk from the snow. Water is back for most of the city, though pressure is low and we have to boil anything that might touch our mouths. We’re not supposed to use wash machines yet, and washing your car of the filth of the snow currently carries a $350 fine (which, considering there are still some in our city without water because we are trying to build up our reservoir, seems like a pretty god damn reasonable bit of regulation to me). A gasket in my toilet blew out, so I had to spend an afternoon replacing that, but it's fixed and no longer wasting water so all things considered, not a big deal.
All that’s left to deal with is our garden. I have already spent hours pruning back putrefying plants into slime and will spend hours more today trying to save as much as I can before bacteria invades their frost-bitten wounds. My aquaponic system froze, but somehow a couple of bluegills survived beneath the couple of inches of ice at the top. Still waiting to see if any of my mint comes back. Not holding my breath on that one, even though I want to, because of the stink.
Bird of the Week
Early on, when the snow was still pretty, a pair of fox sparrows came to visit my backyard. Their reddish wings, long red tails, brightened up the snow as they hopped around, scratching for seeds buried deep beneath. Stupid birds. There’s food in the feeder!