When Houston Freezes

I have lived in Houston, Texas most of my life. I am a third generation Houstonian, sixth generation Texan. I am old enough to remember most of the big weather events since the 1970s. Usually these weather events involve a named hurricane or tropical storm coming through with a lot of wind, rain and hail. Named storms like Alicia, Ike and Rita come to mind. It often happens in the late summer, but occasionally a storm, like Ike, will come as late as October.  Harvey, our most recent, caused billions of dollars of damage and killed many people in the region. We Houstonians (and all of us who live in this region are Houstonians) are a hardy bunch though. We run out as soon as the flooding stops and start helping clear out all the debris inside and out. We pitch in and help the neighbors we know and the neighbors we don’t. It is just who we are.

What we are not used to though are winter storms. I often joke with my northern friends that we get winter for a full three or four days, but never all at once! When we do have freezing weather that impacts roads it is so rare that we are not equipped to clear those roads. Most of my neighbors across the region are not experienced in driving in icy conditions. Those who are experts likely have never done so surrounded by so many much less experienced drivers. We get snow “days” when other parts of the country would think nothing about the weather.

In 1973 when I was very small it snowed three different times with accumulations on the ground for at least a day. Once that year the snow stayed on the ground for three full days. We even had enough snow to build an honest to God snowman in our yard. I doubt that will happen again in my lifetime. (I pray it doesn’t anyway. We can drive to Colorado where snow people are meant to be born).

In 1989 on Christmas Eve we woke up to a light dusting of snow on the ground. It stayed below 25 degrees for 5 days. Most of the residents in Houston who have water pipes above ground went for days without running water. Our family had no water in my neighborhood for 5 days. Even our gym had none. Yes, I went that long without showering myself or my children! Honestly, it has been so long ago that I am not sure how we handled it for so many days. I do remember vividly we ate Christmas dinner on paper plates. My mom was gloriously happy to have her first ever white Christmas despite the use of paper products in lieu of china.

I previously reminisced about how much my mom loved the cold weather and would actually put sprinklers in the tree to create a winter wonderland when it got cold enough to do that. It is a glorious and absurdly ridiculous memory.

On Monday afternoon we entered winter storm hell. The experience has been very similar to 1989, but my mom was not here to enjoy it. In addition to frozen water pipes and resulting low water pressure we are experiencing some significant power issues across the region and the state, but there are plenty of people writing about that. My mom had a wicked sense of humor so she is probably laughing at me since I am not particularly reveling in this mess. It has been a tough few days for my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Many have busted water pipes and damaged homes. The grocery stores are running short of supplies. No power means no heat. It is exhausting and stressful. Yet, when I think about my mom I smile. She would likely have used the last of the city’s water pressure to create the most awesome winter wonderland ever! Stay warm and safe, my friends! #SnowDay2021

To My Northern Friends: Your weather is in my front yard drunk. Can you please come get it?

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