‘Unprecedented’ is a word that was thrown around quite a bit in 2020. Big things have happened in recency: a global pandemic, a historic national election, public reckoning of systematic racism, and mass unemployment – just to name a few. With one challenge after a next, many of us are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety and even numbness when thinking about the uncertain future. ‘Expect the unexpected’ is the new normal.
So when Texans were told in early February that a severe winter storm was headed our way, most of us didn’t blink. We had been delivered a joyous snow day just a month prior where Austinites celebrated with hill sledding at Zilker Park and hot chocolate bombs from Mozart’s on the River.
Frozen chaos was the farthest thing from our sunshine-spoiled minds.
After living in San Antonio and Austin for nearly 8 years – I considered myself accustomed to a fickle, almost hilarious pattern of weather that somehow never matched predications. My phone’s weather app would predict downpour – nary a droplet would be seen all day. A northern cold front would burn off to 80 degrees by noon. As the saying goes: “If you don’t like the Texas weather – just wait 10 minutes.”
Sadly, this torrential storm hit our communities hard. Millions of homes went without power and water for days, travel was dangerous if not impossible, and emergency services were stretched to a breaking point. Despite all this, Texans took cover and came together. We learned winter home maintenance overnight, dug into our closets and pantries, and shared resources and shelter with our neighbors and community.
My household was incredibly lucky and privileged in many ways. Firstly, we prepared our apartment with filtered water on-hand well before we found the city reservoirs were in danger. We also managed to be some of the first one hundred people to shop our local grocery upon its reopening – while others trekked miles and waited hours. When our apartment no longer became livable, we had operable vehicles to transport ourselves to the homes of family members with more stable power. For these things, I am very grateful and entirely aware that this was not the reality for many others.
Now being on the other side of Snowpocalypse 2021 and finally settling back into work and life, I’ve taken the time to reflect on tools that were crucial to getting us through this dark and uncertain week.
1. External battery
This is not your average power pack. I bought a smaller version of this portable power station specifically for my work laptop charger while on-the-go. After this experience, you can bet I’m all-in on the larger model with two 110 volt AC outlets and three USB ports. It also is solar charging capability and is more than enough to keep multiple emergency devices charged and even use some appliances.
2. Headlamp flashlight
When we lost power on the third floor of our apartment building, I was not prepared for how pitch black dark the internal hallways would be. Even taking my dog out in the middle of the day required a flashlight to navigate icy floors in the darkness. These bright LED headlamps are USB rechargeable and long-lasting. Most importantly, they allow you to move hands-free and prevent further injury.
3. Leave-on cleanser & baby wipes (A LOT)
When you can’t shower for 5 days in a row, you have to get crafty. Although your first instinct may be to reach for antibacterial wipes – these are FAR too harsh for your skin that is already experiencing dry winter climate. A great hack however is to apply this leave-on cleanser (contains moisturizing aloe vera + pro vitamin B5) to baby wipes to give your pits a much needed scrub until you finally shower. No harsh alcohol smell ~ I cannot swear enough by this stuff!
4. Mini camping stove
Even if you aren’t an outdoorsy person, this mini camping stove kit was a quick fix that helped us weather the cold mornings. This sturdy adjustable burner attachment fits most camping propane tanks and the pot heats water really quickly. Hot coffee and small egg scrambles really helped feed us as we powered through.
NOTE: Never use an open propane gas stove indoors – for outdoor use ONLY!
5. Dolly cart
Words of the wise: SAVE YOUR BACK! This flatform folding platform cart has been a transformative everyday hack. Essential for large packages and heavy groceries – but especially when transporting water & essentials. If you find yourself in any crisis and need to move FAST – this cart is the answer.
6. Water dispenser
What had originally served us as a punch tank for parties and gatherings (and cleaned METICULOUSLY afterwards), became one of our greatest assets to storing water when the lines were cut mid-week.
Before warnings about water contamination had emerged, we spent an evening filling this 3 gallon water dispenser with a Britta filter. Best decision ever.
In addition to preparedness, knowledge is the greatest tool to surviving a catastrophic weather event like this. It is crucial that we listen to our community’s safety advisories, heed warnings from emergency services and demand updates & resources from local government leadership. Staying educated on home maintenance, emergency protocols, and even First Aid can be the difference between life and death.
In the wake of this crisis, I encourage you to consider supporting local initiatives here in Texas that continue to distributing clean water, food, and clothing to people affected – especially the unhoused and underserved.
Stay safe and take care of each other, y’all!