#162: SPECIAL EPISODE—How We Survived the Snowstorm in Austin

Here’s how we survived the snowstorm in Austin…

This is Jillian Leslie. I am founder of MiloTree and Catch My Party, host of The Blogger Genius Podcast.

Typically I talk about business growing online businesses and blogs. But today I thought I would do a special episode, because we live in Austin, Texas.

So many people have asked me what this experience has been like with this crazy weather situation, I thought I would share what the experience was like. And also some of my biggest takeaways having gone through this. And by the way, we’re not through it yet.

So I’m recording this on February 19. At 12:15pm in the afternoon. The sun is shining, things are starting to melt. We’ve been snowed in since Sunday. And we also we have power.

But we don’t have running water we have our pipes froze. And we know we have at least one leak or hoping our plumber can come today. But we shall see. However, my spirits are a lot brighter, I think because I am hearing icicles falling and just seeing puddles of water for the first time.

How we survived the snowstorm in Austin

What it Was Like When it Started

So this whole thing started for us on Sunday night when our power went out and temperatures plummeted. And it began to snow. And by Monday morning, again, we had no power, no internet, there was eight inches of snow on the ground and the temperature had gotten down to I think eight degrees.

And then we noticed too, that we had no running water and our pipes were completely frozen. So I always assumed because in the past when our power has gone out that it would come back relatively quickly. But that wasn’t the case.

So all day Monday. Again, no internet, no power and temperatures are plummeting snow on the ground. We can’t take our cars out because the streets are treacherous. And we live on a very big hill. So we had to stay warm.

How We Stayed Warm

And we used our burners on our stove, which was the only thing that was working because our burners are gas, to heat our house. And I know that that can be very dangerous, but really we had no choice.

Otherwise, I was heading down to my car to warm up and to charge my cell phone. One thing that I learned is how important a cell charge is even when you have no internet and charging my phone in my car was a slow undertaking. One thing that I will definitely be buying are some external batteries for my phone that I will always keep charged.

A couple things that we did that were good. We went to the grocery store the day before because we knew that the temperatures were going to plummet and there was snow predicted, forecasted, we filled up on just some easy food crackers, chips and apples, things like that, which totally came in handy.

And we got water we got bottled water. I think now I will always have bottled water in my house. And I will always have just fingerfood because really that’s what we lived on.

The first night our house temperature was dropping down into the 40s down into the 30s. So what we did was we piled up a huge, a huge pile of comforters and blankets. And we all slept together.

So my family is David, my husband, my partner, I talked about him a lot. And our daughter who’s 13 and we just all piled in the bed. And it was warm. I was wearing sweat pants and I was wearing two sweatshirts and a jacket and a scarf. And I had two pairs of socks on. But ultimately that was fine.

When Things Got More Difficult

It was when we got up in the morning on Monday, when it was really cold in our house, and we couldn’t heat our house that things got more difficult, more challenging. It’s a little bit like you’re on a deserted island. And I think at the beginning you think help is on its way. And then after a little while you realize that maybe help is not so is not coming or it might take a lot longer. I think that’s how we felt on Monday.

It was starting to get a little depressing. I don’t think we were ever scared for our lives. Because we could always just get in some blankets. But I think it was really starting to wear on us and then our heat came back Monday afternoon.

I will tell you that I don’t think I have ever appreciated heat as much as I did in that moment. It took me forever to warm up, which I thought was really interesting, like hours and hours. Heat is so much more important than running water, it really is.

And so at least we had that without running water. What you can’t do a shower. So it’s Friday, and I haven’t showered since Sunday, hoping we can get our pipes back today. If not, I think we’ll either shower at our neighbors or even get a hotel room just to shower. But you don’t even care. That’s the thing, you don’t even care.

What’s harder is that you can’t wash your dishes. And you can’t really wash your pots. So you don’t want to cook and we’ve been using some paper plates, and plastic silverware. And I recommend that as well. I had to really dig out that stuff. So I’m going to go to the grocery store. Hopefully today and buy more of that.

What becomes really important is water. And I think now we’ll always have water on hand. Another thing that is super important, our neighbors. I think that I’ve met more neighbors during this experience than ever before. And you have to rely on neighbors.

So our neighbors are the ones who are filling up our water jugs, just so that we can flush our toilets. That is the other thing that you don’t recognize when you don’t have water. You can’t flush your toilets. So every day, we have been trudging up to our neighbors and they’ve been so graciously filling up like seven water jugs for us.

The Fragility of Systems

And one thing that I noticed is how how fragile systems are, how complicated they are like the power grid. And now water in Austin is becoming difficult, because so many people’s pipes are are bursting. And so all of this water is escaping and they can’t clean the water.

So right now there’s an ordinance where we need to boil water to drink it or to cook with it. And there’s even there’s some rumors that they might have to turn off the water in Austin. Who would have thought that water would become such a scarce good.

I’m hoping to go to the grocery store today. But I’ve read and heard that there’s been a run on bottled water. So we’ll see how that goes. At least we have water that we can boil. Another thing that I would say, I will be buying are some gloves, jackets and boots, we have a little bit of that stuff. But here, coming from California living in Austin, we really didn’t have it. And I didn’t think we would need it. And I think just having it on hand is a smart thing.

One other thing that was really helpful was reframing our situation. I think when we were starting to get really down, when things were getting really cold, and we had no internet and no water. I think that my husband decided that we were like pioneers. And we thought that was funny that here we are pioneers, you know in our SUV trying to warm up.

How Reframing Our Situation Helped

But just reframing stuff, and trying to find the humor in it was so important, like managing our mental states for our 13 year old daughter became really important, and I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated how much that’s worth.

I do know that of course our thoughts affect her feelings. But I could really see it playing out in real time that if we could make the situation a little bit lighter, it was really helpful.

And the other thing that I realized is I’m a planner. And that is incredibly helpful because I am looking for solutions. However, I can also be a catastrophic thinker, and trying to thread that needle can be really tough. And there were times where I wasn’t sure what side of that equation I was on.

What Survival Mode Is Like

Going through this experience. I saw myself in survival mode, and I don’t think I’ve ever really been in it in such a deep way. I didn’t want to talk to anybody besides my family. I would text my parents and tell them we were okay. But I wanted to conserve my cell phone battery, but also it just felt like we needed to hunker down.

I wasn’t reaching out to friends. And what was interesting too, is the ones who were going through the same experience weren’t reaching out to me. It’s like we all had to just take care of what was right in front of us.

I didn’t want to be posting on social media. I just didn’t know how this whole thing was gonna end. And until we got to the other side, I just had to be on high alert.

Time just was suspended. But it also weirdly, went quickly. We did get to play some games, especially when we had no electricity. And we played Exploding Kittens and Coup. And that was fun and did add some levity.

And I think that was really good for our daughter, just keeping our spirits up was really important. Because if one of us went down, I feel like it could take us all down.

Wanting to Be Anywhere But Here

One other observation I wanted to share with you, that I could really see myself struggling with, was this feeling of not wanting to be here in the experience, it felt in many ways, like watching paint dry, being cold and watching paint dry.

All I wanted was the snow to melt so that we could get our cars out, which by the way, we still haven’t so that we could get our pipes fixed and get our life back to normal.

And I noticed I was thinking about how unlucky we were. Why did this happen to us? Why aren’t we on vacation, and I was having a hard time just being in it. And so I have this marquee keyboard, where I put up little sayings, inspirations.

If you follow me on Instagram, and I highly recommend you do, our account is just @milotree, you will see that this is like a something that’s been really meaningful for me since the beginning of the year.

And so yesterday, I put up the little saying, “Be where you are,” just as a reminder for me to say, you know what, this is my life. And this is my reality. And I don’t want to miss this day with my family by wishing it away.

And that has really helped ground me that life is uncomfortable. And can I be in that discomfort? And somehow when I was able to think about that, and I walk by this now, multiple times a day, and every time I I see it, and I read it, it, it makes me more grateful for what I do have rather than trying to be somewhere else trying to wish my life away.

This will be a story that we will always have a shared experience, we will look back on this. And it will be something that we got through and that makes us stronger.

So reminding myself of that, I think has been really powerful. And I think this is one of those lessons that I will have to learn over and over again. But I really wanted to share that.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surviving the Storm in Austin

I want to also just answer some of the frequently asked questions I got from friends and family who were texting me or emailing me just because I thought it was really interesting what their questions were. Because people were reading about this on the news and trying to understand what it was like.

What were we eating?

So the first question that I continued to get was: What are you eating? And again, as I had said, we’d gone to the grocery store, we had a lot of snack foods, and we weren’t hungry. You’re when you’re going through something trying. The last thing you’re really thinking about is food.

We had made brownies the day before. And those were such a treat to still have in the house. But otherwise, you’re just grabbing anything and you’re not really tasting it. So food was not that important. As long as we could just not be hungry. That’s all we cared about.

Was it Relaxing to Be Off the Grid?

Another question that people asked me was like: Is it relaxing? Because you’re off the grid and your Internet’s down and there’s nothing to do? And the answer to that is categorically No, it was not relaxing. It wasn’t like we were all in the bed under the covers having a pillow fight.

It was really stressful because you’re constantly looking at what problems you have right in front of you and trying to solve them. Especially when it came to heat to internet and of course to water. I think water has been the one where we’ve really had to figure out what to do.

How did we deal with not showering?

A final question that I got is: Do I feel gross because we haven’t been able to shower when the stress was high. The last thing I could even think about was taking a shower. Now that things are starting to melt. I’m starting to feel really gross and I do want to take a shower. I just reserved a hotel room for tomorrow night so that we can shower because I don’t think our pipes are going to be fixed soon.

Those were the three main questions that I got asked. I am hoping we’re on the other side of this. I want to thank everybody who reached out to me to see how we were doing. I feel really lucky. I know that people had to wait a lot longer to get their power back.

I think the worst part of this was being so cold, I think everything else was really manageable. And once we got our heat back, I think we were all so grateful.

What this says to me is to be prepared for the unexpected. And to recognize that this is all part of life. And we have an idea of what tomorrow is going to look like. And most of the time it looks that way. And then every so often, it doesn’t. And the more flexible we can be I can be, the happier I can be. Because I can’t control what happens, I can only control my reaction to it.

I hope this was interesting. I have learned now to have water on hand, food on hand, warm clothes on hand, we’re looking into whether we get a generator, I will have cell phone batteries charged on hand, I won’t let my car gas get low.

And I will recognize that we can get through a lot and that we are a lot stronger than we think we are. At least I’ve learned that about myself and my family. And at the end of the day. I think we’ve done really well.

Please reach out to me at jillian@milotree.com if you have a question or comments. I love hearing from you. And follow me on Instagram at @milotree and you can see my marquee board with my daily inspirations. Also what is coming up on the podcast, what we’re building at MiloTree to help you grow your business.

And I will be back here next week with a regular episode about exploding your business so that you can live the life you want to live.

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