We don't have power until everyone has power
More than 100 hours without electricity will get to ya. And it's still not over.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 20,000 Austinites still don’t have power.
Up until yesterday afternoon, we were among them.
Our little house in North Austin was knocked off the power grid on Thursday, fairly late into the ice storm that is only the most recent weather-related disaster to wreak havoc on our city.
The oak trees, already stressed by drought, couldn’t hold up to all that ice.
By the thousands, no, millions, they gave up, branches dropping to the ground with a snap and a roof-rattling crash that we heard for hours on the night we lost power.
This was the second morning in as many years that we awoke with cold noses and frigid floors.
At first, it seemed like an average outage. Maybe a day, we thought. Nothing our deep freeze and a desire to quickly eat everything we could in the fridge couldn’t handle.
But the power company just couldn’t keep up with all the outages.
By the end of the second day, something felt different. Maybe we would have to come up with a plan for all that lamb and goat we’d just bought from a grieving farmer friend. The familiar frazzled nerves I first really felt during the 2021 winter storm were starting to fray. Again.
That second night, we’d already had dinner plans with friends, so we went ahead to their house, and half of us spent the night. Frank doesn’t like to stay away from the house when it’s in this vulnerable state, so he came back, with his sidekick in tow. (That’s Avery. Yes, it’s very cute. More on that step-parent/kid relationship later.)
The sun shined on Saturday and Sunday, heating up the house and warming our spirits. We’d borrowed a generator from a friend, so we spent the weekend breaking down the sizable branches that fell from the oak tree in the backyard.
We still had no power and were starting to suspect that, at the rate Austin Energy was fixing the outages, this might go on a lot longer than anything we’d experienced before.
That night, as we faced our fifth day without electricity, we got the news: This could go on for another five days.
School was set to return on Monday, so the boys stayed with their dad. The thought of trying to get them ready without any lights in the pre-dawn hour was enough to make my stomach sink.
By this point, I was obsessing over the Austin Energy map, refreshing the outage map every few hours. At one point, they were fixing 100 per day, with 1,600 to go.
The prospect of waiting two weeks for power dropped my stomach to the floor.
At this point, 90% of Austin had power back, with at least half of us losing it at some point or another. But 10% of us didn’t, and it was a surreal feeling.
The world was back to normal all around us, and we were inundated with offers of help, but our world was still ground to a halt.
On Monday morning, Frank and I got up and talked about our options, factoring in his classes and the kids’ school schedules, and the needs of the animals and the house and our weary bodies.
Staying flexible is obviously a helpful trait during these situations, but so is making decisions. Both of us faced frustrating days where we just couldn’t think clearly about what needed to happen next. How do you prioritize when your needs and resources change by the hour?
We went from being the family with power offering help on Wednesday to needing that help on Thursday, and finding the willingness to accept hot showers and hot meals and a warm place to sleep from friends is no easy feat some days.
Managing all the uncertainties and decision fatigue and people checking in with “OMG, you still don’t have power?” became its own source of exhaustion.
The moment we’d been waiting for all those days came Monday afternoon. I was out on a dog walk, trying to reclaim some sense of normalcy even in a very abnormal situation, when Frank texted: “Power ison.”
Typos are a good sign in a moment like this.
As we started putting the house (and our “regular” lives) back together again, I kept updating the outage map. As of Tuesday morning, there are still more than 600 outages in Austin, which means some 8,900 customers, or about 20,000 people, spread all across the city, are waiting for their own return to normal.
“We really don’t have our power back until everyone does.” Frank posted on his Instagram last night.
It’s been a tough week, but that’s a good place to land: Remembering that none of us has power until all of us have power.
In more ways than one.
I hope you and your loved ones get to have a very normal day today.
I’m looking forward to one of those, and I pray we can get those outages fixed so life can get back to normal for all of us, whatever that means these days.
I have a whole slate of other things to tell you about, but those will have to wait until later this week.
Until then, be well. Hug your fridge. And your neighbor. And your friend who offers to pick up and wash your laundry for you.
And the people you share tahini chocolate chip cookie bars with.
We made those on Tuesday, the first day of the storm.
They were gone by Wednesday. Along with the power we used to bake them.
So glad this mess is coming to an end.
Thanks for all your support and patience while we get into the groove again.