February 2021 brought a record-breaking storm to our friends in Texas, making roads impassable and leaving millions without electricity during some of the coldest temperatures on record. Many were completely unprepared for such an event and were cold, hungry, and suffering.
What lessons can we learn from this freak winter storm that blasted Texas in 2021? The recent storm in Texas demonstrates that we must be prepared for just about anything. It makes sense to prepare for your highest risk factors first, but then take a serious look at threats that are not as likely but have huge consequences.
In this post, we will share stories and advice from our Texan friends and share some basic preps that will help you be prepared for the challenges that may be in your future.
Many of the comments we share are shared can be found in the comment section of this video.
Lesson #1 – Prepare for the Unexpected
Texans quickly learned that they are not exempt from freezing temperatures. One woman shared that in her area, temperatures this time of year average in the 80s while they currently were reporting a windchill factor of 10 degrees.
They were completely unprepared without winter coats, boots, hats, or any of the clothing typically worn in the northern states. A box of warm weather emergency clothing might have come in very handy for our warm weather friends.
Now is a good time to complete a new risk evaluation addressing current trends in your area. Is there anything that you should prepare for so that you are not caught unaware like Texas?
Lesson #2 – Knowledge is Power
You may not have all of the supplies that you would like to have, but if you know what to do, you can get a little creative and improvise. Thousands of Texans found themselves searching for knowledge on how to stay warm and found our post, 6 Lifesaving Tips to Keep Warm During a Power Outage
Education is the key to thriving during a crisis. Knowing what to do reduces stress and helps you take better care of your family, and be a little more comfortable. We invite you to join us, on both our website and our YouTube channel, to learn some of the basics that will improve your level of comfort.
Lesson # 3 – Advanced Preparations Make All the Difference
Stock up on critical supplies well in advance of an event. You never really know when disaster will strike, so it makes sense to just make reasonable preps part of your lifestyle.
Today is the perfect day to develop a family emergency plan that can be implemented on a moment’s notice. John is a great example of that. It sounds like his family had prepared a long time in advance, and were ready to implement that plan when it was needed most.
Do you need ideas to get started on developing your family emergency plan? Check out this post, Steps to Build a Successful Family Emergency Plan.
Store Water for Emergencies
Many in Texas found themselves without running water or with a “boil order” to disinfect the water before consumption. Water storage should be a top priority. It is easier than you may think.
Learn more about how to store water in our post, How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness. Or check out this video.
Stock Your Pantry with Shelf-Stable Foods
Roads were impassible in Texas, and even if they could make it through, there was little or no food available for purchase in the stores. Keeping your pantry stocked with shelf-stable foods will help you stay well-fed while avoiding the long lines and desperate people.
Our recommendation is that everyone has at least a 3-month supply of shelf-stable foods in their home. That is usually enough food to safely see you through a crisis. At the very least, it will buy you time to come up with another plan.
That may seem overwhelming, but it really is not as difficult as you may imagine. You can visit our post, 3 months Supply of Food: Amazing Peace of Mind, for some great ideas on how to build your supply.
Emergency Lighting and Communication
Non-electric charging options for cell phones, tablets, or emergency communication devices are a no-brainer. There are many options on the market, but one that we highly recommend is the Hex by HybridLight. This is a Bluetooth speaker that you can use every day, but it also can charge your mobile device (Micro USB and USB ports), has a flashlight, and is also an FM radio.
The Camping Lantern is also a great option to light a room. Many of these devices can be recharged through a Micro USB port if you have electricity or through the solar panel. Simply place it in a sunny spot (we like to set it on a south-facing windowsill). Typically, it will recharge in 10 hours of full sun. No batteries to replace.
HybridLight makes quality products that are great answers to emergency lighting. They make lanterns, headlamps, flashlights, task lights, and more. Visit HybridLight to learn more about these fantastic renewable lighting devices. Use the promo code PROVIDENT and get 20 percent off your entire purchase from HybridLight. This is my favorite brand of renewable solar lighting.
The biggest issue with fuel storage is safety. You do not want to burn down your home, or your neighbor’s home, because you were preparing for a disaster. Storing fuel incorrectly can create a disaster all on its own.
We have written an article on how and where you can safely store fuels for emergencies. Take some time and review it. Follow local ordinances and stock up on some fuel to get you through a crisis.
- Where Can I Safely Store Popular Fuels for Emergencies?
- Expected Storage Life for Emergency Fuels
- Best Alcohol Cooking Fuels for Campers and Preppers
Safe Indoor Cooking Alternatives
Most of us have a way to safely cook outdoors during a power outage. Safely cooking indoors takes a little more thought, research, and planning. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat and precautions must be taken to avoid exposing your family to it.
The safest fuels to use indoors are alcohol, butane, and propane in devices that are rated for indoor use. If you have a woodburning cookstove, you have it made, and can both cook and heat with wood. Unfortunately, that is not an option for many people.
Take some time to read, Safe Indoor Cooking Solutions and investigate the best options for cooking inside your home.
Safe Indoor Heating Options – Passive and Active
There are two important aspects of emergency heating. Passive heating, which does not require any fuel, uses methods to stay warm without a heat source. Active heating uses alternative heating devices that produce heat.
Passive Heating Options
We discuss passive heating options in greater detail in our post, Surviving a Winter Power Outage: How to Stay Warm
Dress Warmly in Layers
This may seem like a no brainer, but dressing for the cold is your first line of defense. Wearing a hat, gloves, neck warmer, leg warmers, socks, shoes, and even a face mask will help to keep you warm. Dress in layers so that you can remove clothing to maintain the ideal temperature.
Store Blankets and Sleeping Bags
You would be amazed how many blankets it takes to stay warm without a working heat source. I store a lot of blankets. BettySue shared a fantastic idea to store your extra blankets under your mattress. That is a brilliant idea to keep them handy without taking up extra room.
The goal is to keep the cold out and the heat in. Evaluate your home. How can you increase the insulation? Close blinds, curtains, and drapes. Can you increase that insulation with plastic sheeting, bubble wrap, cardboard, or blankets?
Do you have cold entry points that may need to be sealed up with painter’s tape or stuffed with paper towels or something to block that air? Perhaps close off all of the rooms on the exterior of the home and stay in a central location.
Create a Microenvironment
One of the best ideas is to set up a tent in the living room. This creates a microenvironment that will keep you much warmer.
You could use a large cardboard box, throw a blanket over the kitchen table, or create some type of makeshift tent. You may want to put a mattress or a layer of blankets in the bottom of the tent to prevent cold from coming up from the floor.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes can create a lot of damage. Leave water dripping in a small stream to keep the water moving and prevent it from freezing. If you cannot, you may want to turn the water off to your home and drain your pipes.
Active Heating Options
Your absolute best option is to prepare in advance and install a woodburning stove or perhaps a propane heater that is vented to the outside. Unfortunately, that is not always an option. Be prepared with a backup plan.
Carbon monoxide is your enemy. Purchase a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector with a digital readout. Remember that any open flame has the potential to produce carbon monoxide. A working fire extinguisher is also a great idea. Monitor the levels of carbon monoxide and take immediate action if there is any indication of the presence of CO.
My little propane Mr. Buddy Heater was a lifesaver for me. Only use heating devices that are rated for indoor use. Learn more about alternative heating options in these posts.
- Best Alternative Heat sources to Use During a Power Outage
- Candles as an Emergency Fuel source for Warmth, Light, and Cooking
- Terracotta Pot Heater/Cooker: How to Heat and Cook Without Electricity
Backup Power for Medical Equipment or Comfort
A backup battery bank can be charged using household power when available, andcan be recharged using solar panels. These little battery banks are a great option for running critical medical equipment safely inside of your home.
Generators are a good option, but must be used with extreme care due to the risk of carbon monoxide. Keep them outside and away from any opening where carbon monoxide could seep into the home. The trick is to have enough fuel safely stored to outlast the event.
Lesson #4 – Last Minute Preps
Take advantage of any advanced warning that you may have to check your preps and get everything in order. If you know a storm is coming, gather your emergency supplies and purchase what you may be missing. Remember, you will be fighting the crowds for scarce resources, so it is much better if you just maintain your preps regularly.
This is a good time to secure items outside your home, insulate windows, vacuum, catch up on laundry, and do the dishes. Fill empty containers with water. Check on your neighbors.
Lesson #5 – Duration of Crisis and Aftermath
It would be nice if things could just go back to normal once the storm ended and the power returned. Our friends in Texas will be suffering long after the power is restored. There is damage to roads and infrastructure. Broken pipes and water damage. Missed time at work. Damage to fruit trees, crops and livestock.
Now is a good time to reach out to friends and neighbors. Work together to get your neighborhood restored. Restock your supplies as soon as possible.
Lesson #6 – Build Self-Reliance
A valuable lesson that we can all learn from Texan friends, is that it is up to each of us to become self-reliant and take care of our own needs. No one is going to rush in and make sure that you are comfortable. If you want to be warm, you need to prepare to make that happen. If you want to be able to eat or drink, you need to stock your pantry and store water.
I love this story about Lavanya and Courtney. They have a family with small children. We share their story with their permission.
The storm hit central Texas a couple days before us and my mom was really stressing over the possibility of losing power at her house when it was so cold. It got me thinking so I spent a lot of time reading through tips of what we could do with what we already had in the house.
At that point panic buying was already starting to pick up and my husband was out of town for work until the next day, so I was trying to juggle our two kids and getting the house ready for a hard freeze…which I had never done before. Thank goodness for helpful neighbors!
I really felt like your blog was the most practical thing I read that day. The other piece of information you shared was that you washed your hair without realizing you didn’t have a blow dryer and how fast the cold got to you.
I kept that with me a lot too when we didn’t have power. I have two girls, 6 and 3, neither of them have ever seen snow so trying to hold them back from playing in it was pretty tricky. I talked to them and let them know since we didn’t have power to warm up they could only go for a few minutes and then had to come back in.
I put blankets and warm clothes by the fire so as soon as they came back in they could get warmed up again. Thankfully they are Texas babies and didn’t like being cold so they don’t ask to go out very many times haha.
One other big thing that comes to mind was figuring out we could start our electric fireplace with D batteries. We had never taken the front screen off of our fireplace before but my husband was pretty determined to figure out how to make a workaround and voila, all you need is a couple of batteries.
We went to the neighbors houses down the street that first day to make sure they could get theirs going as well but we ran out of batteries. It didn’t take long for someone to suggest using foil and AA batteries. Guess what, it worked!
After no power for 24 hours, we got power back in rolling outages that were roughly 3 hours on, 3 hours off but lost our water. It was about that time I realized the tub I had filled up with water had drained overnight. I gathered up every tub, cooler and bucket I could find and out them outside to gather roof runoff of the snow as it was melting. It was lightly raining as well so I put some out to catch that as well.
Our local area has turned the water back on now hit the pressure is low, it smells gross, it’s brown and we are under a boil water notice. It’s been sunny for two days now, but we still are using some of that water I collected to flush toilets.
I’ve lived in Houston now for almost 10 years. We had a newborn when Hurricane Harvey hit so we evacuated during that event, but I always try and make sure our emergency kit is supplied and we are more of less prepared for what is to come. This cold though was something I really could not have imagined.
We put our fridge and freezer food outside when it was starting to get warm with the power outage. We used snow in a cooler inside. I kept a notepad the whole time, documenting things because I was losing all sense of time at some points.
I will be restocking my emergency supply and buying some new things. I can’t believe we don’t have a crank radio! We had no cell service, no power, no nothing at all for 24 hours. That was pretty alarming, but we just made the best of it.
We are ok though. It was an experience I am not soon to forget. I’m glad it’s over! Today has been my day of processing. It very emotional but I’m proud of what we accomplished and how we were all able to work together.
Lavanya and Courtney are part of the solution! They worked together with neighbors to solve problems and make sure that everyone was taken care of when things got tough. GREAT JOB!
Lesson #7 – Take Care of Each Other
Sacrifice to make sure that others are safe and sound. Host other families, like our friend Brian and his wife did. Reach out to make sure that your family, friends, and neighbors are okay. Share your warmth. Working together, we can make it through whatever storm may hit!
Lesson #8 – Eventually, the Weather Clears and Power Returns
There is hope for a brighter future, and eventually life will return to normal. Perhaps it will be a new normal. Be sure to critically evaluate the event.
What lessons did you learn? What skills or supplies would have made life easier? What went right? Were you part of the problem or part of the solution? What can you do to be better prepared for future challenges?
Take Away Lessons from a Freak Winter Storm in Sunny Texas
There is great peace in knowing that you are prepared to face the challenges that life may throw your way. There are basic supplies that may be required, but knowledge is the key to success.
Do you know how to stay warm or cook your food safely indoors without electricity? Are you prepared for a power outage in the middle of summer with temperatures that exceed 100 degrees? Do you have enough water stored to meet your basic needs for as long as it takes for water services to be restored?
If you are new to prepping, we have created the perfect resource for you. These resources are absolutely free so please share them. Check out Newbie Prepper: 10 Simple Steps to Get You Started. Each step has reading material and a video to clearly walk you through the basics.
Come join the ranks of the Provident Preppers. We are committed to helping our friends and neighbors become more self-reliant and prepared for the challenges ahead. We have an incredible online community that shares valuable tips and information so that we can all be a little smarter and ready for anything.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones