17 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s what it was when I finally listened to my dog’s whining (which happens when he knows I’m clearly not asleep like I should be) and got up around 7 a.m. Off and on all night I’d heard freezing rain pinging on my window and roof, and it would wake me up and I’d crash right back to the pillow.
I have never experienced this in my whole life. Sure, the thermostat’s dipped into the low 20s maybe once or twice a year the past few… but 17? And barely budging? And this isn’t even the coldest bit down here. An hour north of Houston they’re in the single digits.
I was shocked, then figured I had to take care of some stuff because I noticed my toilet wouldn’t flush and no water was coming out.
Iced up pipes. Dang it. And this time legitimately iced up.
My dogs wanted to go out to do their thing, and so I started to get dressed. They were excited and impatient until I started really layering up: waffle thermals, leggings, t-shirt, extra sweater, thick socks, fleece pants, two hoodies, two beanies, snow gloves… yeah, they started getting apprehensive like they weren’t sure they were gonna like it.
But of course when they saw the squirrels foraging where I’d thrown bird seed earlier, their instincts kicked in. At least my boy–who has to be on a chain–didn’t try to yank my arm off and drag me down the steps. My whole deck was slippery and he was being careful (which I appreciated–didn’t wanna spend the morning hobbling or worse). And I admit–I kinda liked it at first.
Snow around here is almost a joke. I mean, we usually get a few flakes in the first week of February and that’s it. I’m amazed it took this long for the real cold to come. I had to get some work done, so I was getting my space heater set up to thaw out the pipe I figured was causing the trouble. But in the interest of being thorough–and not wasting two more days on a non-issue–I checked the pressure switch to the well and it was all working fine. So, I set up my windbreak and heat chamber.
And then all hell broke loose.
The neighbor’s dogs were out and about and that got my boy excited. My girl was sniffing around and went to meet them. There’s a new dog at the house down by the corner that my boy wanted to play with, but it’s shy I guess. I guess it was the cold that did it, but I’d hooked his harness up to one of those D-rings you use to connect a chain, and when I looked up from the well, the chain was limp and he was almost to the corner.
I freaked out and called for him, because he’s a helluva lot faster than me and if there’s anything that worries me about my dogs, it’s their desire to explore and not pay a lick of attention to traffic, and the traffic at the main drag doesn’t care about possible roadkill. I had to finish putting the switch cover on and kept calling (my thick gloves made it hard), and I had to get my girl dog in the house quick.
So I got the leash, my keys, and got out to the car, only to see over an inch of snow and ice all over it. It took forever to get my car unlocked (sticks in cold weather), and then get my scraper to go to town on it while the defroster did it’s thing. That dog had run to the corner and went alongside the main road, thankfully with the collar still on. I was worried as hell, but couldn’t do anything about it yet and just kept calling his name every minute to remind him where home was, just in case.
About 10 minutes into my frustrating de-frosting nightmare, he showed up at the end of the street and I called to him to come home and get a cookie and get warm. He saw me and started running, and I figured oh great, he’s gonna come home now, but he just ran to the neighbor’s yard and started some frantic exploring and sniffing.
That annoyed the hell out of me, and I eventually tried to go after him on foot, but he was too fast and cut across too many yards. So I kept up chiseling that stuff off my windows. I couldn’t even roll one down to call for him, so I kept at it, calling his name every minute to remind him. Eventually, I’d chiseled off enough that I could see out the front and sides and VERY slowly drove out of my driveway. It was about 8:15 then and I made my way down my half-mile long street, calling for him. I saw him, but he ignored me when I called and kept sniffing around.
The trouble is out here, it’s usual for houses to be up to 100 feet from the road, so I wasn’t about to ditch my car and traipse through someone else’s yard filled with who knows how many water and ice-logged potholes. But my heater was still blasting and I stopped the car. I got out and called him again, and I knew he heard me. I said, “let’s go get a cookie! Are you cold? You wanna go home and get warm?” I had my driver door wide open and stepped away from it so he could see. He waited just a moment and then high-tailed it right toward me, jumping over the ditch and coming up to the car. I hoped like hell he’d just get in, and he was so cold I had to help him a little, but he went in.
Last time I tried that on a cold day, he got within 2 feet of the car and did a 90 degree turn to run off another hundred feet down the road. Twerp.
But he was tired and all run out. He had icicles hanging from his whiskers and belly hair. He wanted to get warm, so I took my time driving us back home. I live where there’s a cul-de-sac and I didn’t want to use someone’s driveway to go in and back out. I drove gave him a chance to enjoy the heater a bit before going back out in the ick and into the house.
I felt bad for one dog I saw. I’d hoped the owners (maybe they weren’t up yet, I dunno) would have put it in a shed or something to get out of the wind. He had a big doghouse, but it was one of those plastic ones shaped like an igloo that don’t look too warm. the dog was chained to a tree and just sitting out there. I hope he went in later at least, because not many folks around here knew it was gonna get THAT bad.
So, after getting the dog settled and warm, I turned on the tap and I went out and tried to mess with the lines again. One of my space heaters that was pointing to the main house line apparently went bad because no matter what extension cord I used, it wasn’t working anymore. I figured I’d shut the main line lever to prevent ruptured pipes in the house when the thaw came, but it wouldn’t budge. I wrapped the areas that were exposed around the valve lever with a towel and I took that other space heater away from the well-line (covered it up with tubs and such to create a windbreak), and set that little one up near the house. I had to go to my neighbor to get water to flush the toilets with (turns out my back up plan of using my rainwater barrels wasn’t going to work–the excessive rain we’d had before all this had filled them up and I didn’t have a chance to drain them a bit. All that water expanded and basically welded the plastic top to the container.). When I got back about 15 minutes later, I noticed my well was clicking over.
Ah, pressure! I went in with my buckets of water to find the sink working fine. But considering tonight’s gonna be as bad if not worse, I’m definitely keeping the buckets handy, because there’s no way in hell I’m gonna be without water a full night.
All that back and forth was really aggravating. It’s just past 3pm now and my dogs REALLY want me to take ’em out. I’ll probably go for a nap after I do because I’m about to pass out. Glad I made chili the second I came in and got the water going again, because I don’t feel like making anything else today that’s labor intensive beyond heating up soup or a sandwich. That storm wore me out and I’m half-asleep right now.
It’s strange to see occasional sunshine and icy patches everywhere, including my decks. Yeah, that’s gonna be fun trying to avoid.
I am lucky in that I’ve got power, but it might not last. There are oodles of families closer to the city proper that don’t, and they’re mad. It’s just bad timing and prep all around, and with so much of the country messed up with this storm, I wouldn’t wanna assign blame.
Sheesh, even hot coffee isn’t helping me out today. I just wanna curl up and go back to sleep, but dogs need their fun first.
Just not looking forward to putting on those boots and all those jackets again.