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Dear ERCOT and Co: When Can I Feel Safe Again?

By March 8, 2021General

It’s been about a week since the power came back on, so why do I still find myself waking up at 5 AM desperately checking to see if my phone (plugged in) is still charging or if the temperature in my daughter’s room hasn’t gotten too low (via baby monitor).  Why is it that at the first sign of lights flickering (via a severe thunderstorm last week), I could feel my heart starting to race and my chest tighten up.

It’s because I’m afraid that if the power goes off, it won’t come back on. I don’t feel safe anymore.

Flashback to Valentine’s Day-ish weekend. Like many Texans, I stocked up on food at the grocery store in anticipation of not leaving the house for an entire week. We were ready to power through the cold, despite not being a cold weather-friendly family.

Then, around 1:30 a.m. on Monday, February 15, 2021, the power went out. I was jolted awake by the sudden clicking of everything turning off and the chirping of a handful of battery backups from throughout the house. I immediately checked to see if my neighbors were having the same problem (yes) and jumped on my phone to check the handy Oncor outage map. And look, there was a message saying Oncor had been asked to perform rolling blackouts due to the high demand on the power grid. The blackouts would only last about 15-60 minutes.

Well, in that moment, I didn’t think much of it. Yeah, this wasn’t ideal, but I could handle life without power for 15-60 minutes at a time, right?

The power came back on about 15 minutes later, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Then, around 5:30 a.m., the power went out again. This time, it stayed off for 2 hours.

By then, it was my daughter’s usual wake up time, so I grabbed her out of her crib, fed her breakfast, and went about my usual morning. Everything seemed fine.

And then, after 3 hours, the power went out again. And it stayed off for 15 consecutive hours.

At first, we were fine. The power had been going on and off all morning. Surely, it would come back? We made a fire, bundled our daughter into about 2 onsies at once plus her warmest jacket, layered as much as we could, and waited.

We heated up leftover soup for lunch and dinner by putting it in an old, cheap Wal-mart pot from my college days and setting it on the fire all campfire-style. We played music from our phones to keep our daughter entertained and exchanged text messages with concerned family members.

But then it started to get dark, and the temperature started to drop, and the power still didn’t come back on. We resigned ourselves to surviving the night (with temperatures getting down to just two degrees) without power. We gathered every blanket we had in the house, placed our daughter into a pack-n-play, and slept in front of the fire.

Probably the only person who slept much was our daughter. My husband was constantly adding logs to the fire and keeping it going; I was constantly checking on our daughter to make sure she was okay. Both of us watched the temperature in our house drop, helpless to do anything.

After a few hours, our daughter woke up screaming because she was so cold, so we moved her into our makeshift bed in front of the fire. I huddled under the blankets, held my daughter and prayed that we made it through the night.

The power came on again in the early hours of the morning. At first, my husband and I took this as a good sign: perhaps the worst of it was over and everything could go back to normal. We even let the fire die down so we could actually get some sleep.

Then the power went back off after two hours.

And we knew then, for a fact, that we couldn’t trust it.

Once the sun came up, we packed up everything: our daughter, her large collection of accessories, all the food that (hopefully) survived in our fridge and braved the 30-minute highway drive to my parents’ house. They had been fortunate to not lose power.

But they were under a boil alert, meaning they had to boil their water before using it. So….out of the woods sort of but not really?

After almost a day with my parents, they lost water pressure, and their faucets stopped running completely. We didn’t have water. At all. We couldn’t clean dishes, cook food, flush toilets, take showers – there really are a lot of things that need water (and you never think of it!).

So, we found as much clean snow as we could from outside, filled up a bathtub, and boiled it.

After two days of this, the water came back and we braved the drive back home, praying we didn’t find a flooded house.

While our power was back and our house seemingly fine, we were left to ask the big questions: What the heck happened?!

And now, despite having power for a full week without issue, we are still afraid of when it’s going to go out again.

Thanks for the memories, ERCOT. Let me know where to send my bill for therapy. I hope that the lawyers hold you (and others) accountable for what happened. I know it’ll make me sleep better at night.