Winter Camping Nightmare in Texas
As is nationally known by now, Texas experienced historic winter weather in February that left many of its residents with no power, among other issues. The state wasn’t prepared for such an unprecedented storm, and it turns out, neither were we! Make sure to watch part one of our experience in the Lone Star State, so that you can see how naive we were as we prepared to weather the storm.
Getting Hit By the Storm
The first night, we went to bed and felt pretty comfortable in our warm and toasty Airstream. However, things got a little bit interesting around midnight. The wind got loud. Then, sometime between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., we lost power, so we used up about 15% of our propane tank to stay warm the rest of the night. At the time, we thought that was fine, because the weather reports projected that it would only remain below freezing in Texas for about 24 hours. Lesson learned for future reference! We hadn’t filled up our generators with gas prior to the storm, so we decided to spend the day doing things that didn’t require electricity.
Dealing with the Aftermath
By mid-morning, it was 23 degrees outside, so the floor of our RV was really cold. But we were still proud of the fact that we had only used about 20% of our fresh water tank, and had only used up about 40% of one of our propane tanks. We definitely thought we were in the clear to last the next 24 hours. Also, our furnace was keeping the Airstream at 60 degrees, so even though we were bundled up, we felt pretty fortunate.
We eventually got cabin fever spending so much time indoors in such a small space, so we layered on even more clothes and decided to go for a walk at the beach. This was definitely not like any Florida beach walk! There was ice all over the place, and at some point, we couldn’t feel our faces anymore. But we were still able to appreciate the gorgeous sunset over the calm ocean.
Starting to Face Reality
After going back to the Airstream, we called my aunt and uncle, who were also camping in an RV about 30 minutes south from us until the day before the storm. They told us they had heard of fellow campers who couldn’t leave town because of blocked roads, and who didn’t have gas or propane to keep warm.
We started looking back at our own oversights, like how we hadn’t filled up the gas tank in our truck, and we didn’t get fuel for the generators. My uncle had mentioned that some of the campers at their campsite had backed their RV into their trucks so that they could connect and recharge their batteries. Since our battery was running low and the sun was going down, we decided to give it a shot ourselves.
Unfortunately, the experiment didn’t work. We figured the most logical thing to do was to make something warm for dinner, so we made a really delicious chili that warmed our hearts and bellies. But that still wasn’t enough to stop us from worrying a little bit. Before the storm, we had a conversation about how we were in a good spot because we could always drive to the gas station down the road to get gas for our generator. However, if you don’t have power — and the whole town didn’t have power — you can’t get gas.
I’ll Never Let Go, Jack
After dinner, we relaxed and were able to read as the overhead lights in our bedroom are LED, so they don’t use that much power. About four hours later, I woke up because it was getting really cold. When we got up to check the furnace, we realized it wasn’t working anymore — we had officially used all of our battery. So that generator thing that we initially thought wasn’t that big of a deal… turned out to be a pretty big one. It was so cold inside, we could see our breath as we spoke.
We decided to go inside our truck where we could keep warm while we attempted to get the generator running. This time, it worked — our truck was powering our Airstream. At this point, it was 19 degrees outside. By 3:30 a.m., the Airstream still didn’t have enough power, but at least there was a little bit of heat coming out of the vents. This was good, but we couldn’t let the truck run all night.
We did have a little bit of gas in one of our generators, so we decided to give that a try. We went outside again, and realized that all of our locks were frozen shut — there went that plan. But our Airstream was gradually warming up, and at this time, it was in the mid-40s. We only had two more hours to go before sunrise, when hopefully the sun would hit the solar panels to recharge the solar batteries.
Bet Your Bottom Dollar That Tomorrow, There’ll Be Sun
By morning, the temperatures were now above freezing, and we decided to drive to my little sister’s house. We hadn’t been able to go before because the bridges to get there were iced over, but now that the temperatures were rising, we were going to give it a try. We also planned to go to whichever gas station we could find along the way.
Driving there was another experience, being Floridians and all. Slow and steady wins the race, right? Thankfully, we made it safely to my sister’s house — and immediately went to bed. After a nap, we went on a hunt for gas for our truck and generator. Station after station had no power. We finally found one with a line longer than a Black Friday checkout line, but when we got to the front they were out of gas!
Luckily, no storm lasts forever, so eventually we were able to fill up both our truck and our generators. So off we drove back to our Airstream and got our power back on…for all of eight hours and 45 minutes. At this point, we knew we’d have to keep playing this game of getting gas and running out of power for the next few days, but at least we were sleeping warmly through the nights. Always celebrate the wins, no matter how small!
Lauren Davenport is the CEO of The Symphony Agency, a healthcare communications firm providing technology and marketing solutions to help healthcare practices grow fast and efficiently. She’s been featured in Forbes and local magazines, showcasing her experiences as a small business owner. Daniel Fernandez is the Chief Experience Officer at the Symphony Agency and host of The Healthcare CEO podcast.