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North Texas Freezes Over | 12/06/13

Over the past day or so, we have experienced something in Texas that we rarely see (and that, in my case, I do not ever remember seeing before): a major freeze. As of the past few years or so we have been seeing snow on a yearly basis, but it is not for very long and it does not last long once it is on the ground. This time, though, we experienced something much different. This time it was a ton of sleet, and freezing temperatures that are so low that even a day after the sleeting was over we are still completely iced over. This is far from the norm, and it is really an interesting experience.

When I heard that we were going to be experiencing some pretty severe weather, I figured it would be like every other time we hear that; we would have some cold weather, maybe some sleet or snow, and the next day it would be as if it had never even happened. I was very surprised to see the next day what they really meant. It is freezing (well, below freezing) and we are expecting it to get even colder here over the next couple days, lasting until the beginning to middle of next week. To help put things in to perspective a bit, as far as I know of all of our school districts (within around 50 miles in each direction) shut down today, and most stores were closed. This is the opposite of states and areas where ice and snow is a normal occurrence, where people would just press through it and continue on with their days. Instead, we are so uncomfortable with it that there were a lot of wrecks and we were even advised to just stay inside and not to risk going out in the weather. And that is including the fact that the sleet did not happen at all today (except early in the morning), so those warnings were based solely on the frozen nature of the ice that had already fallen.

When it got even more crazy is when looking at the damage caused by the storm. Something I had never taken in to consideration in the past was that when ice freezes on something and keeps adding up, it adds a ton of extra weight. Watching trees literally break over in half and watching car ports fold up under the pressure was amazing (I am not saying that I am happy for those it happened to, it was just really enlightening to see how much damage ice can really do). While it all makes sense in hind sight, until you have seen it or heard of it, it is a bit hard to really visualize. After all, it rains all the time and we never see these things happening.

The only real good part about this storm is that it happened near the weekend. When schools here miss days due to storms like this, they have to make it up at some point. This ends up being at the end of the year usually, so it becomes a major hassle for everyone; staff and students. Nobody likes cutting their summer short, and if this happened in the beginning or middle of the week that would no longer be a choice. At this point I am really not sure what is going to happen with the classes were missed, though it was just one day so the effects should be pretty minimal.

Wishing for Snow

Well, we did get a really nice layer of ice that looks just like snow. It is not until after you try and walk on top of it that you realize it is not even close to being snow. Instead, it is a solid layer of ice, with icicles and other dangerous things. It is not nearly as slippery as it was on the first night either, though it is still pretty frozen. It feels a lot like walking across a tray of ice cubes. For people like me with a dog that spends a lot of time outside (for the restroom and to run around), it is a pretty big issue; my dog does not like the feeling of the ground right now, partially because it is cold and also because it appears to hurt him due to how crunchy it is. This has caused issues getting him to go to the bathroom, because as soon as he gets outside (or I carry him out) he instantly runs back up to the house each time and tries to get inside the house.

If we had snow instead of just ice, things would be a lot different. First of all, my dog would not be as adverse to going to the bathroom outside; he might even go running around in it. The other benefit is that we can play with snow. We can create snow men and throw snow balls at each other. With ice, you not only can not shape it in to anything interesting, but you would also end up hurting someone if you were to throw it at them. The ice just has no real value to us and is more of a hassle than something we can use for enjoyment. I really hope that if we get this cold again near Christmas, we end up getting some snow instead. At least then we are able to go out and have fun in it instead of being blocked in our homes while sitting around bored.

Learning From This

Prior to the storms actually hitting, I thought that the idea of not being able to leave our home was false. I thought people were blowing the entire situation out of proportion and that nothing was actually going to end up happening. It was not until actually getting to experience it that you realize how dangerous it would be to travel through this. After seeing the roads on the news and seeing how slow traffic was going (when there was traffic, as there were a lot of roads closed down and massive empty patches where cars would normally be flowing in both directions), I realized that it was going to be way too dangerous to get out there on the road, and it was not worth it. This lead to the understanding that when people prepare to be snowed or iced in for a week and buy enough groceries to not have to worry about running out for that period, it is important. As someone who has never gone through that, there was no way to know how severe things really get. But luckily I have learned as a result and know now for the future. And now I am passing that on to you: when weather is planned to get very bad, prepare for the worst rather than letting yourself wish you did.

Dealing With the Norm

When some people hear about the reactions we have to these types of storms, they go through the feeling that we are acting ridiculous. If you are from an area where this happens all the time, you are used to the effects and know how to prepare accordingly. If you are from a place where this stuff does not happen, though, it catches you off guard and you have to figure it all out as you go. It is a pretty big learning experience, and mistakes are bound to come up along the way since we are all human and humans make mistakes.

These are the types of people that normally come to areas like this and have no problems; they know how to deal with it and have a lot of experience with it. The rest of us usually end up following their guidelines and how they react to things in order to make sure that we are making the right (or at least the most efficient) choice we can moving forward. We then pass it on to others we know when and if the events happen again in the future.

Things I Have Learned

Well, there is one area I am still pretty lost on. For example, there are many trees that broke and fell on cars. There were also car ports that fell on cars, and even structures that collapsed due to all of this. But how do we counter this? We could just as easily have major problems by moving our vehicles out away from trees, car ports and other structures. So do we go ahead and risk it there or just pull out in to an open area and hope for the best? Based on what I have seen around where I live, being parked in a wide open area was the best plan; the cars did get frozen, but that was a lot better than what we almost had happen (we had a tree fall over due to the weight and it almost hit one of our cars). Was the car closer to the tree, it could have done some serious damage.

Get enough food to last. We usually prepare for a week or so at a time because of where we live, but it often depends on what is going on. We live a bit away from any stores, so we do grocery shopping with plans to return to town for different reasons and so if we happen to miss something, we will go there in a day or two anyways. In the case of this storm, we made sure that we had everything we would need for a week, being careful to make sure that we would not need to take a trip to town just to pick up something for dinner. What I did not realize about doing this, though, is that even though we prepared for a week, I did not know that we could lose power due to the storm. There are thousands of houses that have no power right now (still), and while it is cold enough to keep their groceries cool, it is less than preferable. With no power that means you can not just microwave things for dinner. You can only make certain things, and you have to be careful. So now that food that was supposed to last an entire week could only last a few days, depending on what all was bought. So the trick here is to buy some food that does not need to be cooked as well; things that come out of cans are perfect. While they do taste better when cooked, it is not a necessity and so you can still deal with it.

Fill up your gas tanks. This is something I had never considered doing before. I have never seen a situation where it was tough to get gas, as there has always been gas available. I also have not experienced the situations where you can be in line for many hours at a gas station waiting to fill up. I do question the importance of doing this when you can not travel anyways, but if you are in an area with gas anyways I can see the value in doing it (since you are not going out of your way regardless and therefore you are not hurting yourself, considering you would need to fill up either now or later either way).

Get kitty litter. This is great because it helps melt ice real easily. In the off chance that something happens and you do end up having to go outside or travel, getting rid of the ice is important. This will decrease the chances of you getting harmed, and it is pretty easy to do; just throw down the kitty litter anywhere you plan to walk. Of course, if you are not planning to go outside or leave, you are safe leaving all of the ice up. You really only need to deal with this when and if you do decide to go.

Walk carefully! This is something I ran in to myself, and it almost caused some pretty big problems. When I went outside to take my dog outside, I figured that while the ground was wet and frozen it would still be walkable. It was not until I started to slip back and forth that I realized how dangerous it really was out there. And to make matters worse, I ended up grabbing on to our rail and other items to help hold myself up and they were all so iced over and slippery that I was not even able to use those (and they ended up almost causing me to fall on their own). Since it was a little too late to deal with trying to break down the ice and all, I had to figure out another way to walk outside. Going slow was not helping at all, and trying to slide around was not helping (it is also worth mentioning at this point that we have stairs and a ramp, neither of which are preferable for getting to the ground). One of my siblings came up with an interesting idea though: a sock.

Now, what you do with the sock is you put it outside your shoe. It is pretty much as if your shoe is your foot. Do this with both of your shoes (you can do it while they are still on your feet or you can take them off, get the sock around them and then put them back on). It may seem a little ridiculous, and to be honest I felt the same way. But it works. What it ends up causing to happen is that it sticks to the ground, kind of like sticky feet. This allows you to move around without sliding and slipping with each step. But it is important to be careful because, at one point, I almost fell since my foot was stuck to the ground. When I finally got it loose with enough force I almost slipped.

It is also worth noting that while the sock idea works, you do not need to put the sock completely over the shoes. The ones I was using were smaller than the shoes, so I covered them up about a fifth or so of the way. Even so, this worked great. I just had to stop more towards the front of my feet than the back. From then on everything was perfectly fine!

Conclusion

This recent weather situation was completely new to me. I have seen sleet and I have seen snow. What I have never seen, though, is so much sleet that the entire ground freezes over. Along with this, I have never seen ice keep layering up to the point where trees come crashing to the ground and structures start caving in. This was an eye opening experience and while I hope that I never have to deal with it again, I feel as if I am fully prepared for when and if it does end up happening again in the future. Through what I have learned from this I also feel as if I can be helpful to others that are not used to dealing with this. I am just grateful that I learned all of this without personally experiencing a lot of damage. Things could have gone a lot different!

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