When I last posted, on Friday, February 12, things looked a whole lot different. We knew that we had the possibility of snow headed to Houston, but we didn’t really know what would lie ahead. We were wildly unprepared, and this comes from a girl who is pretty well prepared in most circumstances (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc..).
Here I am, more than a week later, and our house has taken on some damage. I’ll backtrack a little for those who might be unfamiliar with everything that happened. This is going to be a fairly long post, so bear with me.
Sunday Night/Monday Morning
We went to bed on Sunday night, and it was already pretty cold outside. The week prior, Aaron and I spent extensive time wrapping our exterior pipes in insulated material, wrapping our fruit trees, covering vulnerable plants and winterizing our pool. I also did a grocery pickup Saturday morning. We felt as prepared as we could be. After all, Houston does experience bouts of cold weather every year, so this shouldn’t have been any different.
I woke up Monday morning around 7 a.m. I was ready to get to work, but Aaron told me that our power and internet had been off since around 5 a.m. Okay – not a problem. The house wasn’t terribly cold at that point. We did have some snow on the ground, so we decided to go out and take a quick walk in the snow – and let the dogs play around in it. It was all fun and games, until it wasn’t.
We got back from our walk, and Aaron discovered water flowing up from under the floor in his home office. I called our realtor/friend, Mike, and he walked us through how to turn off the water to our house. Once we turned our water off, we began draining all of our faucets, but nothing was coming out (this should have been our first sign that our pipes were frozen). That stopped any further damage, but Aaron’s floor, computer equipment and our exterior-facing wall was soaked. The damage was done. So, we immediately filed a claim with our homeowner’s insurance. And Mike gave us some references to plumbers. We began calling all of the plumbers – and no one was answering. Probably because they were either dealing with their own set of issues as a result of the storm – or maybe they were already experiencing an overwhelming volume of calls. We left a bunch of voicemails.
At 3 p.m., our power came back on. I turned on the news, and there was word of rolling blackouts, so I assumed that’s what we were experiencing. Most of my friends all across Houston had also been without power since the very early morning hours of Monday. I had just two friends who kept their power.
Our insurance sent a water mitigation team out Monday evening. He determined that the floor and the wall of Aaron’s home office was wet, but there was nothing more he could do until they could get a company out to perform an asbestos test on our walls. The water mitigation expert was leaving our house just as the power went off again – right around 7 p.m.
Monday night – Tuesday
Luckily, we have a gas fireplace, so we fired it up, and Aaron, the dogs and I slept in the living room right in front of it. We didn’t have any power at all on Tuesday. It was the coldest day. And quite frankly, it was depressing. I was sad for all the Texans who didn’t have a fireplace – or those who had been completely without power since the very early hours on Monday morning. It was a failure at all levels.
Our neighbors came together and those with generators were offering places to charge devices – or just warm up for a bit. We took the dogs and put them in the car for bit so we could all warm up and drive around the neighborhood just to get out of the cold house. By this time, most of the people in our neighborhood had all shut their water off because they either had burst pipes – or they didn’t want their pipes to freeze. With the water off, that means there is no way to shower, wash dishes, drink – or flush your toilets (and no coffee). We hit a new low when Aaron and I started using pool water to flush the toilets! Luckily, I had one, large Costco case of water in our garage, so we were able to use that for the dogs, and it also came in handy a bit later on in the week.
Luckily, we have a gas stove, which meant we could still do some cooking. We also had our gas grill available if we needed to use it to cook some of our meat that was just sitting in a fridge/freezer without power.
We went to bed on Tuesday night without any power. I had sweaters on my dogs to keep them warm, and we stuck their beds, with some blankets, right in front of the fire. The power came back on at 1 a.m., and Aaron and I sprung out of bed to charge allllll of our devices. I’m talking phones, iPads, battery packs, laptops, etc…. Note: our little battery packs saved us, because we were able to charge our phones and iPads when we were low on battery.
By the time we woke up on Wednesday morning, the power was out again. We had it for all of 8 hours. But, at least we were able to warm the house up with our heater – and charge our phones. At this point, some of our friends still had not had any power since Monday.
We were getting ready to leave the house to see if we could fill our car tanks up with gas, when we heard some water dripping from the ceiling in my home office. Sure enough, I had water coming out of the vent in my (almost) complete office. So, Aaron and I scrambled to move my electronics out of the way, and get my desk out of the way, and we stuck buckets under the leak. We called our insurance company to let them know we were taking on additional water damages.
We think that by the time we turned our water off after the first broken pipe on Monday, that the water had already frozen in some of our pipes. And, as it was starting to thaw, it was creating more leaks/cracks.
This entire time, Aaron and I were trying to connect with plumbers, and I finally was able to get one scheduled for Saturday. We were one of the lucky ones, friends. I have heard through various neighbors and friends, that plumbers are now setting appointments in mid-March. And, if you have a leak, it can be devastating to just sit there knowing there isn’t a ton you can do until you can get a plumber out.
Since there wasn’t much we could do except watch the water slowly destroy parts of our new house, we discovered that one of our friends had both power and water. They invited us over to shower. And, we were so thankful to be able to take a hot shower, get clean – and commiserate over the last several days. Misery loves company.
As we were driving back to our house on Wednesday night, our neighbor let me know that we had power back! So, as soon as Aaron and I got back to our house, we rushed to charge our necessities. We went to bed that night clean and warm, and I know that so many Houstonians/Texans were still without power and/or water that night.
I woke up Thursday morning to my power still on and another water leak from my ceiling. This time, in my kitchen. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but I just felt so helpless. There was nothing I could do except watch my new house take on more damage until the plumber could come out on Saturday. I was also very concerned we would incur more damage as the days went by. Aaron had to drill some holes in the ceiling to release some of the water so the ceiling didn’t collapse. That actually helped slow some of the spread of the damage since it had a better spot to drain. We spent much of Thursday documenting damage, making our to do list once we were officially in recovery mode and checking on our friends and family. By that evening, the City of Houston issued a water boil notice, which meant that the water was contaminated due to a main line burst, so it was no longer safe to drink.
My friend, Kim, lives in Pearland, and her power and water were back by Friday. So, she invited me over for a hot shower and she let me do some laundry. I needed to dry some towels that we had been using to soak up the water damage on our floors. Aaron stayed behind to make me a new office space in one of our spare bedrooms and continue documenting things for insurance purposes.
The plumber was supposed to come on Saturday, so we made sure we were there. We walked around the neighborhood to see who else had damage. There are quite a few people just in my small neighborhood that had some sort of damage.
Our friend came over with a ladder to help us check out our roof (in case it was a roof leak). And, Aaron and I cleaned some of the dead stuff out of our yard and flower beds. The plumber called me at about 7 p.m. letting me know that they weren’t going to make it, but they would for sure get to us on Sunday.
By Sunday I was beyond stressed. My ceilings were leaking, and my house was just taking on more and more damage.
My plumber arrived bright and early, and he was FANTASTIC. I literally cannot say enough good things about him. For those in Houston, we used Nick’s Plumbing, and they will be our plumbers for life. He did have to cut some holes in my ceiling (but we knew that was going to happen regardless) to access the leaks. In total, we had 6 (maybe 7) leaks, and he was able to patch them all up. Which meant, we have water access back at our house. Because we had so many leaks, we are going to need to repipe our house, and that is happening later this week. Once it’s all said and done, our piping will be much better than it was before. Our plumber was patient and kind and he spent half his morning crawling through my ceiling. I’m so thankful for him and so thankful we were able to get him out.
To sum this all up, last week was an incredibly traumatic experience to so many people for so many reasons. For some, it was not having access to clean drinking water. For others, it was sitting in their freezing houses for days on end. Food insecurity, water damages, burst pipes….. you name it, and everyone I know went through it.
For me personally, it was devastating to see my new house, that we worked so hard to buy, take on unnecessary damages. If we had been able to heat our house from the inside, our pipes would not have been that cold, and I guarantee you that our damages would not have been as severe. On the flip side, I acknowledge that this will ultimately end up being an inconvenience for Aaron and I (it will not be a devastating event like it will be for so many other people). We have the proper insurance and a way to get our house fixed. We have a fantastic support system who has delivered lunches and dinners and sat with us and listened and commiserated with us. We were all in it together. I’m going to spend some time pulling together some resources where people can donate – or volunteer if you feel so inclined, and I’ll share those later this week.
I’ve always known that Texas was a special state when I first moved here 17 years ago. And I’m even more proud of it today. So many neighbors, friends and strangers pulled together to help one another out. Aaron and I plan to pay it forward in whatever way we can. I’ve been so touched by the generosity and the kindness of the various vendors we’ve had in the house so far. No damage has been too big – and none of my questions have been too dumb to ask. They have been patient and kind and have really made me feel like my house will be put back together better than it was before. And for that, I’m so very thankful.