The first yard sign showed up in late February as many Austinites were still waiting to get their plumbing to work post-storm and standing in lines for bottled water. Tacked below a “FOR SALE” sign, a realtor’s custom-printed placard declared, on behalf of the house behind it.
Our house didn’t quite “rock” the great Texas power outage last month. Neither did nearly half of Austin, which lost power for multiple days. For us, the crisis began at 5 a.m. on Monday, when my partner, Nina, was awakened by the baby monitor beeping “out of signal range” (the camera had lost power). It didn’t seem too concerning at first — there had been a snowstorm, and such things happen. I had cell service but no internet on my phone, so I got the news from my neighbors and my parents: The energy company had announced “rolling blackouts.” That sounded somewhat serious.
We piled more and more layers onto the baby as the indoor thermostat slipped under 60 degrees by late morning. My parents told me they had watched a press conference and that “rolling” was beginning to sound like a dishonest euphemism. I finally got a cell-data signal and saw that a city councilman was tweeting, against the official rhetoric, that the blackouts might continue for days without ever rolling back on.
When Nina went to scout the snow-covered roads, we found that struggling vehicles littered the roadsides and that several thoroughfares seemed impassible. I didn’t trust our decade-old Prius to get us out safely. We had no friends with power within walking distance, and we certainly didn’t have a generator. Then, Nina’s friends Sarah and Jake reached out — they had power (perhaps because their house is near a juvenile-detention facility), lived a few miles away, and offered to take us in, even to pick us up in their four-wheel-drive vehicle. We piled into their car with the dog at our feet while Nina clutched the baby in her arms, squeaked up some treacherous hills, and finally made it to their warm house.