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Survival Tips from Texans Weathering the Storm

We’re through the worst of the storm it seems, though the residual effects are still impacting some Texans – like energy blackouts and water outages. I would love to tell you that part is almost over too, but the truth is that I really don’t know how much longer these systems will be down. So in the meantime, I’d like to share with you a few survival tips from those who have dealt with this sort of thing before, and a few ways in which Texans have creatively problem-solved while we tackle the aftermath of this storm:

Now since each of us is impacted differently by the winter storm, I’d like to share few tips for thriving in these conditions – particularly since we’re still not sure when the water will come back on. Here are a few tips from a former Peace Corps volunteer on not just surviving but thriving without running tap water or electricity:

  • Brushing your teeth: make sure your toothbrush is able to dry fully between each use to cut down on bacteria growth – when you’re brushing your teeth it’s fine to use non-potable water since the toothpaste will kill the bacteria in your mouth. For kids who may still by used to swallowing the toothpaste, use clean drinking water to brush your teeth, but remember to rinse your mouth out and use that water to clean your toothbrush before pouring clean water on the brush to clean it off, and then wait until it dries to use it again.
  • Taking a shower: there are a couple of options to clean your body when you have no running water – either a bucket bath or a solar shower should to the trick! Add some water to the stove to boil using snow from your back yard, then add that water to a bucket along with a little more snow until you reach a desired temperature. Then use a small bowl to pour the warm snow melt on your body, lather up, and then again use the small bowl to wash off the soap (best to do this in a shower or in a room with proper drainage). Alternatively, you can also create a solar shower by hanging a black bag of water/snow in a nearby tree – wait for the sun to heat up the water – once it’s warm, you can poke a small hole in the bag to let the water shower you as you rinse off (keep in mind you might need to rinse off quickly! Or make sure to have a little more warm water on standby). 
  • Washing dishes: this trick I actually learned in the girl scouts, however it helped me significantly in the Peace Corps as well – heat up a batch of water and plug up one side of your sink. Then, rinse off your dishes and add them to the sink (you’ll want to try and keep this water as clean as possible, so remove as much debris as you can before adding dishes to it). In a separate container (or plug up the other side of your sink), add water but do not add soap. Now you’ve got your dish cleaning station ready – simply wash/scrub the dishes in the soapy water, dip them into the non-soapy water to rinse them off, and lay them out to air-dry. Note: you will need to make sure they’re completely dry before using so the bacteria from the water is killed first). 
  • Staying Warm (without Power): the most obvious choice here is to wear layers! While this may not be intuitive, it’s actually better to wear layers with alternating tightness – one close fit layer, with one loose-fit layer, followed by another tight layer – since this traps body heat between each layer and allows you to stay warm. Additionally, it might be time to break out those camping supplies like your sleeping bag or other cold-weather gear since your usual comforter might not supply enough heat in freezing temperatures.
  • Light: of course you can use things like flashlights and candles to light your way at night, however did you know you can also use things like Crisco or animal fat as a back-up candle for heat and light? Simply add a wick (if you have hemp-wick), or a small, dry stick to a jar of Crisco, and you’ll have a candle that will burn for days! Just be sure to blow it out before you go to sleep.
  • Entertainment: now perhaps with all these survival methodologies you’ll be too tired to even think about having fun, but it’s a very important part of thriving and can be particularly important when all else seems lost! So it’s time to break out the books, a deck of cards, or board games – or, even break out your hand-held radio for a dance party! If you have a car, you can even get warm and have some fun by sitting in the car and playing the radio – just make sure you’re in an open area because you don’t want to risk carbon monoxide poisoning!

Whatever conditions you’re in, just know that someone is always available to help. This guide will help you survive if you decide to tough it out at home, however if your house is below freezing for more than 48 hours, or if you’ve run out of snow-melt and no longer have water, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

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What To Do If Your Pipes Burst

Hopefully none of you will need this advice, but given what we’ve seen so far during this Texas snowstorm, it’s likely some of you will – check out the following links for what to do to prevent your pipes from freezing/bursting in this weather, and what to do if your pipes do break!

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What To Do If Your Water Gets Turned Off in a Snowstorm!

Wow! I never thought I would be writing so many contingency plans for home maintenance for Snow in Texas, but alas, here we are.

Humans are incredibly resilient creatures – and in tough times our endurance is tested, but not broken. Lots of Texans have been without power this week, but I’d like to focus on the next phase of this ongoing weather problem: your water source. As if a global pandemic and sub-freezing temperatures with no indoor heating wasn’t enough?! First we should consider why this is happening, and for some this may be obvious, however a lot of us are enduring our first major freeze as homeowners, and it’s important to understand what next steps will be taken and why: https://www.kvue.com/article/weather/austin-texas-power-outage-pipes-protection-tips/269-af02c419-4c91-4033-a5de-1c4d342813f4.

Now that we know what’s next to come in this snowstorm, here are a few tips and tricks for on how to prepare for losing your water service: https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/no-water-now-what-27-tips-to-prepare-for-a-water-outage/. This article outlines things like storing water in air-tight containers to protect it’s potability; or reminding us to use that hand-sanitizer we’ve all been stocking up on all year, instead of using the little water you have to clean your hands; there are also rainwater collection systems (or in this case, snow-water collection) that you can employ to trap any extra water that falls from your rooftop which can be really helpful if your water is off for days at a time. Keep in mind you may still need to boil your water before consuming, even if storing in an air-tight and UV-light protected casing. If you don’t want to invest in an expensive rainwater catchment system, don’t! Instead, you can put bottles/bowls beneath your roof-line (or beneath your gutter drainage system if you have one) in order to collect water for later usage; or, if you’re feeling really industrious, plug your bathtub and add snow – once it melts, you can boil some of it to take a bath or wash your hands (I would not recommend drinking it).

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