Unexpected Winter Blues In One Cold-ass Condo


icicles, ice storm

Who hasn’t been aghast by the surreal disaster playing out in Texas? Social media is bombarded with videos of water from busted pipes gushing through homes, down apartment stairwells, and over balconies. Repeatedly, we see waterlogged ceilings caving in rendering residences unlivable. 

Frozen conditions, no water, no electricity, no heat. People swaddled in outdoor gear inside desperate for heat. If we didn’t see it with our own eyes, we’d be hard pressed to grasp fully the magnitude of a region wholly unprepared for an unprecedented arctic blast.

I remember when I had a brush with that kind of cold.

It was the winter of 2016. My roommate and I were bunking at a long-stay Airbnb in Eugene, Oregon while we considered the area as a possible permanent move. We’d been doing this sort of thing for two months since selling her home in south Salem earlier that summer, so it was a relief that we found a condo to ride out the tail end of summer and maybe through the winter.

And what a place we found! A furnished, stand-alone condo with a loft in a private wooded area and lots of picture windows and skylights. A wood stove. An attached deck and a covered front porch. All this in a prime location.

I got the biggest kick watching the wildlife, too. Squirrels enjoyed my generous apple offerings and turkeys perched on the fence or hopped down from the rooftops, taking leisurely strolls on the property. It made quite a lovely and comfortable setting as we said goodbye to August then September.

But as what usually happens in Oregon when it sinks deeper into fall, temperatures dip and the weather becomes wet, just in time for Halloween. That was about the time we noticed the place really didn’t warm up no matter how long we ran the heater. Firing up the wood stove helped some but considering neither one of us was comfortable with them, that turned out to be a different beast altogether.

We began to wear double layers under our sweaters and jackets and covered those vents with cardboard where I could detect drafts.  The huge windows I had once thought so charming proved to be poor protection from the frigid air. Thinking a portable oil radiator would help, yet after having it trip the circuit panel twice, it was obvious we were overloading the system. The last thing we wanted was to start an electrical fire.

So we traded out the portable radiator for fire wood and a YouTube crash course in wood stove operation. No matter what I tried we could only get warm when standing directly in front of it. The nights remained frigid whereas the days were only slightly less so.

Mornings were the worst, though. The loft was cold but as soon as we were halfway down the stairs I swear it was like walking into a freezer, the difference in temperatures between the two levels was that numbing. We’d even heat up the oven and prop open it's door to help thaw the kitchen.

It was crazy cold in the condo. Surely this wasn't normal?

The potential of freezing pipes was always a worry. Running taps and opening under-sink cabinets seemed to only encourage drafts, but the fear of busted pipes had me leaving open every single cabinet in the place.

Luckily, no pipes burst during our stay, even when an ice storm gripped Eugene, dropping deadened tree limbs like missiles, sometimes the trees themselves, and we lost power for a few hours. But we were lucky. Other parts of town were without electricity for several days, forcing residents to swarm local hotels. Even though we paid a small fortune in firewood, at least we had an alternative, which is more than most Texans and other Midwesterners have right now. I feel for them, truly.

You'd be right to think having the heater cranked 24/7 would catch the eventual notice of the owner asking what was the deal. Her objections over a too high electric bill met with our complaints of us freezing.
Would you be surprised when a follow-up inspection revealed a twenty degree difference from the loft and ground floor? When the temp inside your house hovers around 40 degrees, it makes a person want to do desperate things.

But what’s happening in Texas is a hundred times worse and makes our experience a blip in comparison. We also didn’t have to face insurance claims they’ll probably have to deal with when all is over. (Actually, I did crack my friend’s car windshield when clearing it from snow with a broom a little too forcefully, which still gets me the stank eye whenever it comes up, but that’s not the same as a caved ceiling, is it?)

We laugh now about that impossible winter in Eugene, chalking it up as one of our (many) crazy friend adventures, but back then it felt quite the scramble and caused a whole lot of blues.

Alls I’m saying is that I feel for ya’ll, Texas. With a bit of luck you’ll not have to wait much longer for utilities to kick in again. Until then, stay safe.


  1. Oh my God! As I read about Texas my heart aches for the people. Ted Cruz you deserve a permanent timeout. I remember this misadventure in Eugene. It was so cold in that condo, damn it. For four weeks we hunted every other day for firewood. I remember the guy who rear ended my car. He was a bundle of nerves. He admitted it was his fault because he was distracted by all the fallen trees and the man was in tears telling me that his father was placed into hospice earlier that day. I just wanted to hug him. It was a miserable time.

    So watching what the people in Texas are experiencing, I wish I could take my magic wand and give them all the comfort they can handle. Food. Shelter. Warmth. Safety...all yours.

    Thanks for memories.

    1. I know, right? It's a terrible shame what Texas is going through. On a smaller scale, we know the pain—and the anxiety, the helplessness, the dazed bewilderment.

      But nobody saw us heading to CancĂșn, now, did they? ;)

  2. Chile...please. Texas you folks need to remember this when its time to elect new representatives, cause Ted Cruz is worthless and Governor Abbott has other priorities.

    Beto you need to run for something. Texas looks like some third world country. Planetary aspects is shaking America to its core.



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