Pages Navigation Menu

Ice Storm 2021

Here’s the odd thing about the ice storm of 2021; grey overcast skies with no wind and record cold at minus ten that brought everything to a stop. Frost bit ears is nothing new during early spring calving season, but this storm brought NO wind for the windmills and NO sun for our solar panels. The water stopped flowing. Those temperatures were brutal and the snow never melted.

This is the Texas Panhandle, y’all. We ALWAYS have wind, and after a few days we ALWAYS have warm sunshine except this time we didn’t. If there’s one thing good about this massive cold front the fact we didn’t have wind is a blessing. It made things a lot easier on the critters. We only had two calves on the ground and both survived.

The horrible news is that ranches further south from us did not fair as well. Many were well into their calving season, with some reporting more than 25% loss. It was just too cold for those newborn calves and out hearts go out the farmers and ranchers that lost their valuable livestock.

BP and Chris revive a wet newborn with a blow-dryer and a bottle of calf milk replacer. Good news, momma was still waiting at the same spot and accepted him back! Photo Cred: Tavia Vinson. Sanford Ranch, Texas Panhandle.

People came together to use the knowledge gained from generations past. Filling up their bathtubs with snow, so they could flush toilets. Friends and family gathering inside the homes that had power or fireplaces. Grandmas old oil lantern is not only an impressive antique on my mantel, but very useful. Many may think we’re old school and simple around here, but people are very hardy and ingenious. These are the things we learned from our grandparents; consider your options, deal with the problem, and no whining. Tough it out.

After that minus ten degrees night, thankfully we had one sink and shower on an inside wall that didn’t freeze, and I washed dishes in the utility room sink. The most we went without water was 3 days because of a busted valve inside the well house, but we had bottled water stockpiled. The power blinked on and off several times, proving that our lineman were on the job the entire time.

My husband had ordered more fire wood about a month ago, and I questioned his motives at spending the money. “Winter is almost over,” I told him. “We have plenty for the next several months.” Boy was I wrong. We kept that fireplace going night and day and adjusted our central air to save on power.

Snow storm in Amarillo, 2013.

Growing up I can recall listening to my father and his coffee shop buddies talk about past storms. My grandfather had some great stories too. Where they were and what they did to make it through were worth repeating, as the details grew with each telling. Weather is an important topic around here.

My grandfather, Pappy, always listened to his scratchy, hissing radio for weather reports when the power went out. There wasn’t anything we could do to change the impending doom, but the forecast was accepted with unwavering faith and belief that we could out ride any kind of catastrophe. There were stories from the past to prove it.

My grandmother was the ultimate prepper before that was even a thing. Of course, she had plenty of home-grown, canned veges in the cellar. She’d fill up every available bowl and jar with water just in case the well froze. And I remember my mom doing the same thing on occasion. My husband recalls his grandmother canning beef. Our cousins in Montana held a massive food prep weekend where they’d smoke hams and beef, bake cakes and pies, and so on, to ride out the stormy seasons. Every winter my dad put snow chains on his pickup tires and added several sacks of cement for weight in the back. He’d drive around our small town pulling countless numbers of people out of the ditch and helping them on to their destination.

Texas Panhandle

This past storm reminded me how innovative and enduring folks can be. You’ll find rural folks outside in the worst conditions, as you might have noticed from all of those great social media pics. Close attention is paid to the livestock, often times willingly bringing critters of all kinds inside their homes. Stock tanks and water sources can be frozen solid. My husband remembers starting small fires next to metal water tanks when it was too thick to break with an axe. Water, hay, or supplemental feed has to be delivered.

I don’t mean to minimize the hardships people faced this past weekend. There was a lot of suffering because of it. The winter storm of 2021 will be talked about for years to come. To the point about this area and for most of my life, there’s not much bemoaning the works of mother nature. People deal with it and move on. Common sense has always ruled.

Written by Texas Panhandle historian, Laura V. Hamner, “colorless and grim” describes the cold front of 2021 perfectly. Ms. Hamner writes:

“Winds of the north rattled the ice-encased threads of grass in the lowlands and whistled among crusted prairie grasses on the High Plains. Clouds hung like a dull gray hood over an impersonal earth, colorless and grim and lonely as it whirled through the black immensity of space. The pallid days grew shorter and shorter and the pale sun moved southward, giving only slant looks behind as it retreated, leaving the land to snow and ice. Cattle crunched their slow way from the high lands to the shelter of the breaks, seeking spots of grass that did not bear the weight of the frozen snow, nudging the snow away from the edge of drifts, uncovering a sparse meal, or tuning in their hunger to the tall grasses which they had ignored in their days of plenty.”

Light ‘n Hitch, Laure V. Hamner (1958)

Natalie Bright is a blogger and author of books for kids and adults. Her newest books, the Wild Cow Ranch series launched in 2021 at Amazon in eBook and print formats. Click here to purchase. Also the upcoming KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’: The All-American Chuck Wagon Cookbook is slated for June 2021. With over 100 recipes, cattle drive history, archival photos, and her own Texas ranch photography, you can bring a taste of the old West to your kitchen! The cookbook is available NOW for pre-order at all online bookstores.