Editor’s note: This column was written Wednesday morning as power began to fail at The Daily Sentinel office. In the meantime, electricity has been restored to the office and the writer’s home.
This week has been like a chapter from an old Russian novel.
Like many Nacogdoches County residents, I’ve been without power at home since at least 7 a.m. Monday, except for a few 15 to 30 minute bursts of electricity.
My apartment parking lot was impassable in my Volkswagen. Even the finest German engineering can’t overcome 5 inches of snow in steeply graded parking lot that’s designed perfectly for hurricanes but not for blizzards. So I bundled up and started the two-mile hike to The Daily Sentinel’s office on Colonial Drive. The news doesn’t stop when the weather is bad; it only intensifies. I would be there to report it, regardless of what I needed to overcome.
About halfway through my uphill slog around the loop, a kind driver pulled over and offered me a ride. I accepted.
Sentinel reporter Nicole Bradford also lives within walking distance of the office and hiked in to work through the snow. We spent the better part of the day reporting on power outages, cancellations and road conditions. I stood for about 30 minutes in the middle of University Drive taking photos.
These are the types of things I mention people who complain about the media. We go places you don’t want to go, places that sometimes aren’t safe to be — like in a snow storm in freezing temperates — to gather and provide information the public needs and wants. We do this every day.
After a full day, I began to walk home. Another kind driver offered me a lift, and I accepted.
The thought crossed my mind that I’d essentially been hitchhiking with total strangers during a record snowfall like it was some sort of bizarro 1950s.
When I got home, my power had been on for 15 minutes, or so said the digital clock in keep in my living room. I was overjoyed. Ten minutes later it was gone.
I bundled up in layers, covered my sliding glass door with a blanket and duct taped the cracks around the door. These are lessons I learned from my great-grandmother who grew facing harsh Northeast Texas winters and was 16 during the Great Blizzard of 1929.
I thought back to a time when she was living alone during a major ice storm. I was a teenager and she was nearly 90. Phone and power lines were down, so I walked a mile through thick ice to check on her.
When I arrived, she was boiling water to wash dishes from the lunch she had just made.
I was by myself Monday night, but I knew I wasn’t alone in this great struggle. I was lucky to be in doors with enough blankets and pillows.
My thermostat said it was 44 degrees inside when I awoke Tuesday morning. Outside, my phone said, was a frigid zero. I hadn’t felt anything so cold since I move back to the South from Minnesota.
I bundled up again, grabbed my laptop and started the excruciating walk. I was passed by motorists again and again. No one wanted to be the Good Samaritan that morning until I was about a quarter mile from work. I accepted graciously.
I kept thinking how I had, quite literally, walked to work uphill, both ways, in the snow, just like in those stories parents like to tell their children.
By 5 p.m., I felt that the refrozen snow and slush was too slick to traverse and opted to camp out at the office. I pushed two sets of beam chairs together and wrapped up with some old backdrops from our photo studio.
It wasn’t the best makeshift bed, but it worked.
Wednesday morning, I went out into the freeing rain to snap a few photos when I noticed pools of water standing outside our loading dock. A pipe had burst and a half inch of water stood in the back of our building.
After some phone calls, I was able to find the water main, cut the flow and tape up the broken pipe. I suppose I can now add amateur plumber to my list of journalism skills.
As I write this, it’s around 11:40 Wednesday morning, and the power has been flickering for over an hour. Without water — soon power — I’ve have no choice but to abandon ship. I can feel the moment getting closer as the power fades again.
But as soon as I’ve got the means to do so, I’ll be bringing you the news again.
Josh Edwards is managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.