I have been parked in the driveway of my parents’ home in Central Texas. Having grown up here, I know the old joke about “Don’t like the weather? Just wait 15 minutes!” had to be coined about Texas, as it is common for the temperature to drop from the 80’s to the 40’s in an hour. The weather was pleasant when I arrived, but the forecast predicted the always dreaded “wintery mix” on the way. So I began making plans to winterize the Winnie. I arranged with a local tire station to use their compressor to blow out my waterlines. I had planned a trip to Walmart to buy some “pink stuff” for the sink traps and holding tanks. And also planned to go back to my storage shed and get my outdoor extension cord and drop light to put in the sewer bay. The storm was coming on fast, and there was not much time.
And then, it hit me….some 24 hour bug that had my upper and lower sphincters competing for who was going to get to the toilet first. (TMI?) Anyone who knows me, KNOWS I am sick when paying for expensive repairs seems like the lesser of the two evils over getting out of bed!
So in came the ice….for four straight days, no one could even get out of the driveway. My parents live in a very rural town, so streets are closed rather than sanded. Nothing to do but wait for the thaw, convalesce, and hope for the best.
I am happy to report that even though we hit lows of 17 degrees, both the Winnie and I recovered beautifully, but not without a few sleepless nights. Between the fever that came with the stomach flu and the sound of ice laden branches raking across my roof, I was hallucinating that raccoons and possums were trying to seek refuge in my slide bay, which had me out looking for footprints in the snow in the middle of the night, wearing my PJs and wielding a broom handle as a weapon.
I compiled a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” on “How to survive (or not) a Texas Ice Storm:”
- Keep a small space heater in the rig, preferably a low “baseboard heater” that keeps the floor warm, since heat rises so quickly in the small space of an RV. Mine stores perfectly under the dinette.
- Keep the propane heater thermostat set on 55 degrees, for times when item #1 cannot keep up.
- Leave the hot water heater and holding tank heaters on continuously as long as temps are below 30.
- Leave bathroom and sink cabinet doors open so warm air circulates.
- Remove paneled cover over water pump so warm air circulates.
- Seal off cab area with privacy curtain/blankets and pillows to minimize air space to be heated.
- Bring in slide to minimize metal wall space exposure.
- Put 60 watt drop light in sewer bay if you have one. If not, turn on overhead light bulb in bay, remove plastic cover, and line the back with aluminum foil for heat reflection.
- Keep a hiking pole handy to navigate treacherous outdoor passageways.
- Keep a gallon of “pink stuff” (RV/Marine antifreeze) on hand during winter months for emergencies.
- Don’t remain parked under tree limbs if an ice storm is on the way. High limbs that are 8 feet above the roof can suddenly become low drooping missiles, ready to snap under a heavy coat of ice.
- Don’t start the engine with the steps out if they are covered in 2 inches of sleet and ice, as the motor will try to retract them, but they will not retract due to added height. If you need to start the motor, use hot water to melt the ice “covers” on the steps first.
- Don’t use the steps after above “Don’t!” Even as ice begins to thaw, runoff from awning can refreeze a coating of “black ice” on the steps, indistinguishable until it is too late!
- Don’t retract the slide when the slide awning is frozen and covered with ice. Thankfully, mine rebounded, but the crunching sound and crinkling of the awning gave me a fright as the slide came in and the roller was frozen.
- Keep your imagination in check! No raccoons or possums or even stray cats were seeking refuge underneath my vehicle. And if they were, there is nothing I could do about it under the circumstances. Best stay inside and hope they are just passing through. If not, know you are doing your part toward animal rescue from the cold!
- Think positive! I was so fearful that something had frozen and burst that once the ice did thaw, I was on “high alert” for leaks. I added water to my now low fresh water tank. The water pump ran continuously, so I was convinced there was a leak, and asked my brother to come help with repair, only to suffer the embarrassment of him pointing out that I had failed to flip the switch from “tank fill” to “normal.”
- Don’t PANIC! Do what you can, and fix the rest later. Best not to take chances with ice on the roads!
I wish everyone a safe, warm, happy, healthy Holiday Season!