The Great Ice Storm

I would like to wish you, one and all, a very happy New Year. It is starting out as a doozy for us.  Between 6:30 and 7:00 on the 6th of January 2015, we got power back after five days without. For those that were in the high Chisos mountains, the storm that started all this began last Wednesday, New Years eve. Freezing rain blew in making travel up and down the mountain to the Basin, hazardous and resulting in the closure of the roads and the application of much grit. For the rest of this area it did not get serious until Friday. The ice accumulation was so great that it made the power lines sag. In one place they sagged enough that a passing truck hooked one and proceeded to pull down six poles. In another event 22 poles were pulled down simply by the weight of the accumulating ice. Those two events led to a huge area of West Texas experiencing an extended power outage. ( I wrote the above based on the information I had at the time.  It seems that it was much worse and there were hundreds of poles down.  See the Alpine Avalanche for more details.  http://www.alpineavalanche.com/news/article_e1c541e0-96cd-11e4-b5e7-abac3ae3d916.html ) With the roads covered in ice and power being out, it did not take much too push it over the edge and make it a memorable event. The time between Christmas and the New Year is popular with tourists in the Big Bend. Many stay on after the New Year begins. This time of year is delightful. I have Bougainvillea flowering in profusion and on the 7th, it reached seventy fahrenheit ( 21 C)  on the patio at La Kiva.


By comparison, my family in Minnesota was “enjoying” -15 F (-10 C) . It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you can afford the time, the Big Bend is the place to be at this time of year. While that is true most years, this year was different. The ice storm blew in and made driving hazardous and within a couple of days, gas supplies ran out.  Still, not a disaster.  We are used to power outages stretching into a second day, so no big deal.  It becomes a big deal when the generators start running out of fuel, the tanks at the local water company start to head precipitously close to empty, gas stations have no supplies and restaurants close their doors.  So what happens next? All the tourists with enough gas to leave, leave. Some left because they had been kicked out by the hotels, some left because they had been living in a tent, up a mountain and some left because the offerings from restaurants became more sparse as time went on . It reached the point that when it got dark everything closed, well almost everything.  Just a handful of places managed to keep up some sort of service but with everyone either leaving or conserving gasoline there were not many takers.

Josie and I had expected to spend Christmas at La Kiva but when we learned that our construction crew were taking two weeks off and heading to Mexico, we took the opportunity to head North, for the holidays. We had a great time with our children, three grand children, dogs, great food and surprisingly mild weather. We returned on Saturday after numerous gate changes and delays and we finally found ourselves in Midland, almost three hours later than our schedule. It looked like we would be home by 1:00 am. We received a call from a friend. “No gas, no electricity, not much food and no telephones. Stay in a hotel if you can find one.” We elected to head straight home anyway, largely because all the hotels were full or closed.  Normal service was resumed between 6:30 and 7:00 on the sixth. I can not be more certain because the power was flickering for about half an hour and at 7:00 the cell phone burst into life and let me know that I had 145 emails in my in box.

I think I need to make a T shirt. I SURVIVED THE GREAT ICE STORM OF 2015 AT LA KIVA Although in truth it was almost half done when we got home.

Some Of The Crew Christmas 2014

Our crew is all back and working. We got our first delivery of 2015.  It was supplies of mortery, cementy stuff and lots and lots of cement blocks and a few other necessary things for doing manly feats with walls and steps and stuff. It’s rather exciting.  Looking at all the pallets of cement blocks it’s as though we got a giant Lego for Christmas and all we have to do is to assemble it as La Kiva. We seem to have run out of things that need taking down and we are consistently building up and that is a good feeling.  Ooops.  I spoke too soon.  The site foreman called me to check out the patio door lintel.  I blanched.  How can I check out the lintel when it is under the viga’s and a rock wall some eighteen inches high?  The answer came quickly.  It used to be under the rock wall and vigas. The rock wall had already gone.  I reviewed the lintel, gave my blessing and was about to move on when I was taken to another area of the rebuilding.  The cold room door was the issue this time.  They explained what they planned to do and I explained why they couldn’t.  Fortunately the frame for the door had arrived just hours before so I was able to explain the way I had designed it and demonstrate with an actual door frame.  Smiles and nods all around and then it was the turn of the kitchen door.  I marked out the exact location and got more smiles and nods of approval.  At this point I paused and surveyed the scene.  There are walls going up all around and it is happening fairly quickly.  We still have some rock walls to build and they will take more time, but even so, we expect to be finished with the wall building and ready to put a roof on in seven weeks.

The new bar is looking good, though when Gumby, La Kiva’s long time bar man, called in to check on progress, he declared the bar to be too low. I grinned inwardly as I knew something he didn’t. What ensued was some frenetic activity in which a piece of bar top material of correct thickness, texture and width was procured to ensure that the test was performed on a finished height bar.


A regulation height bar stool was located and positioned close to the traditional location of the bar vulture and cheap beer was produced from my secret stash. Gumby instantly objected and summarily dismissed my selection of cheap beer, substituting instead his own choice of cheap beer, from his own stash. He then proceeded to test the new bar by leaning, slumping and draping himself in a variety of poses and from both sides of the bar. After long and careful consideration, Gumby pronounced the bar as being at a suitable and proper height and probably no more than a few millimeters different than the height of the original bar. While this may come as a surprise to many, Gumby being one of them, it was no surprise to me. You see, I had measured the height of the original bar so I didn’t need to lean, slump and drape to know that this was as good as it got for authenticity. Now I suppose that Gumby is going to read this, or one of you will tell him and then he will know that it was not just a happy chance that the new bar ended up being close to the height of the old bar. I planned it that way from the beginning and in addition he will now know that I can read a tape measure and the new bar is EXACTLY the same height as the old bar.  OK.  That’s enough ragging on Gumby.  Fun as it may be, payback is a b***h.

One final update.  We have started work on rehabilitating the old campground.  While we were off enjoying ourselves in the arctic tundra, William was doing sterling work in the tent campground.  He has cleaned up most of the old parking places and has started on the actual camping spots.


Despite what you see, don’t all rush on down with your tents.  We have a lot of work to do before we can declare the campground fit for visitors but at least we have made a start.

9 thoughts on “The Great Ice Storm”

  1. Thank you for the entertaining update. All construction is painful, you manage to make it sound borderline fun.
    San Antonio is waiting for the Phoenix to rise!!!

  2. i like the part about what they planned to do and you telling them why they couldn’t….i bet there has been a bit of that going back and forth as La Kiva progresses. Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.

  3. we loved visiting LaKiva when we were in the area, and was thrilled to see that it had been purchased and was going to re-open. Too bad that you are having to essentially rebuild it, would you have purchased it if you had known all this?

  4. Hello: My family just left Terlingua on Dec. 29th, beating the ice storm, thankfully. We drove by LaKiva a few times and were happy to see that work was being done to restore it to its original charm! We look forward to coming back when you are finished to see what you’ve done to the place.

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