Frozen on the Beach

Weathering Texas’ Big Breeze on the Beach in Bolivar Peninsula Near Galveston

It was quite by an accident that I ended up weathering the worst winter storm to hit Texas in some 100 years. I was camping on the Bolivar Peninsula right by the ocean. It is very close to Galveston. The storm and sub freezing temperatures were supposed to last just one night, but ended up quite a bit longer. The beach is called Bolivar Flats and it offers dry dispersed camping for a nominal one time fee. There were 8-10 RV’s spaced out on the 1 mile long beach.

A travel trailer on a beach in the snow
A travel trailer and other campers along the beach weathering the snow, ice and sleet on the ground, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Before the storm, a constant parade of ships were going in and out in the channel between Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island. I assume that this is an entryway to the Houston Ship Channel and route to Port Houston, one of the busiest seaports in the world. Once the storm started, the vessels I could see, all stopped. Only 2 ships stayed off the coast, probably waiting for the storm to pass. The two ships moved very little during the storm, they just changed their orientation as the storm progressed.

Dark clouds overhead and ship at sea
A break in the storm with dark clouds overhead and ships at sea.
Two ships at sea, ice on the beach
Ships at sea at sunset, viewed from a flat shoreline with ice on the sand with a high rise building in the background, Bolivar Flats, Texas

Ice was dropping from the sky as freezing rain and also forming on the beach as the tide went out leaving ripples of ice on the beach. The temperatures were in the teens for several days.

My Airstream trailer is not very well insulated, so some of the ice melted and refroze again creating interesting icicles on the outside of the trailer.

Ripples of ice on the beach left by the receding tide
As the tide receded it left ripples of frozen ocean water on the beach

Finally the clouds broke, the sun came out, and we had a beautiful sunset, but it was still cold enough for the snow and ice to stay. In fact, that night got even colder. The water froze in the trailer and I was concerned that the pipes would burst if I couldn’t move the trailer to a warmer location.

It was so cold that I used much more propane to heat the trailer than I had anticipated. I was beginning to run low on supplies, most importantly, running low on propane. Propane was especially important to prevent the trailer from freezing because electricity wasn’t an option on the beach or in the nearby area.

Icicles on a travel trailer
Icicles hanging from the window of my travel trailer
A travel trailer reflecting the sunlight
My travel trailer reflecting the sun light at sunset

Heading West to Find Propane and Getting Caught Up in the Storm Again

The problem I ran into was that much of the areas around Houston, Texas was shutdown. They lost power and had no backup. Grocery stores, Walmart, and most significantly gas stations were closed. The few that remained operational were crowded. But I managed to get gas and food. Propane was a more difficult to obtain. I finally found a place were the pump had failed before the storm and not been operational during the storm. It had only been repaired a short time before I arrived. They were the only place I saw where one could get propane that day. The woman pumping the propane was busy the entire time I was there. While they charged $1 extra for each gallon, nobody complained.

As I drove west on I-10, in search of warmer weather, the road was fairly empty. I needed to stay alert to icy conditions.

I stopped before nightfall in western Texas. At night, the storm caught up with me a second time. In the morning, I found a fine layer of snow had covered everything in white. I waited a few hours for the heavy trucks to pound the snow on the highway and leave dry traffic lanes before I started driving again in search of warm weather.

Snow on a truck and trailer
A thin layer of snow overnight decorated my trailer and the parking lot at the rest area

Water thawing and freezing on the wheels created these interesting star formations. If you look carefully you notice that the spikes all point in one direction. It was probably caused by the rotation of the wheel as the water froze in these icicle formation.

Icicles on a hubcap
Icicles in a circular formation formed by melt water freezing again during driving

When I got to El Paso, the temperatures were in the 70’s. It was a welcome summer in the middle of winter.


6 thoughts on “Frozen on the Beach

  1. kai M wiedman

    Crazy to have to go through that. I’m glad you’re okay. You do have a good story to tell though

  2. David Fogel

    The frozen icicles on the wheel looks extremely interesting. thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. admin Post author

    Thanks Kai, I am home now after a 2 1/2 months on the road. It was a fabulous trip

  4. admin Post author

    Thanks Bonnie, the only thing I miss hiking and my friends. I am trying to get back in shape quickly so I can join your hikes.

  5. Hailen Mak

    Love your trailer sunset photo and the “art work” on your wheel. It is quite an adventure, but you made it safely despite of all the hardship. Congratulations