December 29, 1978 was the start of ten days of ice storm and well below freezing temperature. It was the worst ice storm to hit Texas in 30 years. We went 10 days without power. One night about 9:00 PM we lost our electricity. The alarms went off so I went down to the greenhouses. They were packed full of plants almost ready for delivery. Without electricity all of our heaters shut down. At this time we had about twelve houses comprising 120,000 sq ft. I had back-up diesel burning heaters for some of the houses but not all of them. I had a borrowed portable generator going in the big 10,000 sq ft house. I had to keep the temperature above freezing in the other houses or lose the crop.
I got all the diesel heaters going and began to move them from house to house. This was after midnight and it was so cold. I would wait until a house got down to about 33 degrees and then would slide one of these heaters-that weighed about 80 lbs-to the colder house. There was about four inches of ice on the ground and I would slip and slide, frequently falling down trying to move the heaters.
About 3:00 AM, I had a particularly bad fall and was lying on my back on the ice looking up at a clear sky, a full moon with a temperature of 9 degrees, and wondering what on earth I was doing there! I fought a losing battle until about 5:00 AM. I could not stay up with it and some of the beautiful full ferns began to show signs of freezing. To make a long story a little shorter, we lost about 70% of our crop. These were plants that were already sold and waiting for early spring to be delivered. I had borrowed from the bank to finance that crop and at that time the interest rate for bank loans for small business was at 18%. Really bad deal!!
Losing Mom, Sebastian, and the nursery crop all in about an 18 month period was hard to deal with but with a lot of prayers and help from the good Lord we made it through.
Photo of Dallas 1978 ice storm found here.