Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Austin’s 2023 ice storm

with 40 comments


During the overnight from January 31st into the morning of February 1st freezing rain descended upon Austin. The weight of the accumulated ice brought down many branches and even whole trees, along with lots of power lines, so that hundreds of thousands of people in Austin lost electricity. In our neighborhood, power (and therefore for us also heat) went out at 4:35 AM on February 1st and didn’t come back till bedtime on February 3rd. In between we dressed in multiple layers of clothing inside the house and slept in sleeping bags with two blankets over them. Despite the ordeal, what nature photographer could pass up the chance for pictures? And this time I needed to go no farther than our yard. These two photographs show yaupon trees (Ilex vomitoria) covered with ice. Above is a good-sized one in the side yard whose branches were bowed from (but not broken by) the weight of the ice. Below is a young yaupon out front near the curb.



We used a camping stove twice on Wednesday and once on Thursday to make hot food and drinks, but by then our two little propane tanks had run out of fuel. Late Thursday afternoon, using a small chain saw, I managed to clear enough branches from one side of the driveway that we could get the car parked on that side of the garage out and go have supper in a restaurant. If you’d like a purely informational, non-aesthetic picture showing the Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei) that had collapsed across the driveway, you can click the thumbnail below.



A closeup of that now-gone Ashe juniper’s trunk appeared as the second picture in a 2020 post.


More ice storm pictures next time.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 5, 2023 at 4:30 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

40 Responses

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  1. Wauw, unless all the problems, you were lucky that the tree was not a massive one and came down on your house ! I hope you are warm again now.


    February 5, 2023 at 6:17 AM

    • We’d had a damaged part of that juniper removed after the ice storm two Februarys ago, so there was less—but still a fair amount—to come crashing down this time. It may be hard to tell in the photograph that one branch did end up on our roof. A few shingles may need replacing. As for warmth, we got our power back on Friday at bedtime after three days in the cold.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 7:10 AM

  2. glad you are safe


    February 5, 2023 at 6:20 AM

  3. The war zone comparison certainly is apt; I suppose that makes you a sort of war correspondent. I take it there was no damage to your house or garage, despite the significant tree loss. I am glad the yaupon by your computer room window managed to stay intact, making future wildlife sightings certain. Despite it all, the photos are beautiful. The ice-coated berries remind me of montucky’s ice-coated buttercups.


    February 5, 2023 at 6:27 AM

    • Never thought I’d be a war correspondent; February 2021 and now February 2023 seem to qualify me. As for the yaupon outside the computer room, cedar waxwings flew on the day after the ice arrived and ate some more of the fruit they’ve intermittently been whittling down. As for damage to the roof over the garage, I suspect a few shingles may need replacing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 7:19 AM

  4. I remember my OH was visiting Dallas when there was an ice-storm. Made his walk from the hotel to the conference centre very hazardous. I would never have believed you get this sort of weather in Texas, I imagined it was hot all year round.


    February 5, 2023 at 6:30 AM

    • The northern parts of Texas are far enough north that winter regularly brings snow and ice up there. That used to be rather uncommon here in Austin, but this year and the past two might be a sign that things are changing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 7:22 AM

  5. It doesn’t seem right to click the LIKE button but I did it anyway. Too bad about the tree but at least you got some good photos.


    February 5, 2023 at 7:26 AM

    • I understand what you mean. Maybe there should be an Appreciate button instead of a Like button. And as you said, at least I got some pretty pictures out of it, both on the day shown here and on the next one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 9:02 AM

  6. Sorry, you had to go through that. It missed us down south. We had a bad one in the 90s and after that, we bought a gas grill which came in handy after Ike and two weeks without electricity.

    automatic gardener

    February 5, 2023 at 7:29 AM

    • Two weeks without electricity: that’s really bad. As a result of what we’ve been through in two of the last three Februarys my wife suggested we get a gas grill. A relative of hers lent us a small Sterno burner, and we just ordered one for ourselves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 9:15 AM

  7. It’s never a good thing to deal with the danger of ice, and especially to find ways to keep warm when the power goes out, but I’ve always found it a bit exciting to tap into the survivalist within. It’s an adventure. And of course you made the best of it and found beauty in all of that icing.

    I see global warming must have skipped these parts and all the way south this week!


    February 5, 2023 at 7:40 AM

    • Eve and I would both much rather be hot than cold, so losing heat in the winter is an ordeal. On the other hand, as you said, we found ways to deal with it. And as in the last two Februarys, the ice brought unaccustomed and welcome chances for ice pictures. Even so, we’ll be happy if next February behaves itself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 9:21 AM

  8. I did read about this on the news! I was wondering about my blogging peeps. Good that you managed to survive and even take some cool photos.

    Alessandra Chaves

    February 5, 2023 at 8:30 AM

  9. I’m sorry to hear about your power outage and subsequent ordeal, Steve, but I’m glad you survived and stayed warm enough to operate your camera and capture the icy beauty of the moment. I hope the damage to the local plants and animals wasn’t too severe.


    February 5, 2023 at 8:44 AM

    • On Friday night as we turned onto our street I caught a glimpse of a herd of deer, maybe 10 of them, in someone’s yard. They must be desperate for something to eat in such cold and icy weather.

      On my first day photographing, which provided the pictures in this post, I used my iPhone 14. The next day, which provided photos for forthcoming posts, I turned to a “real” camera with macro lens and ring flash.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 9:29 AM

  10. Oh no! I would have never thought an ice storm could hit your region at much lower latitudes. Being without power at such freezing temperatures must have been an ordeal. Finding beauty in all this must have been a great consolation for you, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    February 5, 2023 at 9:06 AM

    • We had the same ordeal just two Februarys ago, when the temperature was even lower. I hardly expected it again so soon. We seem to have been near the southern edge of the ice storm: people over by the Gulf of Mexico southeast of us didn’t get clobbered. In any case, as you said, I took advantage of the ice for pictures of a type I can’t often take here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 9:33 AM

  11. Sorry about the ordeal but what pretty scenes the ice created.

    Robert Parker

    February 5, 2023 at 10:30 AM

    • Once again I got to (photographically) poach on scenes that are more typical of lands to the north, like upstate New York.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 12:23 PM

  12. Wow – that looks spectacular! But it must have been very difficult to cope with too, especially with your power out. I’m glad you have power again – hope you stay warm for the rest of the winter.

    Ann Mackay

    February 5, 2023 at 11:42 AM

    • We do, too. Yes, it was hard to cope with, but we managed. It was the price I paid for some photographs of a sort I don’t often get a chance to make. On the practical side, I just ordered a one-burner portable gas stove to make cooking easier if we lose power again for a long period.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 1:32 PM

  13. I am not a fan of ice storms, but they really can result in some beautiful scenery.

    Todd Henson

    February 5, 2023 at 12:29 PM

    • Yes, they can. That’s the part I’m happy with. Being cold for three days and losing trees in our yard are things I could do without.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 1:35 PM

  14. At least the tree hit the garage rather than the house. We had a lot of very wet and heavy snow last week with the same result as your ice – trees and branches down everywhere and telephone lines down too. Makes for pretty pictures though!


    February 5, 2023 at 2:32 PM

    • What you describe sounds quite similar. I hope you didn’t suffer from it as much as we did. As for the tree that fell on our garage, I’ll have to get a roofer to look to see if any shingles need replacing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 6:53 PM

  15. Oh, geez, that looks treacherous! Sorry for the loss of power and plants. Pretty awful!

    Eliza Waters

    February 5, 2023 at 6:39 PM

    • And this is the second such winter outage we’ve been through in 25 months. The first time was enough. At least I got some pretty pictures again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 6:55 PM

  16. The ice creates some beautiful scenery and photo opportunities. On the plus side, a good coating of ice can be somewhat insulating for plants if it doesn’t weigh them down. Your photos are beautiful, as always, but I would expect nothing less from you, Steve. Stay warm!

    We have had a low grey sly and intermittent rain here all day. Temperatures stayed in the lower 40s.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 5, 2023 at 7:34 PM

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence. The ice did indeed give me photo opportunities, and I was happy to take them. I don’t know how much insulation the ice provided this time; most of us in Austin couldn’t immediately see beyond the damage that was common all around us.

      We’re warm again now after three days in the cold. The outdoor temperature here even rose to 70° today, unlike your lower 40s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2023 at 8:37 PM

  17. It looks pretty, but I hope they survive it.


    February 6, 2023 at 10:28 AM

  18. I like both of these and especially the second. The little icicles look like stems.


    February 11, 2023 at 3:31 PM

    • Good suggestion. Even with all those branches, I still didn’t connect the icicles to stems.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2023 at 7:12 PM

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