Texans still recovering from unprecedented winter storm

Photo by Iris via Unsplash

By Matthew Meusel and Sonia Rubeck
Boston University News Service

Texas is still reeling from one of the worst winter storms in state history, nearly two weeks after the storm began.

Winter Storm Uri brought power outages and below-freezing temperatures to Texans already struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. At its peak, over 4 million people were without power in the Lone Star State. 

Dallas and Fort Worth were among the hardest-hit cities, with the National Weather Service reporting an overall low of minus 2 degrees for the area, breaking a 118-year-old record. Snowfall also peaked at four inches on Feb. 14, setting another record.

Tina Maxwell, a Garland, Texas resident in the suburbs of Dallas, said that her backyard pool froze over, something she’s never seen.

Losing power never became an issue, Maxwell said, as she lives on the same street as the local police and fire stations. However, she added that these temperatures were foreign to most individuals in Texas.

“To be truthful, it wasn’t like everyone else,” Maxwell said. “But 10 miles down the street, there were people without power for three days, and their houses were 47 degrees.”

Green Climate Change Infographic by Nyah Jordan

Nearly 80 people have died from storm-related incidents, a majority of them from the Lone Star State. While residents scrambled to find heat sources from barbecue pits, portable generators and car engines, carbon monoxide poisonings spiked with over 300 cases in Texas alone. Others died in car crashes on icy roads and from hypothermia. 

Since last week, temperatures in Texas have steadily climbed from sub-zero to between 60 and 75 degrees, but caved-in roofs, burst pipes and water damage still affect many of the state’s 29 million residents. 

A timeline of the deadly winter storm shows how Texans were affected by the unprecedented weather.

Aside from losing power, Texans faced other unprecedented challenges when navigating icy roads to get to stores for basic supplies. But even if they did make it to a store, Maxwell said they were lucky if they could find what they were looking for.

“Shelves in stores were empty,” Maxwell said. “People waited in lines for hours to get into grocery stores and then looked for food in the dark if the store didn’t have power.”

Benet Wilson, a Baltimore, Maryland resident who was visiting her family in San Antonio, recalls grilling outside on Super Bowl Sunday. One week later, a blanket of snow appeared, and Wilson said services like Uber, Lyft, Uber Eats and Door Dash were all out of service while the roads were not cleared.

“I live on the east coast, so I know what driving in the snow is like,” Wilson said. “But in a place like San Antonio, they don’t even own a plow.”

In the wake of the storm, residents were hit with much higher than normal energy bills, prompting outrage and calls for reform.

President Biden is scheduled to visit Houston on Friday, the White House announced on Tuesday. Biden will meet with local leaders to get an update on recovery efforts and visit a vaccination center.

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