DALLAS – On the coldest night in generations, nearly 4.4 million Texans were without electricity. As utility providers and politicians shift blame and argue about energy policy, many families are struggling to find heat, food, and water.
When power outages began on Sunday night, Texans were told to expect “rolling blackouts” of 15 to 45 minutes without electricity. The reality turned out to be much longer stretches, some now going into their third or fourth day without power. Record subzero temperatures across the state have caused water pipes to freeze, bursting and flooding residential and commercial buildings. Dallas reached its lowest recorded temperature in history Tuesday night: negative 2 degrees.
With water treatment plants losing power, entire cities are issuing “boil water” notices. But it’s hard to boil water if you don’t have a gas-powered stove or any electricity. Residents whose pipes are frozen or have lost water pressure are saving melted snow in bathtubs and using it to flush toilets.
Even with limited water and power, many Texans looked for ways to serve their neighbors and even to entertain their kids, whose in-person schools and virtual learning have been canceled every day this week.
More than 200 miles southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, two brand new parents right outside Houston struggled to keep their 4-day-old son warm after their new home went 30 hours without heat or lights, an issue that began plaguing millions of households at the beginning of the week. Even after a kind neighbor brought them a warm meal and another generous man in their area loaned them a generator despite not having one for his family, Ally Davis, 23, her husband, and her newborn were forced to seek shelter and heat in their truck.
“I did not sleep most of the night because I was so worried and anxious about the conditions around us,” Davis told The Federalist. “I worried about our pipes bursting in our new home, the power being out for many more hours, or the generator causing some type of reaction like I had heard in the news, along with all of the worries that come with being a brand-new first-time mom who had just come home from the hospital.”
After one night in the truck during record below-freezing temperatures, Davis and her husband chose to make the precarious journey across icy bridges and snow-filled roadways to a family member’s house for the sake of their newborn’s safety. The normally 25-minute drive took almost an hour and a half to complete but ended at a warm home with food and supplies to recharge.
“Our top priority when we lost power was to keep our 4-day-old son safe,” Davis said. “Whatever it took.”
Despite their difficult journey for warmth, Davis and her small family were finally able to return to their home, rejoicing in the generosity of people they hardly knew.
“There is still hope in humanity. When times are tough, people come together. Our neighbors saw our need to protect our son, and they graciously stepped out in selfless service to provide for us,” Davis said. “Human beings are hardwired for community and empathy, and in desperate times those qualities shine through.”
In Dallas, another new mom frantically posted on Facebook seeking fleece footie pajamas for her premie twins born on Tuesday. “I never anticipated this level of cold,” Kelsey McCarrol told The Federalist. “We couldn’t stop on the way to the hospital or the day before because stores were closed due to no power Monday.”
McCarrol said she is too scared to attempt to bring the babies home in current conditions, so they are keeping the twins at the hospital until Friday or Saturday.
Iva Cross, 50, and her daughter Jewel, 28, spent Tuesday night at the Farmers Branch Community Recreation Center, one of the city’s designated “warming centers,” after their apartment complex had been without power since early Monday morning.
“Nobody was prepared for this. I’ve lived in Texas my entire life. We have never had this situation in 50 years,” Cross said.
Her daughter is autistic and attends a day habilitation center for adults with disabilities, which was also closed by the storm. “She’s scared and freaked out, being off her routine,” Cross said, sitting on an air mattress. The city didn’t provide cots or blankets but opened the rec center gym where 44 people stayed Tuesday night.
Ash Wednesday followed the worst of the storm, forcing churches in Dallas to cancel their Lenten services, including the Catholic diocese. Rev. Allie Shulman, executive pastor at The Grove Church, said she felt it was more important than ever to mark a new season of Lent beginning, so she posted on her neighborhood Facebook group offering to bring ashes to neighbors stuck in their homes.
“This whole year has been a sort of Lent for people. Ever since COVID started, most of us felt like we’ve given up so many things we love,” Shulman told The Federalist. “Time markers have been more important than ever during COVID, and Ash Wednesday is no exception.”
When Adam Kegg, a nurse and hockey fan who lives in Hurst, heard the storm was coming, he prepared a week ahead of time — not for water shortages or freezing pipes, but with all the supplies he would need to build a backyard ice rink.
“I haven’t played hockey since April 2020. So I thought if I can’t go to the ice because of COVID, this winter storm was a way to bring ice to me,” Kegg told The Federalist.
— Adam Kegg (@aekegg) February 16, 2021