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Dispatches from the Texas Storm

I would normally share a post like this with you on Sunday as a Sunday Reflections, but I wanted to let everyone know what’s happening here in Texas.

During the night Sunday night, early Monday morning, our electricity started to go on and off. It would go off for a few hours and then come back on for a bit. Finally, maybe around 8:00 AM, our electricity went out for good. It was out for a solid 24 hours and off and on for hours before and a couple of days after it came back on.

This was all happening during a stretch of unprecedented cold in the state of Texas. The temperature went down into the single digits. We laid in bed with no electricity wearing layers of clothing and blankets.

The day was already cold, and it started getting colder. There were several times where we went and sat in our car (in our driveway, not a garage) to charge our phones and get warmed up. Thing 2 played in the snow, joyful and not aware that we were growing scared about what the night would bring.

As darkness came up, I could not get ahold of my mother, who lives an hour away. And I grew anxious. And it grew colder.

The weather forecast said it would be 1 degree over night and it was already so cold. And I grew afraid.

That evening, as I tried to get ahold of my mom, we sat in a hotel lobby trying to get a room for the girls and I. We sat in that lobby for 2 and a half hours but nobody cared, because it was warm and it was so very cold in our house. We would have sat in that lobby all night long if we had to just for the warmth. We saw so many people, desperate like us, coming in and trying to get a room. There were no rooms to be had. The clerk was very nice and set us up for a few hours in a room that they were not allowed to rent out because it had broken furniture, but we did not mind. We would take the few hours of warmth.

That night I had visions of going to see my mom the next day and finding her frozen in her home. Eventually, she called me. She had been turning her phone off to save the battery life. Because of the roads, she could not get to me and we could not get to her. It was late at night and already growing cold.

I told her all the things I had read online about staying warm. I begged her to go in her car – not in the garage please please please – and keep warm. We cried together, in fear and desperation about what these early morning hours would mean. That night we hung up the phone and I feared it would be the last time that I would speak to my mother.

I have talked a lot about my mom, but my stepdad is a part of this story as well. He is a man, in his early 70s, who only has one kidney. That one kidney only works at 47%. That detail will become important in a bit.

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Sinks Won’t Drain, No Hot Food, But Safe At Last?

On Monday, during the day, everyone was hopeful that the electricity would come back on sometime during the day. As the night grew, people began packing up and going to hotels, which soon reached capacity. I called several that night for my mom. But there was no room in the inn.

So on Tuesday, my mom and stepdad made their way to my house. It had gotten to 40 degrees inside their home and it scared her (and me). If the heat didn’t come back on it would just get colder still the next night with no heat to warm it up during the day. We could be cold together, but at least I would know that she was there and I could keep safe.

On Tuesday, my mom and stepdad were safely at our house and the electricity started cycling on and off again. During one of those on cycles I was able to cook and serve my mom and stepdad their first warm meal since Sunday, more than 48 hours before.

When we went to go do our dishes to clean up, we learned that the outgoing pipes in our kitchen sink were frozen. The sink wouldn’t drain. It would take more than a day with heat in the house for it to thaw out enough to drain. So we stacked up dirty dishes, we huddled around a fire, and we knew that we were luckier than so many others.

On Wednesday, my stepdad started to feel pretty sick. My mom became anxious. She worried that the prolonged time with no electricity and food had taken a toll on him. She worried about him having to go to our hospital, and not the hospital hear her where his kidney specialist was. So for another night, my mom and I went to bed crying and worrying about how we would survive what was happening in Texas.

The next morning, they decided to drive home even though the roads weren’t great because they wanted to be near his doctor. I told her to contact me when she got home safely and worried.

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“There’s water everywhere . . . “

When she got home her house was flooded. I’m talking every single surface of her floors in every single room covered in water. There is a spot on her ceiling where you can tell water leaked in. Two walls destroyed by water. A window that looks like a waterfall. And every floor, ruined. Her hope chest, destroyed. And the hope it contained, well . . . I hope she can find it again. But today is not that day.

Today we called around trying to find a service to help them remove the water from their home, and they are all so busy they said they could maybe help her next Wednesday. Plumbers, insurance adjusters, hotels . . . they are all so full that you get put on a waiting list. One water restoration place told her that they had received 940 calls in the last two days. And that is only one place.

I cried on the phone today with my mom or my husband almost hourly. Everyone is scared. Many people lost something. Some people lost everything.

There is no gas in our town. There hasn’t been since at least Wednesday.

We’ve gone to the grocery store 4 times. Twice it was closed because they had no food. Once it had a line wrapping around the building. Last night I was able to get some weird odds and ends for the girls and I at Aldi’s. There was no bread on the shelves. No meat. It was far worse than what we saw in the early days of the pandemic.

One of my best friends is living in an apartment that hasn’t had water for 2 days. It’s not expected to have water in the next couple of days either. People like her have buckets of snow that they are using to flush their toilets.

Because of my parent’s ages and risk factors, I haven’t seen them in a year. We went on Mother’s Day and said Happy Mother’s Day from the sidewalk. She came on Christmas Eve and said Merry Christmas from the sidewalk. Masked, of course. We weren’t together for her first grandchild’s 18th birthday. We weren’t together for Easter. We weren’t together for Thanksgiving. We weren’t together for Christmas. But in the life and death situation that was this week, we made hard choices and I hoped that we wouldn’t be putting my parents at risk of Covid while trying to save them from freezing.

My parents will now spend the next week or more in a hotel. After a year of working so hard to keep themselves safe from a deadly virus, they have to make all kinds of decisions that put them at risk. I am praying that saving them from the winter storm and its damage won’t kill them from the virus they have worked so hard to avoid.

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The Kindness of Friends and Strangers

Friends and strangers helped us. A friend gave us firewood to help us through Tuesday and Wednesday night as our electricity continued to cycle on and off. We huddled in the living room around a fire, someone staying away to make sure we didn’t burn the house down.

A neighbor gave us salt as we cleared out the driveway so my parents could walk safely into our home when they arrived.

Last night, a Twitter follower who has been working with Beto O’Rourke and Powered by People contacted me and asked me how they could help me help my mother. They have spent the day answering my questions and trying to get us connected with resources.

My mother found a hotel she can stay in starting tomorrow near her house and near my stepdad’s doctor. Given the amount of damage to her home, she will probably have to find a long term place to stay while her home is repaired. We have no idea what all the damage is, what the insurance will cover, what she will need to do to be safe and how much it will cost her. And we won’t know until, if we’re lucky, sometime next week because everyone she needs to help her is so very busy helping all of Texas.

Texas is not okay y’all.

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The Real Cost of the Failure of Leadership in Texas

The electricity is back on at my house. We slept comfortably last night, though many other Texans did not.

We were able to find a bit of food and The Teen made homemade fried rice, kind of.

Our sink is now draining.

And then I close my eyes and I see my mother, crying, as she surveys the damage to her home.

I want to share this small snapshot because we are not okay here in Texas. I am from Ohio and experienced weather related flooding 10 years ago this month. Texas was in no way prepared to handle this. And it will cost the residents of Texas everything while people like Jerry Jones gloat about the profits they are making.

A drilling company that operates in Texas and Louisiana told investors that the surge in natural gas prices — amid powerful winter storms — was giving it a major financial boost. “Obviously, this week is like hitting the jackpot,” CFO Roland Burns said. Source: NPR

Governor Greg Abbot, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn and more . . . they failed Texas. They didn’t heed the advice of experts given more than 10 years ago and winterize the electricity grid. And then when this happened, Governor Abbot took the time to jump onto television spread lies about how this was a failure of green energy rather than rolling up his sleeves and helping the people of Texas. And Ted Cruz, well, he hopped on a plane to Mexico and then when he got caught, he flew home with his tail between his legs and threw his children under the bus. And then he went onto television in a PR press to rehab his image instead of rolling up his sleeves and helping the people of Texas. Perhaps of all the systemic failures around this event, I am most full of rage for Cruz’s callous indifference to the suffering of the people he was elected to serve during a literal state emergency. He fled while people died and that should be his albatross around his neck for the entire rest of his life. Let it never be just a footnote in his history.

There are people helping the people of Texas. People like Beto O’Rourke, who is coordinating volunteers to make welfare check ups. People like Mattress Mack and HEB and Texas foodbanks. People handing out free water and getting cold people into hotel rooms. People handing out free food. Every day people like my friends and neighbors who gave us firewood and salt.

But make no mistake, in the past and in the present, the leadership of Texas failed its people and the people have lost a lot. Many Texans have lost yet another week’s worth of wages. Cars are damaged. Homes are damaged. Fridges full of food – spoiled. People have had medical conditions worsened. Their homes are unlivable.

And so very sadly, some of our fellow Texans are dead.

We can not let any of this be in vain. We must work to improve the infrastructure here in Texas to protect its citizens from future crisis. And make no mistake, Climate Change is real and there will be more crisis. We must invest in our state and each other to keep us all safe, healthy and thriving. We can not let a failure of leadership like this happen to us again, because it’s far more costly than just investing in what we need upfront.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to my mom’s house. To my state.

But I know that I want things to change.

No, we need them to.

Last night I went in and kissed The Teen as she laid down to go to bed. She cried, telling me she couldn’t take it anymore. None of us can.

IF YOU ARE IN TEXAS AND NEED HELP OR WOULD LIKE TO DONATE TO HELP TEXANS, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE HAS A GOOD ROUND UP OF LINKS

Here is information on how to apply for FEMA aid in Texas if you need it

Comments

  1. Really, really happy to hear you and your family are, though obviously you all and many others have gone through a horrible trauma. Continue to stay safe! Thank you for sharing your experience and the link roundups for how those outside of the area can help.

  2. Gina Bernard says:

    I am sorry that you and your family suffered so during the storm. I too am from Ohio, lived through the great blizzard of 1977 and numerous other blizzards and snow storms but we NEVER NEVER SUFFERED like I did Sunday and Monday. I stocked up food and thought ok I am ready. As the temperature dropped Sunday night, right at the coldest, the power went off I heard it click off at 4 am and by 6 am I was freezing. I still can’t believe that they shut the power off. Monday was one of the worst days of my life. Ate cold rostered chicken for breakfast lunch and dinner. Phone was charged but could hold a call. After trying all day battery died. T mobile was down. As I don’t have a car no way to charge phone. Froze all night woke up still no electricity and a new treat no water. Ok no power no heat no water no hot food. Tuesday power came on had heat still no water. Tv told me we are giving out water come get it. No mention of people who are my age 62 who don’t drive about what to do with no water. Walked to store. No water no food nothing. Toilet stinking by now had to get water from hotel pool to flush. Wensday no water. Thursday water came on. No hot water. Heated water in coffee maker to bathe. No hot water until Saturday. Still no one brought any water or food after numerous calls to agency. Watched the lines of cars waiting for 1 case of water. Some waited hours but at least they got some. Real fun boiling water in microwave to drink. I stay in hotel because I am looking for apt. Hotel charged me the same everyday. Couldn’t leave for another hotel. Already spent money for week and no more funds. Every person that suffered I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. I still feel blessed because I am still here but what a week. I really thought I was prepared for storm. I had no idea my safety and comfort meant nothing to officials in charge of the power. I had no idea I would be struggling to keep from crying and getting so upset that I felt an anxiety attack that I could not control. I ate tuna and rice for 4 days and am still sick with a cold and ear infection. I do not feel sorry for myself but I do feel sorry for the State of Texas. People died from cold temperatures that could have been avoided. I am sorry for their families and pray God gives them strength. Texas is too good for this. This kind of storm is so common in Ohio. It enrages me this was so avoidable. A storm of this magnitude barely gets any reaction in the North and I never had my electric TURNED OFF IN THE HEIGHT OF A STORM. HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE. People with homes consider for next time 1. Buy and install a small but efficient wood stove. 2. Stock up on batteries and candles. 3. Buy more canned food don’t depend on ways to heat food. 4. Buy a new or used generator if any way you can afford it Be prepared because I was totally on my own. I learned from this. Who would have thought a little ice snow and cold temperatures would cripple the entire state. Still don’t get how the power company chose who to keep warm and who to let freeze…. thanks I feel better now

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