From a new father of three in Katy to an Austin family forced to sleep in their dog-boarding facility, Texans share their stories from the power outages that battered the state.
The winter storm that brought much of Texas to a standstill was a crisis within a crisis for the state, one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus.
We spoke with Texans across the state to hear how they weathered the storm. They told us about the hours-long lines to gather food and water for their families, their unsuccessful steps to keep small pets alive, the creative ways they passed the time with no power and how they came together to support their neighbors.
Hear their stories:
Beth and Hunter Bowen
Beth and Hunter Bowen lost power for 72 hours. Unable to get diapers for their 2-year-old, the couple bartered with friends for supplies. The family of four and their two pets hunkered down at the vet clinic and boarding facility where Hunter works, among animals and other staff members. They continued to take in pets during the storm.
“We spent 48 hours living inside a vet clinic.”
Morgan Urquhart and her daughter and grandchildren were just starting to get back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area in 2017. And after nearly a year living with the pandemic, she says the family was feeling “disaster fatigue.”
During the storm, Morgan huddled under the covers as her 8-year-old autistic grandson sobbed and shivered. His school had been disrupted for months and he was feeling isolated. “It kind of sent him into a tailspin,” she said of the storm. “It’s hard to explain to a kid who’s neurotypical why all of these changes are happening, but for a child who is not neurotypical, it's even more difficult.”
“Houston seems to just leapfrog from rock to rock, from disaster to disaster.”
Before heading to her mother’s where there was still power, Heather Little turned off her water main. “It’s the only thing that kept from flooding my house,” she said, whereas many of her neighbors’ walls caved in from burst pipes as temperatures rose. “We’re used to having boil-water orders after hurricanes, but you could still flush toilets.” In trying to make a hot cup of coffee, Heather ended up in the hospital with second-degree burns. Besides the obvious worries, Heather has a daughter with epilepsy, so having access to roads is always a concern.
“I needed to have access to roads because I needed to have access to an ambulance if she had a status seizure.”
Sarah and Sean Stepleton
On the coldest night of the storm, Sarah and Sean Stepleton of Houston and their two children packed into a queen-sized bed to keep warm as icicles formed inside the windows of their apartment. Their son wore a Halloween costume for extra heat. They tried, unsuccessfully, to keep their pet hermit crab alive by placing him in a tupperware container with a lighted candle.
During the day, Sean spent hours searching for drinkable water while Sarah used garbage cans to collect snow runoff for flushing the toilet. “It made me feel like I could do something,” she said. “I felt so out of control.”
“When Harvey hit, everyone just turned inward to help each other. They really rose to the occasion to ask how their neighbors were doing. And I feel like we saw that here.”
Edmundo Rodarte and his wife endured 38 hours without power and water while caring for their three children, aged 3, 2 and 4 months. The biggest challenge, he said, was not knowing the best way to keep them safe.
“I have kids and I have to protect them. What can I do? You really start analyzing your options.”
As a physician trying to do telemedicine, a four-hour window of power proved crucial for Brent to get medical care to patients with access to phone or internet. The family tried to stay warm by huddling next to pots of hot water.
“The biggest problem was … being so close to freezing all the time.”