Updated: Mar 30
As the weeks start to pass after Winter Storm Uri froze Texas, the events of that week are starting to piece together.
Individuals are putting their homes back together, bit by bit, as plumbers and contractors rush to keep up with demand.
Hearings in both the Texas House and Senate are investigating the events surrounding the disaster, as calls for answers and accountability are ever present.
But for many, the last couple of weeks have been a blur. As of March 4 at 8 am, 121,340 Texans remain under boil water notices, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Additionally, more than 450 Texans are without running water. The ordeals experienced still remain at the forefront of their minds.
For Meagan and Armando Lopez, living with their toddler in their Katy home during the winter storm is an experience they won’t soon forget.
The family lost power at 2 am on Monday, Feb. 15, as snow fell on the area. Lopez said she distinctly remembers trying to find answers in the middle of the night, but found few answers.
“We had switched electricity providers on Sunday, because a friend gave us a heads up since we weren’t on a fixed rate plan,” she said. “I’m glad we made the switch,” but she feels like many weren’t prepared or made aware of a potential surge in pricing and may incur more costly bills because of it.
The Lopez family went without power for 48 more hours and ended up leaving their home for running water, which didn’t return for nine days due to frozen and burst pipes. She said having a small child definitely increased the urgency of regaining some sense of normalcy.
“We had to catch rain in order to do basic things, like flushing toilets,” she explained. “You never realize how much you have to use water until you go without.”
Both Meagan and her husband work for the Katy Independent School District and had to go back to work on Monday, Feb. 22, although they still didn’t have access to running water.
Overall, she said they were pretty lucky, but she said it’s frustrating to see so many people suffer needlessly, especially since the state heard warnings back in 2011 when Texas experienced another prolonged freeze.
“When does it end for members of the community?” she said.
Other stories of people sleeping in tents in their living rooms to conserve heat, melting snow to have water, waiting in endless lines for food, soggy ceilings caving in, seeking temporary housing and countless others have been shared on social media, including some stories that ended in tragedy and lives lost.
The stories are still very much a part of everyday life, as people scramble to repair broken pipes, incur steep costs to rebuild, process trauma and try to regain some sense of normalcy.
Out in their Cypress home, Brittany Basden and her husband Jonathan lived with no power for the first half of the week and no water until their burst pipes could be fixed the following Tuesday, Feb. 23. Huddled under layers with their three cats, they had to make do with what they had in their home.
The unexpected expenses resulted in more than $1,400 in repairs, which Basden said could have been worse. They still have other repairs to contend with, like holes in their sheetrock, but Basden said if they hadn’t turned their water off when they did, that cost would have been much steeper.
She said during the storm, they got through it together, but it was her mother, who is in her 70s and lives alone in Spring, that she was mainly worried about.
“I had gone over there to make sure everything was running ahead of the storm,” she said. “But I think the whole time I felt helpless and worried about whether or not she was okay since I couldn't get to her.”
The winter storm provoked discussions about the most vulnerable among us, and how the effects of the winter storm forced the biggest burden on the disabled, the elderly or lower-income individuals. Basden said it left members of the community to check in on others and make sure everyone was okay.
It is estimated that the storm could be the costliest storm in state history, far exceeding that of Hurricane Harvey, which sustained more than $125 billion in damage.
In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Lee Loftis, director of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, said that the real scale of the problem comes from the statewide impact, as all 254 counties were impacted in some way.
Furthermore, areas still rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey and other flood events are now dealing with the compounding effects of the winter storm, on top of the loss wages and stresses many individuals were already experiencing due to the pandemic.
Lifelong Houstonian and Harris County resident Edith Santamaria has seen her fair share of disasters over the years. She said Houston is resilient, but there hasn’t been much of a choice in the matter.
“We’ve had no choice but to learn how to deal with it and move forward quickly,” she said.
For Winter Storm Uri, she developed creative ways of coping during the worst of the freeze, having been without power for more than 30 hours and experiencing intermittent power afterward. Her and her husband Daniel bundled up in their winter clothes in multiple layers and even lifted dumbbells and did jumping jacks in order to sustain warmth.
“It doesn’t even seem that long now, but it seemed eternal at the time,” Santamaria said.
Even though we’re a resilient state, Santamaria said disparities continue to be exposed.
“Certain communities aren’t able to bounce back as quickly as others,” she said. “This last storm is telling that we need to be prepared year-round and need to encourage preparedness.”
February’s winter storm exposed problems the state has failed to address in the past, exposing the vulnerabilities of the infrastructure and within our communities, which were not prepared for the cold. What will change going forward remains to be unseen, but for many Texans, they’ll be dealing with the consequences for some time.
Lopez said these weather events keep happening, and it’s exhausting to contend with the fallout of unprecedented events, one after the other.
Heeding the call for change remains important, as many experts have echoed the message that what happened in Texas isn't unique to just this state.
The winter storm crisis could become everyone's crisis in a changing climate, which isn’t something that should be ignored.
Tell us your story: how did the winter freeze impact you?
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