Texans share how to prepare for future freezes and blackouts

The lights went off in Texas one year ago this week, when a winter storm brought freezing temperatures and a chain reaction of blackouts that spurred many to become better prepared for disasters.

By Miranda SuarezFebruary 16, 2022 10:49 am, , ,

From KERA:

Tara Fuller grew up near the Texas-Oklahoma border, part of a region known famously as Tornado Alley.

That made her pretty much the opposite of a storm chaser, she said. Fuller does not like tornadoes.

“My dad was that stereotypical dad who’s out on the back porch with a video camera, and I’m in the cellar screaming, thinking our imminent demise is coming,” she remembered.

Fuller has turned that childhood fear of tornadoes into a devotion to disaster preparation.

Her home in Colleyville has a closet under the stairs (remember Harry Potter’s bedroom?).

She runs a fashion and lifestyle blog, so there’s a makeup table in there, alongside all her emergency essentials.

“All that kind of stuff that in a pinch, becomes a necessity,” she said.

A video of the closet shows shelves and cabinets full of water, Pedialyte, toilet paper, candles, dog food, and a pharmacy’s worth of medicine and first aid supplies.

That stockpile helped Fuller feel prepared for the latest winter storm that covered North Texas in ice and snow.

“I felt a lot better, and didn’t feel like I needed to raid the grocery store, like is common here, if things were to happen,” she laughed.

That peace of mind was hard to find in February 2021. Freezing temperatures, dayslong blackouts and frozen pipes made for a historic week of misery.

That experience also made a lot of people rethink how they prepare for disasters.

Unpredictable weather across the country in 2021 created a surge in demand for backup generators, The New York Times reports. And research shows that climate change has increased the frequency and severity of natural disasters.

Since Texas is so big, the state sees pretty much every type of natural disaster, from tornadoes to hurricanes on the coast to wildfires.

“It doesn’t matter what season we’re in, we always have an opportunity to face a disaster,” said Monty Dozier, the program director for the Disaster Assessment and Recovery Unit for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “We always tell people it’s best to always be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.”

Part of Dozier’s job is to help people — and their livestock — get through disasters, like he did in 2008 after Hurricane Ike. He said the storm flattened fences and sent about 15,000 head of cattle running loose between Houston and Beaumont.

“People were running into those cows at night because they were just wandering across all the highways in that area south of I-10,” he remembered.

Rounding up cows post-hurricane is disaster recovery. Dozier also works to make sure people are prepared before a disaster hits.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Disaster Education Network offers guides to prepare for and survive all kinds of disasters, including winter storms.

A photo of a first aid kit that includes a roll of bandages and a plastic tub full of other medical supplies.
Courtesy Audrey O’Donnell
Tara Fuller’s extensive disaster prep stockpile includes first aid materials.

A good disaster kit includes:

– Enough water for three days (one gallon per person, pet day)

– Food that doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking, like crackers, dried fruit and protein bars

– A manual can-opener

– Extra clothes and blankets

– A first aid kit

– Flashlights

– A battery-powered radio, and batteries

– Important documents

– Prescription medications

– Cash in a waterproof container

Dozier also recommends keeping an eye on the weather, charging your phone before a storm and keeping some extra charging packs on hand.

Generators can help, but they need to be used safely, he said.

“Keep that generator outside. We never run a generator inside the house because we don’t want to be introducing carbon monoxide into the living space,” he said.

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that is odorless and colorless. Poisoning causes flu-like symptoms and can make people pass out and die.

If planning for a disaster is starting to feel intimidating or overwhelming, Tara Fuller has some advice.

“Maybe make a tiny little list of your day to day,” she said. “What do you use? What would you really freak out if you didn’t have in the moment?”

Consider the things you wish you had during previous big weather events, too. Fuller said she was fortunate not to lose power for an extended period during last year’s storm, but she still added hand warmers to her stockpile afterwards.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at [email protected] You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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