All across Texas, many people were directly affected by last week’s storm and the loss of power and water that resulted. That goes for members of the Texas Standard staff, too. There is solace in sharing our experiences. So the Standard’s Kristen Cabrera gathered some voices from the storm.
As of Monday morning, most of the city of Austin, where I live, is still under a boil water and mandatory conservation notice. But at the beginning of this disastrous winter storm, my sister and I started off lucky. Our power and water were both working until Wednesday. With that in mind, I reached out to listeners about what they were going through.
Toni Loftin in Richardson counted herself lucky. But she worried about her 83-year old dad in Porter, outside Houston.
“it’s worrisome cause he’s older and I just worry about his health, any adverse outcomes from this situation. I just worry about like the stress of all of this on him,” Loftin said.
In San Antonio, Olivia Lewis, a dorm RA at Trinity University, was dealing with her own worries about the storm and those under her care.
“This is very anxiety provoking. It’s concerning,” Lewis said. “It’s sad. I’m scared. As someone who’s in a position to take care of people in this residence hall. I have to pretend like I know what’s going on and I really don’t.”
When Quay Garrett Emmons and her husband in Pflugerville, north of Austin, got their electricity back on Tuesday night, Quay started digging.
“I’m using this time to research ERCOT,” she said. “And I’m going to download the book, “The Grid,” and learn more about Texas’ energy struggle, the politics behind that. So I will understand why this is happening and how we got to now.”
She is also eight months pregnant and counting her blessings.
“Lucky for me, I didn’t get pregnant a month earlier or I would be in really big trouble right now,” Emmons said.
People who did have power guessed about why they had been so fortunate. Some noted living next to a fire station or hospital and possibly being on the same electrical grid.
Zachary Chetchavat in Austin did some digging of his own through the internet and thought he might have found answers.
“I think we’re connected to, like a critical power grid,” Chetchavat said. “So we’re doing pretty well. It’s kinda messed up that… we’re figuring out why we have power based on like old internet documents from a PowerPoint presentation.”
Bryan Floyd in Bastrop, near Austin, wrote to The Standard that he felt lucky. He was checking in on elderly neighbors and hunkering down. He also wrote that he had to edit out a more honest and vulgar expression of his thoughts concerning this past week.
Matt Schultz couldn’t hide his astonishment. His power was out for 50 hours in Northwest Austin.
“We were frustrated by how long the outage was, obviously, because we heard that they were going to be rolling blackouts, but there was nothing rolling about what we went through,” Schultz said. “That was maddening, especially in a state that generates so much power for the country and the world. It was maddening that we couldn’t get this figured out in a winter storm, in our own neighborhood.”
Reports came in of power being out across the state, up to 50, 60 and 70-plus hours. Carlos Sanchez, who you’ve heard on the show before, sat in the dark with his wife in their McAllen, Texas home, or 126 hours.
“It became frustrating, obviously towards the end of the week, when we began to see notices by ERCOT and our electric supply provider, AEP Texas, that the emergency was over, that power was being restored. And that first 80, then 90, then 95, then 99% of its customers had electricity back, We didn’t,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez made an observation that echoes almost everyone I know. And it’s something I’m sure many listeners are thinking about as well.
“One of the things that stood out about the entire week was how mentally exhausting this whole process and experience was,” he said.
Up in Richardson, it’s been on the top of Toni Loftin’s mind too.
“This is just another stressor on top of the pandemic that we’re all dealing with,” she said. “I feel like everyone is very exhausted after a year of the pandemic and then having this new stress added to it. I worry about peoples state of mind and mental health too, have to deal with something, another crisis.”
As we deal with the aftermath of this winter storm, we are also pivoting back to navigating the pandemic. Take a moment to be kind to yourself and others. Look at the outpouring of support in neighborhoods around you. And if you need help, reach out in your community.