Tales from the Texas cold: Struggles didn't stop when power returned

Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Weather News

AUSTIN, Texas — Cold but undaunted, Courtney Flores thought her family was doing moderately well after almost two days without power to their South Austin home. But then the water started pouring down from the attic.

It was Tuesday, about an hour before sunset, as they scrambled to limit the already extensive damage while packing up for an escape to a friend's house, knowing that the driving conditions would worsen after dark.

They made it safely, finally warm but — like many other Texans — facing uncertainty.

"For the next who knows how long, we have to figure out a lot of unknowns, like where to live until our home is habitable again," Flores said.

The Flores family was among those featured in an American-Statesman story earlier this week on the struggles of life without electricity, and the newspaper checked on three of those families to see how they're doing as the weather, at least, begins returning to normal.

But there remains a lot for them — and millions of other Texans — to sort out after a harrowing week when worst-case scenarios kept getting worse, when an ice storm that would have paralyzed the state in normal times fell on top of snow during a polar cold snap that had already brought the state's electric grid dangerously close to failure.


It was a week of impossible choices, starting with a big one: Stay home and risk the bitter cold or seek refuge and risk dangerous roads? As days passed without power, those caring for children, sick or elderly family members and pets faced added burdens and no easy answers.

It all happened during a pandemic that limited options for people already worn thin by 11 months of social distancing, quarantines and lost friends and family.

And then the water went out or, for the luckiest, slowed to a trickle that allowed toilets to refill, if slowly. Add drinkable water to the search for food at besieged stores.

Despite it all, Courtney Flores ended the week thankful. Before the water damage, her family was able to add a little heat by burning everything they could in their fireplace, including lawn bags her husband rolled tight so they would last longer, and wood they got from neighbors in exchange for food.


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