Snow Storm in Texas causes a Domino Effect on Texans

Photo+taken+by+Edgar+Rios+of+the+snow+that+accumulated+on+a+road+in+Houston%2C+Texas%2C+in+front+of+Ergard+Rios%27+house+on+Feb.+20%2C+2021.+

Photo taken by Edgar Rios of the snow that accumulated on a road in Houston, Texas, in front of Ergard Rios’ house on Feb. 20, 2021.

Editor’s Note: With the nation shocked at Texas’ surprise storm and the ensuing statewide power outages, our journalist Graciela Ramirez, who has relatives in Austin, shares her family’s struggle to survive a week like no other in the Great State. 

A pandemic is bad enough but for Edgard Rios, my uncle and a resident of Houston, Texas, spent days without electricity, clean water, empty stores, flooding and hypothermic temperatures that made him and his family apprehensive.

At least 86 people died in the Austin area alone. This could’ve been avoided if Texas power plants were turned on but were left off according to the CEO of Vistra Corp., Curtis Morgan, who argues that they were left off to avoid more catastrophes.

With lives lost and Texas deprived of basic resources, Texas Senator, Ted Cruz went on a trip to Cancun with his family. When faced with backlash upon his arrival, he responded by making himself the victim and throwing the blame at his daughters whom he left in warm, sunny Mexico. 

A screenshot taken by Anna Segura, Rios’ wife, of a message from the Texas Alert system warning about an upcoming black out on Feb. 15, 2021. (Courtesy of Ergard Rios)

Rios has lived in Houston, Texas, since 1992 and never experienced a snowstorm quite like this one. Rios explained before the storm hit they received warnings and alerts about the snow but paid not much attention until Feb. 7, when locals woke up to find their power and water out and panicked. 

“We got the warnings, we kept getting alerts on the phone…everyone was happy when it snowed but then after the snow progressed, that’s when everybody started panicking. The storm passed at (Sunday) 2:00 a.m. and then everyone woke up to no water,” said Rios.  

Rios is frustrated with the lack of preparation everyone had, including Texas politicians.  

“We were supposed to be prepared but it seems like we are never prepared. With Hurricane Harvey, no one expected to get 50 inches of rain and no one knew what to do…and now, with the storm, we’ve never had a storm like this before. So no one was prepared,” added Rios. 

When Rios went to Home Depot to buy materials for his work the day after the storm, the store was crowded with people trying to buy tools and other materials for busted pipes. It took Rios over two hours to get in and out of the store. After, he went to buy water at several stores only to find stores with empty shelves. Rios’ son, Chris, who works at the local Walmart, found a case of water and held it for him until the end of his shift.

Chris, saw frozen food and other refrigerated items spoil due to the power outage. 

“From what I heard, my coworkers were taking frozen food out the fridge. When I came back, some fridges were still empty,” said Chris.

Even though a week had passed, locals were still crowding supermarkets despite a shortage of supplies.

“There was still some water in the back that I was able to get to us (Walmart employees) to drink up at front,” added Chris.

Rios and his family went without power for three days. To stay warm, they wore jackets, beanies and sweatpants, while covering themselves with numerous blankets. 

The weather also made it difficult to drive, due to black ice on roads and highways, that caused many accidents. 

Photo of empty shelves at a local Houston Walmart. Photo taken by Chris Rios on Feb. 9, 2021.

Rios family is still having trouble getting water. 

“I’m still having problems with it…the city shut off our water and they didn’t turn it on till Wednesday.” Their water source is contaminated and clogged, on Feb. 22, officials sent out an urgent message to locals to boil their water before use.

For Godinez Fundamental High School English teacher, Lori Polydoros, she heard from her friend in Texas that they were melting snow to flush their toilets.

Polydoros worries, “These long term, extreme weather patterns that are direct result of climate change, scares me. It’s not just droughts and wildfires, it’s extreme hurricanes, snowstorms, and rainstorms.”

She added that, ” we really need to use science and long term thinking to protect people, resources, and infrastructure.”

Mercifully, for the Rios family again was not directly hurt by the storm but others weren’t as fortunate. A man Rios worked for cleaning his pool, did not make it due to hypothermia. As Rios cleaned his pool, the morgue came by to pick up the body of the owner of the house.

“I went to go clean a pool, I went to the property and they (the morgue) is taking a body who died from the cold. Then the hearse came and they broke down the door to get the person out cause they weren’t answering and they knew that he was dead.” 

As for Sen. Cruz, Rios just laughed. 

“This guy went on vacation and came up with the stupidest excuse with dropping off his daughters in Cancun. When he (Cruz) came back and did the photo op giving out water and supplies, I thought that was stupid.” 

For Rios and his family, life is just starting to get back to normal with temperatures again in the 70s. A lot like Cancun.