“We were one of the lucky ones”: An Ohio perspective on Texas’ power/water shortage

Rolling blackouts starting to ease, though bare store shelves persist in Lone Star State
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 8:16 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Much of the country has been in the grips of an Arctic blast this week -- over 70% of the nation is heading into the weekend with snow covering the ground, a record since 2003 -- with Texas dominating the weather headlines. Some Toledoans turned Texan have viewed the snow and ice as par for the course... but the power and water shortages have been anything but ideal.

Longtime viewers may recall Anne and Tim Gerber, who worked for 13abc in the early 2000s. They’ve since moved to San Antonio, and saying they’ve had an interesting week would be an understatement.

”I’ve only seen snow once in Texas since we moved here 17 years ago,” recalls Anne, “so it’s a novelty when it first falls. Sunday night was like ‘WOW! Let’s play! Where are the gloves, where are the hats and scarves?! Let’s take videos and make snow angels!’... then you wake up on Monday morning to find out you have no water, because the temperatures had just gotten so dangerously low. I don’t think we’ve ever had temperatures that low since I was here. A lot of neighbors came down to help me figure out what was going on with the water, which pipes were frozen... and that’s San Antonio for you, that’s Texas for you: southern hospitality in abundance.”

With temperatures regularly soaring into the triple digits in the summer, most Texas houses simply aren’t built for an Arctic blast.

“We don’t have salt trucks, we don’t even own a shovel or an ice scraper for the car,” says Anne. “I know how to drive in this because I lived in Ohio for 23 years before I moved here... and I won’t go on the road because others don’t know how to drive. There’s a lot of things we just don’t have in Texas because we don’t deal with this at all.”

The Gerbers count themselves lucky that they didn’t have to deal with the rolling blackouts statewide, but some friends weren’t as fortunate: “As the outages were rolling, they would get power for a few minutes and would just shut down again... we had friends who had icicles forming inside their house.”

Some Bexar County residents have had it even worse. Anne recalls an apartment near them in San Antonio burning down just this morning due to frozen equipment. “The water lines, the hydrants, the hoses... everything was frozen, and there was nothing they could do. People watched their homes burn down, and the firefighters just sat there with them because they couldn’t do anything.”

Neighbors provided gallons of water for the 4 days the Gerbers’ pipes were frozen, though most supplies have grown short in the Lone Star State as of late. “Across Texas, there’s a 2 to 3-hour wait to get groceries,” says Anne, “and the grocery stores aren’t opening until 11am because they’re trying to get stock in -- fresh foods, milk and eggs and things like that.”

While Ohio members of the American Red Cross have yet to be deployed, the agency is helping this week. “We have supported more than 150 shelters and warming centers across six states,” says regional communications manager Christy Peters, “and that includes providing ready-made meals, cots, blankets and snacks for people that come to those shelters.”

Temperatures are starting to warm back above freezing -- as we will start to late this weekend -- but donating your time and money is still a great way to help with recovery. “You can text REDCROSS to 90999,” explains Peters. “That automatically will make a $10 donation, and that will go a long way in helping respond to this disaster, as well as other disasters that can happen at any time.”

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