I thought we might freeze to death. Those that know me, know that I sometimes dabble in hyperbole. This was no exaggeration. A rolling blackout notice turned into days with no electricity. I listened to the warnings before the storm; we were simply told to stock up on food and be prepared for the possibility of rolling blackouts. I went to the grocery store two days in a row to stock up. I felt prepared. Little did we know, little did Texans know that millions of us would be without power — then water, for days. For some, the days are turning into weeks. How did this happen?
I have had some time to process this situation and I will admit, I am still a little angry, somewhat shocked, and also reminding myself to be thankful. People have died. Senior citizens and children. Some froze to death and others died from carbon monoxide poisoning, just trying to stay warm. This is unacceptable. In an effort to maintain independence from regulation, Texas decided to “go it alone” when it comes to electricity. We have our own grid. It is nothing to be proud of because no other state can help us. And to make matters worse, companies are not regulated. They can charge variable rates. This wayward system has caused some to be billed outrageous rates, like $16,752. This is the kind of bill that depletes savings and causes people to rack up debt that they cannot afford- in the middle of a pandemic and weather emergency.
Let me explain what happened to us and I know far worse has happened to others. Sunday night- Rolling blackouts begin. No big deal. Lights were off for fifteen minutes each time. But the last time, they didn’t come back on. I called the outage line. They said we would get power back in an hour. I fell asleep. I woke up four hours later, shivering. No power. I called again. Estimated time to restore power was 6 a.m. That time came and went. No power. The temperature continued to drop. We were approaching 50 degrees in my house. So cold. It was snowing and the temperature outside continued to drop into the single digits. My husband reassured me. Power would return soon. We were so naïve. By the time we realized that we could be stuck in a frigid house, it was too late. The roads were too treacherous. We had to tough it out. In a house that is fully electric. We bundled up, gathering all the fleece blankets we could find and we hunkered down, praying for warmth. We just wanted to make it through the night. Surely the power would be back Tuesday. Tuesday came and went. No power. I knew that we could not survive another night. I could see my breath. My toes were stiff. My fingers were growing numb. After hours of searching-I went to my car and turned the heat on, I finally found a hotel. They were charging $400 -600 for some of the two-star hotels. Talk about taking advantage of a situation. We packed up a few necessities and headed out, driving as slow as possible on the snowy, icy roads. Once at the hotel, the man at the counter told me he had no rooms. I told him about my booking and early check in. He said he had no idea what I had booked because he had no internet. He was unsympathetic and told me to come back later. I wanted to cry but I had to carry on. My husband was at work and I was determined to find shelter for us before his shift ended. I decided to keep driving toward my daughter’s apartment. We stopped at everyone hotel along the way. No vacancies. We finally found one. Just as my mom was ushering me in, their power went out. Had I checked in the nonrefundable room, we would have lost money and continued to freeze. We made it to my daughter’s. She had a fireplace but no power and she was running out of wood. We called looking for wood. We drove around. No wood. We went back and prayed and tried to remain upbeat. A miracle happened. Her lights came on. Then they went off. Then they came back on again. Our emotions fluctuated. We prayed that the power would stay on. Thank God it did. Wednesday- We woke up and contemplated our next move. Stay or go? We decided to go check on my house since we forgot some medicine there. We crept along and returned to a home still with no power. No one was around. It was too cold to survive there. That morning, I emailed everyone I could think of, politicians, homeowner’s association manager, news outlets- this was ridiculous. We had no plan for this because we did not expect this. No one had a plan. There was no way I could drive back to North Dallas. The road conditions made the trip too long. We stopped at hotels along the way again. We found one. It was warm. It was better than nothing. We were grateful for it. Everyone could shower, eat and rest. I thought we might have to take turns checking the locks and our vehicles, there were signs outside that said park at your own risk. But we were warm. I couldn’t give up on the possibility of power. I continued to call Oncor. I checked the app every hour. Then it happened. This time I saw a message highlighted in green “Power has been restored to this location.” I screamed and jumped up. I prayed on the way to check my house. The closer I got, the more lights I saw. So thankful. When I was inside, I checked the thermostat, 39 degrees. We would have suffered from hypothermia had we stayed. I won’t even go into the water situation. But I will say that we were concerned about the pipes and there were some pots of boiling water on the stove.
I pray that this never happens to anyone again. Contact your local and state politicians. Report price gouging. Create an emergency plan. When you are able, help someone who is still suffering. So many friends offered to help us. Even though they were far away, just knowing that they wanted to help was comforting. Remember that some people did not have a home before this and they still don’t. Help is needed. Make sure that you are not on a variable, predatory electricity plan. If you know of a possible weather emergency, fill up your gas tank if you can. Stock up on water and canned goods. Try to do all you can. Help others when if you are able and let’s demand that Texas does better. I love this state. There is no other place I would rather be, but I will continue to demand better.