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With power outages across Texas, residents worry, wait and make do

John Henderson’s power first went out Tuesday morning and stayed off for 2 hours, and then came back on around 7 p.m., then was back off again around midnight and hasn’t been on since, he said.

What the San Antonio, Texas, resident is most concerned about right now though, is his wife’s health — she had a stroke last year, her second in three years, and is still recovering.

“She’s got terrible breathing problems obviously,” he said.

On Wednesday, millions across Texas were still without power, trying their best to stay warm and dry as burst pipes flood homes, and in some cases, fighting for survival as the medical devices they rely on stop working.

Henderson said his wife is complaining that her throat hurts and is having a little trouble using portable oxygen tanks.

He said the San Antonio Fire Department has come by the house twice to refill her tanks. His wief has one large tank that lasts 24 hours and two smaller ones. Without the fire department, Henderson said they would have driven to the ER “even with the roads bad, luckily for us, we don’t live too far from one.”

Two days ago, the San Antonio Fire Department started refilling resident’s oxygen bottles because they were calling 911 after running out and couldn’t get refills from their vendors, Joseph Arrington, SAFD spokesperson, told CNN in a statement.

“Currently we have 4 SAFD vehicles responding city-wide to provide this service to as many folks as we can, as long as we have supply,” Arrington said. “As of (Wednesday) morning, we have provided this service at least 130 times, with many more waiting in the queue.”

Henderson said the family doesn’t have any hot food or a way to cook right now.

“Been eating sandwiches while the power is out and cooking when it’s on. We’ve got some stuff for tuna salad and some hot dogs that don’t need cooking. Hoping it comes back on soon so we can eat breakfast.”

Henderson said his asthmatic son and mother are also living with them in the home.

“We’re making due and staying inside waiting on power,” he said. “We count ourselves as blessed nonetheless. There are a lot of folks worse off than us.”

The family is doing their best to keep the cold air out of their apartment by stuffing blankets near the windows.

The “apartment wasn’t made to handle this kind of weather,” he said.

Henderson’s power returned as of 10:15 a.m. CT, and he’s hoping it stays on with no further interruption but is prepared to make another trip to the grocery store in case it doesn’t.

“I’ll go buy some more bread and some things we don’t have to cook, he said. “Might get some charcoal and lighter fluid and use one of our apartment’s BBQ grills to cook. Really nothing to do but wait it out. We’re survivors. Worst case scenario: We’ll have to go to a hotel. Can’t really afford that option for an extended period.”

It got so cold, Jordan Orta had to sleep in her car with her 2-year-old son

Jordan Orta, without power at her home in San Antonio, Texas, found herself having to sleep in her car Tuesday night with her two-year-old son because it was so cold.

“A lot of people are losing water in my area and were told that they would be shutting (the) water off for the whole city with no idea when it would be back, so we filled up pitchers and tubs,” she told CNN. “I went to H-E-B yesterday and there was no water left, so if we lose water, it’s all we got until who knows when.”

Orta got the power back briefly on Wednesday morning and was able to warm up, but it was shut off again around 8:45 a.m. CT.

“We were without power from Monday morning until about 9 a.m. Tuesday. Then lost it again at 1 p.m. Tuesday, got it back at about 8 p.m. and then lost it again for (the) night until 5 a.m.,” she said.

“We have a gas stove, so we’ve been able to warm up leftovers and cook what we have,” Orta said. They have been eating lots of sandwiches, she said.

Her son “doesn’t really know anything is wrong, bless his heart. All he knows is that sometimes the lights don’t work and we have to use the flashlight to go potty. It’s amazing and sad at the same time.”

“He’s not really cold because he’s a busy body and he’s fully dressed. He still wants to go outside and play in what’s left of the snow.”

“H-E-B shelves were bare like this was the start of Covid again,” she said. “No meat, barely any non-perishables left. The lines were all the way down aisles and wrapped around some stores.”

Family huddled by the fireplace to stay warm

On Monday, Kimberly Hampton and her family of five thought they would be able to ride out the power outages from their home in Irving, Texas, but Hampton said no amount of blankets could keep them warm. The family lost power at 3:30 a.m. Monday and the home’s thermostat quickly fell to a cool 36 degrees.

Yesterday, Hampton was able to get some wood from Home Depot to start a fire and melt frozen breast milk in room temperature water for her seven-month-old baby and 3-year-old twins.

On Tuesday, when asked how things went overnight, Hampton said it got worse and that it felt colder.

“We’re out of firewood and there is none available anywhere close by,” she said. “My husband is going to have to go buy some formula because all my frozen milk is going bad. My other kids are miserable and don’t understand why it’s cold or why they can’t watch TV or have a warm meal.”

Hampton said according to Oncor’s online outage map, their power was supposed to have been restored yesterday at 1:30 p.m. Now, almost 24 hours later, they are still in the dark. At one point, Hampton said the power returned on and off for an hour, but eventually went out again.

“We have built a fire in our fireplace,” she said. “We were able to get some 2x4s at Home Depot, which were … (ridiculously priced) at $3 apiece for something that burns so quickly. We have closed off our bedrooms and stuffed towels in the spaces of the doors and used blankets to cover all our windows the best we can.”

“We have a generator, but ran out of gas for it extremely quick, so gas stations are open nearby. The kids are all bundled up with 3 layers of clothes, jackets, and shoes. And we have all been basically laying on top of each other sharing body heat.”

A neighborhood in the dark

Barbara Martinez has been without power since 3 a.m. Sunday at her home in Jersey Village, a suburb about 15 minutes from downtown Houston.

Martinez, her two elderly parents, and her two dogs huddled together in one room, trying to stay warm.

“We have several layers of clothing and it’s COLD,” Martinez said. “We’ve been using our cars to charge up phones and (the) signal here is nearly impossible to use. So, whenever I can get a good signal, that’s how we get our news.”

Martinez said they are not alone — her whole neighborhood is in darkness at night. She shared the following photo of her elderly father trying to stay warm wearing several layers in front of the fireplace.

“We hope the power comes back soon because we are running out of firewood,” she said. “My goal today is to find more firewood.”

At first, Martinez said they were experiencing rolling blackouts for 30 minutes to 1 hour, but they never got the power back at its full capacity, and instead, lost it completely.

“We have no idea when it’s going to (be) back,” she said. “I have heard the news (on the) radio and … on Twitter. We have been cooking on the stove since it’s gas, thankfully. But at night, we just sleep with many clothing and hope for the best. But honestly, I haven’t had a good sleep.”

“We got power for 4 hours and then it went off again and it stayed off for a few hours, came back for like 2 hours, then went away,” she said. “It’s currently off.”

“It’s awful but it’s a lot better than how it was Monday night and a majority of Tuesday. My neighborhood is really weird, so half has power (and) the other half never lost power to begin with. Today is definitely much better than yesterday, I rather have power for two hours than none.”

Texas State students forced out of apartments due to busted sprinkler, flooded apartment

Jesus Cortez and his three roommates were forced out of their college apartment on Tuesday when a sprinkler busted in one of the bedrooms causing the apartment to flood in San Marcos, Texas.

The students have been doing a mix of online learning and in-person classes — with the current weather situation, those classes have been canceled, he said.

“We were walking in a pool of water trying to take out as much (as) possible trying to make sense of what was happening,” Cortez wrote on Twitter.

“Sadly, one roommate had to stay behind in the cold apartment since our apartment complex said they would go by yesterday to clean it up but no one appeared,” he told CNN Wednesday. “One went to her boyfriend’s house, two of us to a friend’s house, and one stayed back.”

“Now we are all just waiting for the steamers to come by and dry the carpet,” he said. “My roommate’s room is frozen most likely, and we are hoping we can get some food soon. We don’t know if we can return to our apartment since the roads are icy at the moment.”

Burst pipes, rooms flooded

Angelina Villarreal tells CNN that she has been in her living room along with her sister trying to stay warm since the house in Houston, Texas, is at 50 degrees. Her room is flooded with water from a burst pipe and ended up ruining everything.

Villarreal’s dad owns his own company and works with sewer, pipes, water, etc., she said.

“It’s a water waste management service, and he had to stay these past two days because the water plants that he owns have busted pipes as well, she said. “He said that no gas stations were open because he needed gas, and there was no power at his main office. We’re thinking he might come back today, but I’m unsure of how long this entire outage is gonna last.”

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