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Extreme Cold Killed Texans in Their Bedrooms, Vehicles and Backyards

SAN ANTONIO — Carrol Anderson spent much of his life in southeast Texas, where the most feared natural disasters spin up from the Gulf of Mexico during the warm months of hurricane season. But last week, Anderson, a 75-year-old who breathed with the help of oxygen tanks, knew that a different kind of storm was heading his way.

To prepare, he ordered a fresh supply of oxygen that his stepdaughter said never arrived. There was a spare tank, however, in the pickup outside his one-story brick house in Crosby, Texas, just northeast of Houston.

So when Anderson, an Army veteran who went by Andy, was found dead inside his truck Tuesday, his stepdaughter figured he had gone outside to retrieve it. His main tank, back in the house, runs on electricity, and the power had gone out the night before as a deadly cold descended on much of Texas.

While the final tally could be much higher, Anderson was among at least 58 people who died in storm-affected areas stretching to Ohio, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, car crashes, drownings, house fires and hypothermia.

In Galveston County, along the Texas Gulf Coast, the authorities said two residents had died from exposure to the cold and one person from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Four other deaths remained under investigation and were possibly linked to the frigid weather.

County Judge Mark Henry, the county’s top elected official, said he would have evacuated some of his most vulnerable residents before the winter storm had he known that power outages would plunge the county into darkness for a few days. He said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid, had warned only of rolling blackouts. Instead, most residents were without power for at least 48 hours.

“We would have been happy to order an evacuation if we’d been told Sunday the power was going to go out and stay out for four days,” he said, noting the county is more accustomed to ordering evacuations before hurricanes.

A spokeswoman for ERCOT said Friday that the surge in demand stressed the power grid, a crisis so dire that the “local utilities were not able to rotate the outages.”

At its height, about 4 million Texans were without power this week as temperatures plummeted to the teens and single digits. About 165,000 remained without electricity on Friday, though millions were still without running water or under notices to boil their tap water.

Still, there were signs of relief. In hard-hit Austin, City Manager Spencer Cronk said Friday that more than 1 million gallons of water would arrive over the next two days. The city plans to set up distribution centers, and Cronk said water would be delivered to the city’s most vulnerable citizens, such as older people and those without homes.

Greg Meszaros, the director of Austin’s water utility, said he expected that most residents would have their water pressure restored over the weekend. Boil water advisories should be lifted sometime next week, he said.

Coming into clearer view were the dimensions of a public health crisis exacerbated by poverty, desperation and, in some cases, a lack of understanding of cold-weather safety. Texas hospitals and health providers saw more than 700 visits related to carbon monoxide poisoning between Monday and Wednesday. Thayer Smith, division chief with the Austin Fire Department, said his city had seen dozens of incidents of toxic exposure from people burning charcoal in their homes.

The weather also hampered the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The White House on Friday said 6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines had been held up because of snowstorms across the country, creating a backlog affecting every state and throwing off the pace of vaccination appointments over the next week.

In Texas, hospitals spent the week grappling with burst pipes, power outages and acute water shortages, making it difficult to care for patients.

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by Anonymousreply 4802/23/2021

In Abilene, authorities said a man died at the Hendrick Medical Center after he was unable to get dialysis treatment at the site. Large amounts of filtered water, in addition to electricity and heat, are required to properly provide care for dialysis patients, and water at the hospital was shut down, said Cande Flores, the Abilene fire chief.

Flores said that at least four people had died in Abilene as a result of the state power grid failure, including a homeless man who died from exposure to the cold, a 60-year-old man who was found dead in his home and an 86-year-old woman whose daughter found her frozen in her backyard.

Elsewhere in the state, a 69-year-old man was found dead inside his home in a rural community south of San Antonio, where he lived alone. He did not have electricity, and the authorities said his bedroom was 35 degrees when they found him.

In Houston, an Ethiopian immigrant died in her idling car, which was parked in her garage, where she sat while charging her phone. The woman, Etenesh Mersha, was talking to a friend when she started to feel tired.

“She tried to drink water,” said Negash Desta, a relative by marriage to Mersha. “After she told her friend she couldn’t talk anymore, there was no response after that.”

The friend tried to call the police in Houston but did not have an address, Desta said. The friend turned to Facebook, where she found Desta. Hours later, he eventually received a message about what had happened and alerted the police. They found an entire family, poisoned.

“When they get in, they found the mother and daughter were just dead and the son and father alive. They had all fainted,” he said, adding that the car had still been running. The daughter, Rakeb Shalemu, was 7 years old.

Mersha’s husband and 8-year-old son were hospitalized. Desta said that the husband has since been released and that the boy, Beimnet Shalemu, was still in the intensive critical unit.

Near Houston in Conroe, Texas, an 11-year-old boy, Cristian Pineda, was found dead in his bed on Monday morning. His family had no power the night before, and the parents, the boy and his siblings had huddled together in one bedroom, Lt. James Kelemen of the Conroe Police Department said Friday.

Like Anderson and Mersha and her family, Cristian was the focus of a hastily assembled GoFundMe page. It requested donations to cover the expenses of his burial in Honduras, where his family is from. It had raised more than $38,000 as of Friday afternoon.

The page showed a picture of a boy in a thin red hoodie, smiling and standing in the snow.

On Tuesday, while Anderson’s wife was mopping up their living room after a frozen pipe burst, he walked to the garage to try to get a generator going, hoping he could help clean up with a Shop-Vac.

His wife would not know until later that he had walked to his truck in search of oxygen, said his stepdaughter, Brandi Campanile. It was 19 degrees. His spare oxygen tank, it would turn out, was empty.

“He was trying to get oxygen and it was just a losing battle,” Campanile said Friday. “Texas is not meant to handle freezing temperatures. It’s not something that happens out here.”

by Anonymousreply 102/21/2021

This is an opportunity for Democrats to re-take the governorship.

The national Democratic party needs to find a solid candidate and put 100% support and resources behind that person.

We need Texas to go blue again, like the days of Ann Richards.

by Anonymousreply 202/21/2021

Not with Beto. His gun rhetoric killed any chances for him.

by Anonymousreply 302/21/2021

The people who died from sitting in a running car in a closed garage? That’s just plain stupidity. RIP.

by Anonymousreply 402/21/2021

Beto's actually running for Governor, R3.

But if there's someone better, the party should back that person.

Beto is not the "anointed one."

by Anonymousreply 502/21/2021

If Texas keeps voting for people who claim this is caused by the Green New Deal, they deserve all the consequences

by Anonymousreply 602/21/2021

R6, some of the victims are children who can't even vote

Instead of the people let's blame politicians like Abbott

by Anonymousreply 702/21/2021

And they will still vote a straight GOP ticket statewide.…until 2030 maybe.

by Anonymousreply 802/21/2021

Beto is still a strong candidate for governor. The incumbent, Greg Abbott, is term-limited out, so the Republicans will have to find another goon to fill his place.

by Anonymousreply 902/21/2021

^^ My mistake, Texas governor has not term limits. So Mattox could run again.

by Anonymousreply 1002/21/2021

[quote] Not with Beto. His gun rhetoric killed any chances for him.

Guns are useless against climate change, bad politics and poor government.

by Anonymousreply 1102/21/2021

Beto is still very much a player in Texas politics.

by Anonymousreply 1202/21/2021

Beyond heartbreaking. I'm furious and I live in Florida, untouched by this.

by Anonymousreply 1302/21/2021

Ironically, not even their guns could’ve saved them.

by Anonymousreply 1402/21/2021

Kudos to the furniture owner who offered shelter in 2 of his Dallas stores for the needy. A hero among many incompetent politicians.

by Anonymousreply 1502/21/2021

Ain't no Federil Guvermint jacbooted thugs gonna tell me how to live--or die! They're gonna pry the gas grill from my cole daid hands!

by Anonymousreply 1602/21/2021

How many more times must be people be shown that voting Republican kills? Literally KILLS.

by Anonymousreply 1702/21/2021

[quote]Kudos to the furniture owner who offered shelter in 2 of his Dallas stores for the needy. A hero among many incompetent politicians.

Admirable, but the tiresome "both sides" bullshit needs to end. I'm tired of these asshole Republicans who KNOW this is on Republicans, trying to pull the crap about enough blame to go around. Democrats WARNED about this ten years ago.

by Anonymousreply 1802/21/2021

Is it wrong that I am suspicious of the death of the boy in the trailer in Conroe? Who lets their kid sleep for 14 hours without checking on him? I'm in Houston and last week sucked for me as well, but some of the deaths I've read about are hard to believe.

by Anonymousreply 1902/21/2021

[quote]How many more times must be people be shown that voting Republican kills? Literally KILLS.

These stupid ignorant assholes are going to go extinct if they don't accept the fact that the world is changing, and come into the 21st Century.

by Anonymousreply 2002/21/2021

R15 Mattress Mac has done a lot for Houston. He's a true philanthropist who was a struggling small business owner who got lucky and gives back. He's opened his stores up for the needy in every every natural disaster Houston's gone through. He even arranges for food. Much different than Osteen and his cunt.

by Anonymousreply 2102/21/2021

R21, Thank you for clarifying. He's the type of man who should start a charity. Much more moral than scammer Joel Osteen.

by Anonymousreply 2202/21/2021

Extreme cold didn’t kill Texans - WINDMILLS DID!

by Anonymousreply 2302/21/2021

Something I didn't think of but I was told. You couldn't get gas in Texas because gas pumps are run by electricity. So Texans were unable to leave town by driving.

by Anonymousreply 2402/21/2021

[quote] So Texans were unable to leave town by driving.

Well, some of them, anyway.

I don’t know why these people didn’t book a room in a warmer climate, buy airline tickets, book a room at the Ritz and get out of there. I mean, it’s almost common sense. Pffft.

by Anonymousreply 2502/21/2021

Agreed, R15.

We need more people like that.

by Anonymousreply 2602/21/2021

False flag! They were all killed by antifa!

by Anonymousreply 2702/21/2021

You people need a state run power service which provides power at a competitive price. Rampant capitalism is destroying the US, and countries in Europe that have followed the American way.

by Anonymousreply 2802/21/2021

R24 I can understand the elderly or disabled not getting prepared for the weather, but many of the general population seem to be caught by surprise. I wonder if the forecast was believed.

by Anonymousreply 2902/21/2021

It’s like “Idiocracy has a weather event”

by Anonymousreply 3002/21/2021

My best friend knows a QAnoner who is claiming that the Chinese sent up some sort of weather satellite which was responsible for the Texas snowstorm (shades of MTG's 'Jewish space lasers').

Then there's this bullshit:

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by Anonymousreply 3102/22/2021

[quote]Not with Beto. His gun rhetoric killed any chances for him.

Yeah, they'll cling to their guns - although that partly because they're frozen to their cold, dead hands.

by Anonymousreply 3202/22/2021

Some posters are critical but just how do you avoid hypothermia in such low temperatures at home with no electricity when electricity is your only form of heating? Blankets and bed covers will help ... but overnight, for 48 hours; what if you live alone (no snuggling)?

by Anonymousreply 3302/22/2021

It’s the working class who will pay dearly for global warming.

by Anonymousreply 3402/22/2021

I don’t know the answer, r33, but I find some of it odd.

Last night on the news they talked about an elderly couple and the man died. The news reported it was 12° in the house. How the hell does a house get to 12°?! Did they have the windows open or something?

by Anonymousreply 3502/23/2021

"“Here’s a suggestion: just don’t be a–holes,” he continued. “Like, just, you know, treat each other as human beings have some degree, some modicum of respect.”"

Thus spake Flyin' Ted. Oh my sides. Pots and kettles etc.

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by Anonymousreply 3602/23/2021

It's all obscene, in the United States of America...

Why do we fail almost every disaster?

I guess it would be slightly better if it happened in summer, but TX gets pretty hot also. And in hot weather you'd have to worry about a crime wave: looting, home invasions, etc.

by Anonymousreply 3702/23/2021

R29 Austinite here: we believed the forecast, covered our plants, checked food stores, etc. Early Monday morning, we lost power and hot water, etc., but didn’t think that it would last as long as it did. We were told we would have rolling blackouts but lost power for 48 hours. Had to sit in car to charge phones. The neighborhood markets were shut down so after five days of not being able to leave our hilly, icy neighborhood, our food started getting a bit low. We planned for a few days but it was longer, colder and snowier than we expected.

by Anonymousreply 3802/23/2021

R38 How did you keep warm?

by Anonymousreply 3902/23/2021

I can see Millennials going without heat or food- but not smart phones.

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by Anonymousreply 4002/23/2021

[quote] Ain't no Federil Guvermint jacbooted thugs gonna tell me how to live--or die! They're gonna pry the gas grill from my cole daid hands! —Texas Dude, From Beyonf the Grve

Priceless

by Anonymousreply 4102/23/2021

R39. It’s going to be 80 today so it’s utterly surreal to think back to a week ago. We double-layered our clothing all day and night and wore gloves, scarves and hats. We had a fire going from when we woke to when we went to bed but it barely helped the second day that didn’t get above 15 (after a night of nine degrees). We added layers to our bed covers and forced our dogs to sleep with us. It was a Four Dog Night. We boiled water in our fireplace for hot tea and to wipe down and neighbors with a gas stove brought us thermoses with hot water. We closed all inner doors and hung sheets to cover all outer doors and windows. And our house is very insulated with double-panel windows, extra insulation in attic, FWIW, and four sides brick. The problem is that 36+ hours of sub-freezing temps with one night having a windchill factor of -5 impacts the physical structure and it’s impossible to keep all that cold outside when the bricks are frozen.

And we still shivered.

by Anonymousreply 4202/23/2021

I have a friend who has 3 kids. He and his wife spent over 36 hours without heat or water. They resorted to breaking furniture down to burn it in their fireplace, along with books, wood toys, and anything else they could come up with. He was genuinely worried that they wouldn't make it through the 3rd night.

He's a liberal vegetarian non-gun-owning Democrat, too, so don't lump everyone in the same basket here in Texas.

by Anonymousreply 4302/23/2021

R43 Your last sentence also describes me and my family. 😊

by Anonymousreply 4402/23/2021

[quote] We had a fire going from when we woke to when we went to bed

That was what, an open fire burning coal or wood, which you also used for boiled water?

The conditions sound brutal. It is a miracle that more didn't freeze to death.

I have gas for the hot water and I am thinking I should get at least one gas fire fitted, just in case, in a small room for emergencies.

by Anonymousreply 4502/23/2021

But will these people EVER learn and correctly make the association between poor, irresponsible ( if not at many times out-right corrupt) governance by their Political Leaders? My Magic 8-ball says NO.

These individuals, or at least the vast majority, will retreat back into a comfortable cocoon of ignorance and conspiracy-laden misinformation, the end result of which being that they will breed themselves out of existence.

I haven't decided yet for myself, if that is Tragic or ultimately Good for our Society.

by Anonymousreply 4602/23/2021

R45 I had just hosted a small board meeting in our backyard so we had several bags of piñon wood but what I’ve learned is that regular wood doesn’t burn nearly as hot as those starter logs. It was miserable but - at the risk of sounding obnoxious - we are UMC so I always knew that we would have options at some point. We will fix our tankless this week, e.g., and won’t miss the money. We could have walked to neighbors’ homes who still had power to warm up. Imagine the cost to people who live paycheck to paycheck?

R46 I repeat this quite a bit but Beto only lost to Cruz by 200k votes. Texas has ~17 million registered voters so that is VERY CLOSE. Many of us have known for years that our state government (and many US reps and senators) are idiots but the gerrymandering has been so egregious that it is often impossible for Dems to win. I know that US Senate and Governor are statewide, but the shitty, dismissive GOP has taken over the state and promulgate so many lies that poorly educated whites just vote R no matter what.

by Anonymousreply 4702/23/2021

R38 see above.

by Anonymousreply 4802/23/2021
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