The 2021 Houston Winter Storm

Edirin Akonoghrere, Student

Many hoped that the year 2021 will bring a new beginning full of new opportunities and more hope in conquering COVID-19. To the greatest surprise of many Houstonians, a winter storm, which no one envisaged, brought drastic damages which may have well been out of human control.

It is important to note that fair warnings were given by weather officials prior to the advent of the snow tempest, but these warnings were taken with a grain of salt by the people of the community. Many underestimated the impact this will make in their society and depended on their government to take care of any exigencies if necessary.

My own experience with the winter storm was a tragedy yet with some hope. On the night of Sunday the 14th of February 2021, the winter storm had begun but on a lighter note. From my window, I could see some ice forming on the corners of the street and could even try to make out some speckles of snow in the grass. The wind was heavy, and the trees were swaying. We had experienced power outage which lasted a few minutes. We felt it had to do with the strong winds possibly affecting power lines. In all honesty, we took no account of it thinking it was only a peculiarity of night.

The following morning, bright and early, I got up ready to start my day. I walked to my window to check if snow had fallen the way the weather office had said it would, and it did. I was full of vim and excitement because this was my first time ever seeing snow. I was so anxious to go out and take pictures for my family back home and even play with it a bit, if possible. Notably, I tried switching on my light and it shocked me a little and I was quite scared. Then I turned to check my fan and realized in all my excitement I hadn’t seen that the fan I left turned on last night was standing still in the cold room.

I walked out of my room to check if this was just particular to mine and realized the whole house was out of power. I thought to myself that this would only last a few minutes, at most, a couple of hours and we will be back on track. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth in order to have breakfast and nothing came out. This, like the electricity, I thought was just a peculiarity of the moment which would not linger on.

Minutes and hours passed, and no change whatsoever was evident of forthcoming. Luckily, a group of our neighbors came and told us about an innovative way of starting our fireplace with a battery. They were literal good Samaritans and angels in disguise because that sole act was what my family and I survived on through the night.

Nighttime came on that Monday the 15th and it felt like we sat in the middle of the freezer. We all wrapped ourselves in blankets, warm attires, and thermal wears where necessary. We had the opportunity of driving to the nearest grocery store to buy some water for consumption. It was this water we used to cook dinner and quench our thirst if the need arose. At night, we gathered at the fireplace with blankets planning to all lie on the rug and use body heat also as a source of warmth. No power but a scented candle lit in the edge of the room, no warmth except the heat our frozen bodies could produce, and no water except the bottles purchased. The power outage and water shortage we all hoped would last a few hours had lingered on into the night and uncertainty about the next few days hit us like a train.

The next day, luckily for us, we found a family friend who had a generator and was willing to have us all come stay at his home. We took the kind offer when we found no hotel rooms available and realized we had no other option. We spent a few days and nights at his home, and when the power had come back on in our home we left. Thankfully, we had no burst pipes neither a leaking roof nor a damage to our property of any sort. The week was a tiresome one with so much damage to take account of.

With the streets frozen to ice, Houstonians were not used to driving in such a weather and had to take special precaution on the road. Many reported damages to their pipes and to their homes in general. Some even went on to sue the power company presiding over their area. The whole struggle was a mess that I am glad that many are trying to recover from. It was a rough period of time, highly unforgettable at that, but thankfully we live to fight another day.