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'Bundled Up Like Charlie & The Chocolate Factory': North Texans On Surviving The Cold Without Power

An aerial view of Dallas covered in snow. You can see white fill the streets and the rooftops of homes. And in the foreground, you can see the Dallas skyline.
Photo courtesy Exploredinary | exploredinary.com
Streets and rooftops in Dallas are covered in snow. And that snow is dropping temps across the Metroplex. We reached out to you to hear about the experience.

The blisteringly cold weather paired with power outages have left many in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex scrambling to find warmth. KERA reached out to some of these individuals to hear how they’re getting by.

Across the state of Texas, residents are struggling to deal with an unprecedented power shortage caused by a severe winter storm that’s left millions in the state without heat and electricity.

Bill Magness, the CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), told Dallas’ ABC affiliate on Tuesday that 70 to 80 of state’s 680 power plants were offline. And that the issues at those power plants were causing outages for many.

“[The storm] increased demand to an extreme, extraordinary height, and then the storm also made it difficult for the supply to be provided,” Magness said in the interview. “We have seen nothing like this honestly in Texas.”

Magness’ claim has been backed up by the National Weather Service. They’re reporting that today is the coldest February 16 in the region since 1903. It’s also “the coldest temperature recorded at the official Dallas/Fort Worth climate site since January 31, 1949.”

The blisteringly cold weather paired with the outages has left many in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex scrambling to find warmth. KERA reporters Alejandra Martinez & Bill Zeeble reached out to some of these individuals to hear how they’re getting by.

Fort Worth resident Ben Fort said he lost power at 2 a.m. on Monday. “So, we got our 2-year-old and our 4-year-old and brought them into our bed with us,” he said. “We kind of bundled up like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to try to stay warm.”

Despite their efforts, by the end of the night, the temperature in their house dropped to 42 degrees.

“At that point, we were like we can't stay here,” he said. “I tweeted about our cold house. And then three different friends texted me.”

Fort and his family packed into their car, drove to a friend’s house and are feeling much warmer now. Still, Fort can’t help but think of those who are less fortunate today. “You think about people that didn't have a place to go or didn't have someone checking in on them or offering to have somewhere to stay,” he said sadly.

Icicles hanging from the edge of the roof of a home in Dallas.
Rachel Osier Lindley | KERA News
Ice isn't only covering the ground surrounding homes in the DFW. The ice is also on our roofs.

Candice Musser, a Collinsville resident, also lost power and saw temps dropping in her home. But unlike Fort, she connected with family for warmth. Musser has two children, a 4-year-old and a 6-month-old.

“We have been without power since yesterday morning at 11 a.m.. It will come on for 5-10 minutes at a time and then go right back out,” she wrote to KERA. “Thankfully, we have a small propane heater. We are camped out in my sister's living room so we can share it. She lives across the street with her 4-year-old.”

Dallas’ Taylor Rodriguez wasn’t ready to flee from her 33-degree condo, but she did call upon family to help her grandmother and her dog.

“Fortunately, my aunt in Garland has electricity. She came and picked up [my grandmother] and my dog, because it's just so cold,” Rodriguez said. “My grandmother had eight blankets on.”

Rodriguez said she’s relying upon her car’s battery to charge her devices and to get a bit of warmth from time to time. But she says she feels fine knowing that those who are close to her are safe.

Twitter user and Fort Worth resident @princesspricey_ said the outages and plummeting temps put her in a difficult situation: be cold or risk a COVID-19 infection by booking a hotel?

“It is a really sorry situation out here,” she said. “We're lucky because we have the resources to go stay in a hotel and go buy food. And we have a car that can drive on this [ice].”

Her family ended up choosing the hotel route. But still, she’s worried about her friends, her neighbors, and especially people without options.

“I know most of my neighbors we've been in contact with them to make sure they're okay and everybody's evacuated at this point, but there's a lot of apartment communities and older homes that I know don't have the insulation that I do,” she said.

A photo of a thermostat that no longer shows temps. Instead, because of plummeting temperatures, it only reads 'lo'.
Ben Fort
Fort Worth resident Ben Fort says the temps kept dropping in his home, but that his thermostat stopped keeping count. Now, it just reads 'lo'.

Robin Teague agrees with those concerns about people in older homes. Teague and his wife live in North Oak Cliff, which is known for its old homes. And he said people throughout his neighborhood have been dealing with rolling blackouts for about 24 hours.

“We’ve been rolled up with blankets on the sofa. Obviously, we’ve had no television or anything,” he said.

Teague suspects many in the neighborhood have been dealing with cold spaces like he has, but he’s thankful his old home has a gas range and oven because it’s allowed him to cook.

“I guess most of the neighbors we have are still running on gas,” he said. “So, most of us have been able to cook and rely upon our stovetops [for warmth].”

Still, despite seeing the brighter sides of the situation he’s dealing with, Teague thinks the rollouts show disparities in Dallas. “The one thing that is clear, from being on social media, is that there are specific neighborhoods being affected. And specific neighborhoods that are not being affected,” he said.

“It is just odd that these rolling blackouts do not seem to be rolling,” Teague said. “The blackouts are predominately stuck in neighborhoods like the Cedars.”

That's an observation shared by Lakesha Lowrie, a nurse in Arlington. She lost electricity at 5 a.m. on Monday and her house was at 38 degrees on Tuesday morning.

"I understand the rolling blackouts, I truly do," Lowrie said. "If you're going to do rolling blackouts, roll the black out. Why is it one sector gets over 24 hours electricity and you have other sectors without power the whole time? I'm not understanding the rolling part."

She said her neighbors have also lost power, some even longer than her. She blames all the electric companies who should have come up with answers by now.

Bruce Toplek lives in an apartment near downtown Dallas and figures he's been without power for about 20 hours. His electric-only complex at least has a fireplace, and he's planning to burn some wood later. That might calm the cold but not his frustration.

"Whoever, ONCOR, ERCOT, have not been speaking the truth the last 24 or 36 hours," he said. "They stuck to the rolling blackout line much too long. They certainly have equipment that knows where power is on and off, and how long it's been off. They should have come out and said 'we got problems, here's the situation, sorry we can't do anything about it.'"

Toplek knows more snow is about to fall and he's not sure power companies will fix the problem before that happens.

Got at tip? Email Alejandra Martinez at amartinez@kera.org, Bill Zeeble at bzeeble@kera.org and Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org.

You can follow them on Twitter: Alejandra is @alereports, Bill is @bzeeble and Hady is @HadySauce.

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