Texans are Desperate for Warmth Amidst Winter Storm Uri

By Erin Chae, Staff Writer

Winter Storm Uri hit the United States on February 15th, 2021, bringing another concerning crisis to countless Americans. It carried frigid conditions and heavy snowfall through states that rarely see such extreme temperatures during mid-February, namely Texas. This southern state was caught off guard, with regions reaching temperatures as low as minus two degrees Fahrenheit. 


Texans in almost every county faced the devastating effects of the storm and will have to deal with its aftermath for months to come. Millions experienced power outages and were left shivering in the cold due to grid failures. By February 20th, power had been restored to most regions, but as many as 69,000 people still had no electricity access.


The lack of a heat source and persistent power outages took the lives of more than 30 Texas residents. “We are in a super dire situation…people are desperately trying to keep their loved ones warm,” stated Cy- Fair Fire Department officer Daniel Arizpe. Residents urgently turned to methods that offered even a small measure of warmth after being exposed to bitter temperatures. 


Jackie Ngyuen and her family resorted to their fireplace as a heat source before her Sugar Land home was engulfed in flames. A spokesman for the city, Douglas Adolph, noted that fireplaces built in suburban Houston are not meant to burn for lengthy periods. In this incident, Ngyuen lost her 75-year-old mother, Loan Le, and her children, Olivia, Edison, and Colette. “Tucked my kids into bed, and really the next thing I know I’m in the hospital,” she told CNN. “My heart is broken. I’m never gonna be the same.”


Ngyuen was not the only one who sought ways to fight off the freezing cold. Some used hazardous methods, such as running cars inside closed garages and gas grills indoors, to warm their bodies. High concentrations of carbon monoxide released by engines in a closed environment reduce oxygen levels in the brain. This odorless and colorless gas can therefore turn lethal in a matter of minutes. Consequently, over five victims of carbon monoxide poisoning have been recorded.


When police officers were dispatched on a welfare check in Houston, they found two adults and two children exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. “The adult female and female child did not survive. The adult male and male child were transported,” the Houston Police reported on February 16th. The family had run their car in their attached garage in an attempt to escape the cold.


The frigid cold was unbearable for the vast majority, and many have even frozen to death. Lengthy exposures to such unprecedented temperatures led to hypothermia cases in which the body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Despite the attempts to keep warm under a pile of blankets, 11-year-old Cristian Pineda suffered hypothermia when heat and electricity were lost during the historic cold snap. He became an unfortunate victim in their mobile home in Conroe, a suburban city north of Houston.


Various organizations have offered ways for spectators of this disastrous winter storm to support those negatively affected. The Austin Disaster Relief Network is accepting donations to supply those in need with supplies and emergency housing. Front Steps is conducting a winter blanket drive in hopes of making a lasting impact. Even from a distance, a small gesture can make the greatest difference to those impacted and is a way to help alleviate the aftermath of storm Uri.