As heavy snow and freezing rain pummeled the central United States, more than 4 million households lost power Monday, with many outages tied to record-high demand. In Texas, the state’s electricity grid, which is independent from surrounding states, was unable to withstand the storm and strain.
The blackouts left many unable to heat their homes, cook meals, work remotely — or sleep at night.
LEFT: Horses in Bastrop County, Tex., wait for the ice in their water trough to melt. The area saw four to six inches of snow and below-freezing temperatures. (Nell Carroll/Austin American-Statesman/AP) RIGHT: Icicles form on a citrus tree in Edinburg, Tex. (Delcia Lopez/Monitor/AP)
With millions without power, some people turned to unsafe means to heat their homes. Reports of carbon monoxide poisonings surfaced, including a woman and girl who died in Houston after a car was left running in a garage for heat, police said Tuesday.
Freezing residents waited in long lines to stock up on propane and other supplies for the upcoming Arctic nights.
LEFT: People wait in line at a grocery store in Austin. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post) RIGHT: A woman pushes a cart near downtown Austin. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post)
By Wednesday, as another winter storm loomed, calls for accountability were mounting while millions remained without power. By then, 16 people had died.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), among other state leaders, demanded an investigation into the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as residents increasingly sought shelter where there was heat — including a Houston furniture store.
LEFT: Edgar Rico, owner of Nixta Taqueria, helps prepare food at his restaurant in Austin. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post) RIGHT: Linda McCoy throws wood on a fire to heat her home in Houston. (Mark Felix for The Washington Post)
Millions of Texas residents had their power restored by Thursday, but hundreds of thousands remained without electricity. Meanwhile, frigid weather had devastated water lines, leaving nearly half the state under advisory to boil water for drinking.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) returned to the devastated state from a short-lived tropical vacation in Cancún, a trip widely lampooned and criticized online.
LEFT: Caution tape blocks off the refrigerated section of a store in Houston as an employee checks if any products perished. (Callaghan O’Hare for The Washington Post) RIGHT: Anubis Trevino fills coolers with water, which he and his family plan to heat for bathing after their pipes burst. (Callaghan O’Hare for The Washington Post)
By the end of the week, residents returning to their homes flipped on the lights to survey the damage. What they saw were burst pipes, gaping roofs and flooded floors in the “largest insurance claim event in [Texas] history,” according to the Insurance Council of Texas, an insurance trade association.
President Biden on Saturday approved a major disaster declaration for Texas, and Abbott on Friday said conditions were clearing to allow for the transportation of needed supplies.
In the sunshine and warmer temperatures, the storm-ravaged state began to thaw — and to mend.
LEFT: Jasta Alicie holds containers to be filled with water at Batch Craft Beers & Kolaches. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post) RIGHT: Will Jaquiss and Nao Ohdera at Meanwhile Brewery in Austin fill water in containers brought in by residents. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post)
Karly Domb Sadof is an award-winning photo editor at The Washington Post, currently working on the national news desk.
She is also a contributing writer for In Sight, The Post’s photography blog. She joined The Post in 2016.