HOUSTON — What some in the Miami Valley would consider part of a normal winter caused havoc through the entire state of Texas with millions losing power for days due to a winter storm.
Snow and ice shut down essential services taken for granted in parts of the country used to multiple rounds of winter weather during the season. The Texas electric grid has been hit especially hard by the winter weather this week.
But for a Centerville native now living in Houston, the weather this week was nothing out of the ordinary compared to what he was used to here in Ohio.
“This shouldn’t be a big deal, this is a normal week in November, or March or January in Ohio. This is nothing new to me, but for them, they can’t wrap their head around it,” Jacob Vanvlymen told News Center 7′s Katy Andersen Thursday.
Vanvlymen has lived in Houston for almost two years but has struggled this week, as have many Texans, for essential services and utilities to be restored. For the last four days power has been going in and out at his apartment.
“(We got) a half-inch of snow and some ice; nothing – nothing I have not seen before or lived through,” Vanvlymen said, during a time when his power was on and devices charging. “I was able to warm up the house so it could be warm, but I woke up cold and it thaws out.”
At one point, Vanvlymen said his apartment fell to a freezing 22 degrees inside.
The cold weather has crippled the state’s power supply, which is due in part to how it was built. Texas is the only state with its own power grid, which allows the state to bypass federal regulations. But when the uncharacteristically Arctic temperatures and winter weather arrived this week, it exposed a weakness in the state’s system that buckled under high demand, the Associated Press reported.
And rolling blackouts have people getting creative with how to stay warm and cook.
“I can’t even cook water or anything to have tea or anything that keeps me warm internally, can’t feed yourself because every store is closed, and if they are open, it’s a two hour wait to get in,” Vanvlymen said.
Its not just electricity that has been a problem as the freezing temperatures have caused pipes to freeze and bust in parts of the state, including to some of Vanvlymen’s friends in Houston.
“And it’s piping over the ceilings, so if it’s a pipe under the counter – it’s not great but it’s better. When it’s coming from the ceiling, you know how much damage that can cause. And then we have a water shortage because so many pipes are bursting, now we have lack of water and the water we do have is contaminated, and it’s a boil advisory,” he said.
And then there’s the road conditions and how Texas drivers handle them.
“I think the most dangerous part is – these people do not know how to drive. Generally, they do not know how to drive, so when it comes to rain or anything that isn’t sunny, you should not be on the road because it is dangerous,” Vanvlymen said.
However the weather has brought out a bright spot, a chance for people to help their neighbors.
“You see a lot of friends being friendly, families being friendly, people coming around,” Vanvlymen said.
Recovery from the storm is could take weeks but federal aid has been promised and is on the way. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be supplying Texans with many humanitarian supplies like generators, diesel fuel, water, and blankets.
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