From families forced to melt snow for water to flush toilets to stores giving away groceries for free, we're learning more about the triumphs and tragedies of this unprecedented crisis.
While power is slowly turning back on in Texas, residents are far from safe from the crisis.
Millions of Texans lost power, heat, and water last week after winter storms pounded the state, knocking out the power grid and affecting the water supply. In many areas, roads were impassable and grocery stores couldn't keep up with the demand for food and water.
Thousands of people are still without power and the widespread water disruptions caused damage that could take weeks or months to repair.
Texas is still reeling.
Every day, we're learning more about the depths of the crisis experienced by Texans. These are stories of loss, survival, resiliency, tragedy, and the human spirit.
This volunteer fire department ran out of water while battling a massive fire
Residents lose 'everything' to massive apartment fire in North Bexar County https://t.co/oSFkPiJilj— mySA (@mySA)1613774230.0
When a massive fire ripped through a four-story apartment complex in San Antonio, the Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department raced to help.
Despite their best efforts, crews couldn't save the building, in part to a lack of water.
Nearby fire hydrants were empty. Crews were forced to shuttle water to the scene from almost a quarter of a mile away.
"That is our No.1 extinguishing agent so when there is no water or limited amounts, it is extremely problematic for us," said Jerry Bialick, the Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer fire chief. "Every time we made progress on the fire, we ran out of water and lost it."
The building was evacuated and thankfully, no one was injured. But 130 residents were left without a home. 130 people lost everything that they didn't carry out of that building with them.
"We lost every possession that we owned — our clothes, our computers, my brother lost both of his cats — and it was just so unexpected," resident Noah Schafer told My San Antonio, a local news outlet. "When we smelled the smoke, we didn't think it would be a big deal."
"It is just so surreal," Schafer added. "This week sucked so much with the weather and not having water. I couldn't work or drive anywhere because of the snow. It was already terrible and now this? This was the icing on a really bad cake."
An 11-year-old boy died of suspected hypothermia
Our hearts break for the family of 11-year-old Cristian Pavon Pineda, who died in his sleep after his mobile home in Conroe, Texas, lost power.
Cristian's mother told The Houston Chronicle that he was a happy, healthy boy. Marie Pineda said the devastating storm marked the first time her child saw snow in person.
"That's why he was excited outside," she explained. "Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick."
That night, Cristian shared a bed with his 3-year-old stepbrother. Cristian's stepfather Manuel checked on the boys in the middle of the night and both were safely asleep.
Come morning, Cristian did not wake. "He was already dead," said Pineda.
An autopsy has been performed but it will take several weeks to determine the cause of death, say local officials. Hypothermia is the suspected cause.
"By all other means, he was a normal, healthy child," said Conroe PD spokesman Sgt. Jeff Smith, who described Cristian's home as a 40-year-old single-wide trailer with little insulation.
Cristian's family has started a GoFundMe to help with the expenses of transporting his body back to his birth country of Honduras. If you'd like to help his family, you can find more information here.
This local grocery store let hundreds of customers take free groceries when power went out
This local grocery store let hundreds of customers take free groceries when the power went out
One man's Facebook post about the generosity of his local grocery store is going viral—for good reason.
"Today, Deb and I went to our local grocery store called: H.E.B.," wrote TR Henny.
He and his partner were inside the Austin H-E-B location with hundreds of other shoppers when the power went out.
After quickly finishing their shopping, the couple headed to the checkout area.
"We got to a line with about 10 full carts in front of us and there were many other lines to both sides of us and many people behind us – probably several hundred people waiting to be checked out," he wrote.
"We waited in line for about 15-20 minutes and barely moved up 1-2 slots. Then all of a sudden we started moving faster. We both thought: Wow, they are checking out people quickly. Must be all hands on deck."
Henny and his wife soon learned why the check-out process had speeded up: the store was allowing customers to leave with their groceries for free.
"At first, Deb and I were a bit confused and I asked: 'How or who do we pay for our groceries?' We probably had a couple of hundred dollars worth of groceries. [The cashier] said: 'Just go ahead and be safe driving home.' Then we noticed the lines of people after the checkout stands proceeding with full carts of groceries all being directed out the store with many employees there to greet us on our way out."
"We could not believe the generosity of H.E.B. and the kindness of that wonderful gesture. They could just as easily asked us all to leave the store as soon as the power went out and asked us to just leave the groceries in the carts. But instead, they allowed people to continue to shop for another 10-15 minutes after the power went out and then let everyone leave the store without so much as a single dollar being asked for from the hundreds of people leaving the store."
Henny ended his post by thanking the store and its employees for their kindness during the storm crisis.
"This is the America that I know. Despite all the negative we hear/see being reported daily in the news. America and most Americans are still kind, thoughtful, generous, and caring," he wrote.
Families rely on melting snow to get water
Austin, Texas, resident Jenn Studebaker recently got her power turned back on after her family spent the week huddl… https://t.co/bVJTouKSj8— CNN (@CNN)1613752620.0
Nearly half the state's population lost access to clean, safe drinking water in the days surrounding the storm. While power is slowly being restored, many families are still struggling with getting water access in their homes.
Texas officials reported that 325 million gallons of water were lost after pipes froze and burst across the state.
One Texas woman described to CNN how her family is surviving the loss of utilities.
"We had some green bean cans to make warm water—luckily, we had water through the really bad part—but now we don't, so we're melting snow in the bathtub," said Jenn Studebaker.
She said that it takes four pots of snow to fill a toilet bowl.
"It's been constant," she continued. "We're exhausted."
Studebaker also described using a hammer to scavenge for twigs from frozen creeks and bark from trees—all to fuel the fire that her family used to keep warm.
Our hearts break for the millions of families with similar experiences.
You shouldn't need to know how many pots of snow it takes to fill your toilet. You shouldn't need to keep track of which trees you've peeled bark from to light your family's fire and heat your home.
Parents of medically fragile children describe “sheer terror” of keeping their kids safe
Parents of medically fragile children share 'sheer terror' of Texas freeze https://t.co/t1hkwfJN0v— TODAY (@TODAY)1613856612.0
Trying to keep your family warm and safe during the storm crisis is trying enough, but for families with medically fragile children, the stakes are even higher.
When the temperatures first began to drop last week, Stephanie Wolfe immediately hooked up her 6-year-old daughter's ventilator and oxygen concentrator to a portable generator.
The family also decided to relocate to Stephanie's in-laws' home after they lost power. To brave the dangerous roads, the family had to leave their wheelchair-accessible van and her daughter's wheelchair behind, in favor of a smaller truck that was more weather-appropriate.
Even after they made the perilous trip, they weren't safe. The generator powering her daughter's oxygen soon ran out of gas.
"That moment was sheer terror," Wolfe told TODAY Parents. "You can't ration oxygen. ... (A lack of oxygen) can cause brain damage. It was just straight panic."
All across the state, parents of medically dependent children were forced to make similar decisions for their family. In addition to keeping their children warm and fed, they also had to face the serious realities of keeping oxygen machines, ventilators and other medical equipment powered and running.
Families who rely on the regular delivery of crucial medical supplies and prescriptions by mail are now wondering when their next package will arrive. The storms have delayed many deliveries in the past week. How will families go without the supplies and medicines that keep their children healthy? If they've relocated to find power and electricity, how will families know if and when their medical supplies have been delivered?
These are just some of the worries facing families with medical needs.
Photo of Domino’s workers goes viral: ‘Serving you during this crisis’
An emotional photo taken of exhausted Domino's Pizza employees in San Antonio, Texas, is going viral.
The photo, taken by employee July DeLuna, shows the stress faced by food workers during the storm crisis.
"This is what it looks like when we've worked our hardest," wrote DeLuna on Facebook.
"This is us. Dominos. Working hard. Serving you during this crisis. Every pizza place were closed (Pizza Hut, Little Caesars closed). We were open for 4 hours. FOUR HOURS. And what a weekend worth of food to serve gone within that time."
"Countless orders. Countless people yelling at us. Countless times we tried to say we're sorry. This is us when we ran out of food and couldn't serve no more. We didn't even have food to serve ourselves," she continued.
DeLuna ended her post by reminding people of the huge sacrifices that food workers have made to keep businesses open.
"We gave up our rewards to serve you. We gave up our safety to drive here. We gave up our time to be here. We risked it all to be here to serve y'all. Please understand we work hard not because we have to but because we want to help and we care. Thank you."
The emotional photo and essay have been shared over a thousand times.
This mom gave birth at home without power and running water
MEET CLYDE JOSHUA.💙💙In the middle of an ice storm, with no power & no running water, this little baby made his way… https://t.co/yV1fhsEnup— Janelle Bludau (@Janelle Bludau)1613693307.0
In the middle of the chaos of the storm crisis, one Texas mother gave birth at home, without power and running water.
"It went just really fast. It was so shocking," Jenny Passman told local news affiliate KHOU.
"There wasn't time to call an ambulance and hope they can get all the way out to Magnolia in the ice. It probably would've been birth at home no matter what," Josh Passman said.
The parents-to-be were forced to improvise.
Josh drove to pick up their midwife and then siphoned gas to power their generator.
"She gave birth, not even an Advil. 'Here's some hot water, and here's the midwife, and good luck, kid.' Pretty amazing stuff," Josh said of his wife.
Baby boy Clyde Joshua was born a day early. Both baby and mom are doing well.
"For Jenny and I, we're just real grateful. I just, I've got to keep telling you that. We're grateful," said Josh.
- These photos show the scary reality many Texans are living through ... ›
- Parents In Texas Are Desperately Trying To Keep Kids Warm ... ›