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We live in Austin, Texas: Here’s how we’re dealing with the winter emergency

The state of Texas is in a state of emergency following an unprecedented winter storm; here’s how you can help


Most of the To Her Credit editorial team lives in Austin, Texas. For several days now, we’ve been living together in my 600 square foot apartment. In the early hours of Monday, Feb. 15, Editor Emily Sherman’s power went out. By that afternoon, the inside of her home was 58…

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Most of the To Her Credit editorial team lives in Austin, Texas. For several days now, we’ve been living together in my 600 square foot apartment.

In the early hours of Monday, Feb. 15, Editor Emily Sherman’s power went out. By that afternoon, the inside of her home was 58 degrees and dropping, prompting her and her partner to stay with me. After they were settled, we heard from Writer Ana Staples, who was stranded at her apartment complex atop a steep hill west of the city. She also had no power or means to stay warm. As soon as the snow on the roads was replaced with ice, it would be impossible for her to leave. So we packed up my Subaru and made the trek to get her.

That night, Editor Adriana Ocañas’s power went out. Unable to get groceries for several days already, she had very little food at her apartment and no practical way to make it to the grocery store since two tires on her car had very little air. In our group text, we asked her how she was doing.

“I run warm anyway … I’ve got a quilt and two comforters,” she texted. “And I have three candles.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, we made the decision to rescue her. A good thing, too, since we later learned the three candles were electric and would provide zero heat.

See related: How to provide relief to those in need

We’re living in very close quarters, but we’re safe

We spend our days taking inventory of our food and water supply, venturing out to stores for anything we’re running low on and dealing with a burst pipe at Emily’s home. We’re also helping our coworkers make sure that continues to publish needed content. At night, we hunker down inside for dinner, after which we play board games and have lively discussions about the books we’re reading.

Sharing such a small space has been a logistical challenge. But we’re fortunate to have had power and water the entire week, enough food to easily feed all of us and a four-wheel-drive car keeping us safe on the roads.

Many of our friends and family – along with most residents of our beloved city and state – have not been so lucky. Our friends and family members across the state have had pipes burst, days-long power outages, limited access to drinking water and more. Still, most of the people we personally know are safe.

But stories are beginning to emerge about families dying from carbon monoxide poisoning trying to stay warm using unsafe means and people, including a child, dying inside their homes from hypothermia.

Temperatures are beginning to rise again and Texas is finally out of an energy emergency. But we’re still not completely in the clear.

Right now, the entire city of Austin lacks access to clean drinking water. Many residents, including some of our coworkers, don’t have running water in their homes. Those who do must boil it before drinking, a difficult task for people who still do not have power. Across the state, millions of Texans are in a similar situation.

Renters and homeowners are facing massive expenses to repair damage to homes because of pipes bursting. Even those with insurance will likely need to pay a deductible. For example, both Ana’s and Emily’s renter’s insurance deductible is $1,000.

This is added strain on top of the country’s financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to our sister site, Bankrate, fewer than four in 10 Americans could comfortably cover a surprise bill of $1,000.

How you can help

Now that the roads are starting to clear, Texans will hopefully start getting the emergency help we so desperately need. If you have the means and would like to support this effort, here’s where you can donate:

  • American Red Cross is supporting warming centers across the state with cots and blankets. Fort Worth-based American Airlines has partnered with the Red Cross to support relief efforts.
  • Feeding Texas is helping “replenish food banks, support warming centers, replace perished food, and feed Texans in need.”
  • Caritas of Austin supports those who experience housing insecurity in the Austin Area. You can make a monetary donation or order an item off an Amazon wish list.
  • Austin Pets Alive! is collecting donations to keep Texas animals safe and warm, along with water, clumping cat litter and dog food.

But there are more organizations to support. Multiple news outlets have also created similar lists of resources and nonprofit organizations providing relief to Texans during this emergency.

If you’re a Texas resident, you can also contact your state leaders, House representatives and Senators to call for better winter storm preparedness to keep Texans safe in the future.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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