In Dallas, Texas
When Chris Majani moved to Texas three years ago, he neither imagined a day would come when a brutal winter storm would force his family to boil water from melted snow to wash kitchen utensils to prepare dinner, nor being forced to spend nights in his Honda Pilot SUV with his family huddled together to keep warm from the biting cold brought on by a once-in-a-generation a winter storm.
“I was not expecting this kind of cold temperature because I thought Texas was much warmer than Tennessee and most of the Northeast. That’s the reason I relocated here,” said Majani, who moved from Tennessee to Dallas in search of a warmer climate.
In a state known more for powerful hurricanes than Arctic blasts, the past days have presented a rude awakening for Kenyans living in Texas like Majani, who have been moving from other states in the Northeast and Minnesota in search of bigger houses, huge backyards and warmer temperatures.
The hours and days of extreme winter weather, with most of the state left in the cold and dark amid power outages, have exacerbated the loss of basic necessities. This has compounded the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in a state that has led the nation in daily average cases in recent weeks.
“While the weather department had warned of severe weather, people like us trusted the state’s response to such cases. We believed that the same way they were warning us was the same way they were preparing to respond to the storm. Sadly, that didn’t happen and so the situation deteriorated quickly” said Majani in an interview with the Nation.
Majani says that by last Saturday, snow was “raining” everywhere, followed in quick succession by loss of power that in turn led to shutdown of water pumping systems.
“At that time, the temperatures were -22 degrees. People with relatives outside the metroplex packed and left. As for us, we didn’t have that privilege but we had one advantage; our house was connected to the gas pipeline, so at least we could cook some food.”
For Majani and his family, the biggest snafu was heating the house because it didn’t have a firewood chimney, something they didn’t consider when house-hunting because the weather in Texas is believed to be almost tropical.
Run car engine nonstop
“On the first night it was not that cold because of the cushions the house had. However, on the second night, I had to put the family in the car and run the engine nonstop. We spent that night bundled together in the car keeping warm, charging phones, listening to music and occasionally listening to news” Majani said.
Down Southeast, in America’s fourth biggest city, Houston, the family of Bob and Lucy Simiyu was also battling a winter storm with an intensity last seen in 1905.
Reached by the Nation for comment, Lucy noted: “Saying the current situation is out of character is an understatement! Millions of people are without power! From the snowman excitement at first to no electricity, freezing temperatures and no water, thousands of families are displaced and affected with no basic needs. Can you imagine no bread in stores and no fuel for cars?”
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that Texas, arguably America’s leading state in oil and natural gas production, was experiencing these massive power blackouts and shortage of fuel.
Lucy says that, having lived in the Northwest in Virginia before relocating to Texas, the weather forecast that equated the coming storm to a Category 5 hurricane was almost laughable.
Making a snowman
“Who would have thought that, with the scorching weather in Texas, anybody would one day be making a snowman in their front yard? In fact, it never occurred to us, and of course, many other Texans, to buy winter tires. But, as scriptures would tell us, many are our plans but the Lord has ultimate plans for our lives.”
For Lucy and her family, Monday, February, 15 2021, started off as a normal day with normal daily routines after celebrating Valentine’s Day. But, as the day wore off into Tuesday, things quickly deteriorated. “As a family, and I’m sure I speak for many others, we did everything the weather people told us to do. We left taps dripping, covered pipes outside. But, before long, water was gushing out from a burst pipe. In less than five minutes, the house was filled with water because the roof came tumbling down. Thankfully, none of us was injured,” she said.
For Kenyan born Dallas resident Paul Karachia, Monday night was by far the coldest night he’s lived through since he was born.
“I was without power in my house for 12 long hours. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling like I had spent the night in a refrigerator. It was my first time to experience anything like this. Things got even worse later mid-morning when the water pipes burst. I then decided to move into a hotel but then, all the hotel rooms were completely booked. After driving around for hours, I found one and checked in.”
For Karachia, however, the take-away is the massive failure of the state’s electricity grid, managed by the “inaccurately” named Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot). He says that Texas, as part of its regular and continuing efforts to distance itself from federal oversight, maintains its own grid. This week, it was overwhelmed by the storm, and so millions of Texans suffered days and nights without power as a massive blitz sent temperatures plunging, shuttered grocery stores and caused widespread outages.