Extreme Cold Killed Texans in Their Bedrooms, Vehicles and Backyards

SAN ANTONIO — Carrol Anderson spent a lot of his life in Southeast Texas, the place essentially the most feared pure disasters spin up from the Gulf of Mexico through the heat months of hurricane season. But final week, Mr. Anderson, a 75-year-old who breathed with the assistance of oxygen tanks, knew completely different sort of storm was heading his approach.

To put together, he ordered a contemporary provide of oxygen that his stepdaughter mentioned by no means arrived. There was a spare tank, nevertheless, in the pickup outdoors his one-story brick home in Crosby, Texas, simply northeast of Houston.

So when Mr. Anderson, an Army veteran who glided by Andy, was discovered useless inside his truck on Tuesday, his stepdaughter figured he had gone outdoors to retrieve it. His predominant tank, again in the home, runs on electrical energy, and the facility had gone out the evening earlier than as a lethal chilly descended on a lot of Texas.

While the ultimate tally might be a lot increased, Mr. Anderson was amongst at the very least 58 individuals who died in storm-affected areas stretching to Ohio, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, automobile crashes, drownings, home fires and hypothermia.

In Galveston County, alongside the Texas Gulf Coast, the authorities mentioned two residents had died from publicity to the chilly and one individual from potential carbon monoxide poisoning. Four different deaths remained below investigation and had been probably linked to the frigid climate.

Judge Mark Henry, the county’s prime elected official, mentioned he would have evacuated a few of his most weak residents in advance of the winter storm had he recognized that energy outages would plunge the county into darkness for just a few days. He mentioned the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s energy grid, had warned solely of rolling blackouts. Instead, most residents had been with out energy for at the very least 48 hours.

“We would have been happy to order an evacuation if we’d been told Sunday the power was going to go out and stay out for four days,” he mentioned, noting the county is extra accustomed to ordering evacuations in advance of hurricanes.

A spokeswoman for ERCOT said on Friday that the surge in demand stressed the power grid, a crisis so dire that the “local utilities were not able to rotate the outages.”

At its height, about four million Texans were without power this week as temperatures plummeted to the teens and single digits. About 165,000 remained without electricity on Friday, though millions were still without running water or under notices to boil their tap water.

In Texas, hospitals spent the week grappling with burst pipes, power outages and acute water shortages, making it difficult to care for patients.

In Abilene, authorities said a man died at a local medical facility after he was unable to get dialysis treatment at the site. Large amounts of filtered water, in addition to electricity and heat, are required to properly provide care for dialysis patients, and water at the facility was shut down, said Cande Flores, the Abilene fire chief.

Chief Flores said that at least four people had died in Abilene as a result of the state power grid failure, including a homeless man who died from exposure to the cold, a 60-year-old man who was found dead in his home and an 86-year-old woman whose daughter found her frozen in her backyard.

Elsewhere in the state, a 69-year-old man was found dead inside his home in a rural community south of San Antonio, where he lived alone. He did not have electricity, and the authorities said his bedroom was 35 degrees when they found him.

In Houston, an Ethiopian immigrant died in her idling car, which was parked in her garage, where she sat while charging her phone. She was talking to a friend when she started to feel tired.

“She tried to drink water,” said Negash Desta, a relative by marriage to Etenesh Mersha, who died. “After she told her friend she couldn’t talk anymore, there was no response after that.”

Credit…via Negash Desta

The friend tried to call the police in Houston but did not have an address, Mr. Desta said. The friend turned to Facebook, where she found Mr. Desta. Hours later, he eventually received a message about what had happened and alerted the police. They found an entire family, poisoned.

“When they get in, they found the mother and daughter were just dead and the son and father alive. They had all fainted,” he said, adding that the car had still been running. The daughter, Rakeb Shalemu, was 7 years old.

Ms. Mersha’s husband and 8-year-old son were hospitalized. Mr. Desta said that the husband has since been released and that the boy, Beimnet Shalemu, was still in the intensive critical unit.

Near Houston in Conroe, Texas, an 11-year-old boy, Cristian Pineda, was found dead in his bed on Monday morning. His family had no power the night before, and the parents, the boy and his siblings had huddled together in one bedroom, Lt. James Kelemen of the Conroe Police Department said on Friday.

Like Mr. Anderson and Ms. Mersha and her family, Cristian was the focus of a hastily assembled GoFundMe page. It requested donations to cover the expenses of his burial in Honduras, where his family is from. It had raised more than $38,000 as of Friday afternoon.

The page showed a picture of a boy in a thin red hoodie, smiling and standing in the snow.

On Tuesday, while Mr. Anderson’s wife was mopping up their living room after a frozen pipe burst, he walked to the garage to try to get a generator going, hoping he could help clean up with a Shop-Vac.

His wife would not know until later that he had walked to his truck in search of oxygen, said his stepdaughter, Brandi Campanile. It was 19 degrees. His spare oxygen tank, it would turn out, was empty.

“He was trying to get oxygen and it was just a losing battle,” Ms. Campanile said on Friday. “Texas is not meant to handle freezing temperatures. It’s not something that happens out here.”

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio reported from San Antonio, Richard Fausset from Atlanta, and Johnny Diaz from Miami. Richard Webner contributed reporting from Austin, and Simon Romero from Albuquerque.

Source link Nytimes.com

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