A massive snow and ice storm in Texas left millions of homes and businesses in the dark and led to cracked and broken pipes contaminating the water supply in hundreds of cities this week.
Former WCPO anchor and current co-host of Cincy Lifestyle Clyde Gray went down to Texas for a weekend and ended up caught in the snowfall. While he said he hasn’t been completely stranded like many others in the state, there weren't many places to go when the snow began to fall. Until Thursday, Gray had been living off of crackers and peanut butter.
"I had my first hot meal today because I had the opportunity to get to a burger restaurant -- and boy, that was the best-tasting burger on the face of the Earth," he said.
Many businesses, like grocery stores, were forced to shut down due to rolling blackouts.
“I found a Kroger that was open. It was dark when you went in because their generator had not kicked in yet, and that community was in the midst of a power blackout. But people were going around getting what was available,” Gray said.
Micheal Helm, a Houston resident who grew up in Cincinnati, hasn't lost power himself during the storm, but he described the frustration his community has felt during a time when power isn't guaranteed for long.
“I have power, then my power goes out. It lasts maybe for 12 hours or so, then it comes back on, then it goes back out. There have been challenges with our Texas energy regulation group here. There's a lot of frustration,” Helm said.
A boil-water advisory is also in effect for much of Houston as pipes freeze and crack.
“I was two days without the water at all without any pressure, so if I had not stored water into a tub and used that to either boil on top of the stove, or to use it for other means, I would be without. And many folks were not prepared to do that,” Helm said.
As temperatures rise, Gray said, icy roads have turned to slush, much as they do in Cincinnati after they are salt-treated.
“Here in Texas, plows and salt don't happen, so sand spreaders occasionally may happen,” he said.
Now, those frozen pipes and piles of snow could be a sign of disaster still to come as temperatures thaw.
“That's going to play havoc when things start to warm up a little bit and those frozen water pipes burst. And that is quite likely the next round of difficulty to come,” Gray said.
Gray said that while many are suffering due to the storm, he has seen examples of communities coming together to help out.
“People have gone out of their way to help each other here, and that is the most heartwarming part of all of this -- is that this difficult time has brought out the humanity in people,” Gray said.
Helm is part of that resilient show of humanity; as the deacon at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, he and other church leaders stepped up to cut off neighbors’ water lines and help a 95-year-old woman whose kitchen ceiling caved in.
“This has been a community that has worked together through major hurricanes in order to come back together and help our residents. But we've never had this type of impact where you're dealing with cold weather,” he said.
“I ask the citizens of Cincinnati to keep us in their thoughts and prayers, and we will get through this," he said. "We are Houston strong, and we do work together.”
To help Wheeler Avenue Baptist with their efforts, visit www.wheelerbc.org or send tax-deductible checks payable to:
Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church
c/o Matthew 25 (Social Service Ministry)
3826 Wheeler Avenue
Houston, TX 77004