Your stories of winter storm hardship: For wheelchair user, 'one panic attack after another' as battery ran out
No power for some, no water for others, and no end in sight for many.
The American-Statesman is collecting your stories of hardship amid the unprecedented winter storm and power outages in Central Texas.
Have a story to share? Click here to let us know.
Here are the latest:
'One panic attack after another'
After several days without power in East Austin, Deborah Elliott, 69, felt more and more apprehensive as she watched the battery drain on her electric wheelchair.
"I was just laying in bed all day long," she said. "I found myself skipping meals and just basically having one panic attack after another."
Elliott is unable to walk, and she knew she would not be able to do anything — from getting to the bathroom to letting her dog out — without her wheelchair. As one of many people in Austin without a car to charge her phone, she was hugely grateful for a power bank she'd bought for her cellphone a year ago, not knowing that she'd need it to power her phone for days.
"It's a miracle that I even knew where it was and then another miracle that I still had it charged," she said.
She was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief when her power returned around 5 a.m. Thursday, but she was unsure whether it would stay on.
"Texas is the only state with privately owned power, and something is wrong with that," she said. "Maybe we shouldn't be."
Kaitlyn Zuniga, 19, of Hutto, says she's getting used to drifting off while her teeth chatter.
"As it gets dark, we can expect another night’s worth of being piled underneath every blanket we can possibly find in our house, shivering until that generates enough body heat to fall asleep," she said Wednesday.
Zuniga, like the vast majority of Texans, did not anticipate that she'd be without power for over 50 hours, even while she worked at H-E-B and saw people stocking up last weekend.
"We didn’t think to buy soups or canned goods," she said of her and her family. "Many of the customers at H-E-B seemed to be doing the same thing — buying meat and other perishables."
She's the daughter of a family of six, all of whom have been unable to drive to work since Texas was blanketed with ice and snow early Monday morning. She, her parents, and her teenage brothers have huddled in the living room in front of their fireplace for most of the week, burning old pieces of a fence that was in their garage.
Her brothers were more than happy to contribute their pre-pandemic homework for the kindling as well.
Zuniga's family is slowly running out of things to burn, and she said what they needed most these days was firewood. They're forcing themselves to eat their quickly expiring food from the fridge, and they're putting snow in the fridge to keep things as cold as possible.
"I had no idea it was going to be this bad," she said.
Others are reading:Austin issues citywide water boil notice
'I was about to get back on my feet'
On Monday morning, Jenn Studebaker was sleeping in for the first time in 12 days when she woke up at 7 a.m. because it was so cold.
She and her 17-year-old son had lost power in their Northwest Austin apartment. They had a fireplace but no wood to burn, so they broke down some old IKEA furniture and lit that for warmth. After they ran out of that, she and her son walked to the grocery store, found that it was closed, and ultimately dragged some wooden pallets back to the apartment.
"So that kept us warm for a little while, then we started doing treks through the woods, just picking up wood we found bringing it back," Studebaker said. "It's been nonstop."
When H-E-B opened on Tuesday, they took five hours out of their day to wait in seemingly endless lines. They weren't able to shower when they walked back because they had no hot water.
"If I had the money to go to a hotel room, I would have tried to get one," she said. "I've already been screwed over by the pandemic, and I've been living paycheck-to-paycheck."
Studebaker lost her job during the pandemic. She now works at Starbucks, but her income is about half of what it used to be.
"My tax return is going to come in soon, and I was just starting to feel like I was about to get back on my feet," she said. "But now I've been out of work another week or so. If something else goes wrong, like a burst pipe or something, I don't know what we're going to do."
'I can take this, but they can't'
Bertha Rendon has been living with her aunt and uncle in East Austin this week to keep an eye on them while they're without power.
Rendon's brother is watching her children, who are also without power themselves.
"My elderly family members have had to live off candles and hot stoves for the last couple days," she said. "That's when it really hit me. I mean, I'm young — I'm 41 years old — and I can take this, but they can't. So many people in my area are going through the same thing."
Rendon said it makes her furious to look at the lit-up Austin skyline when her family has been without power since early Monday.
"It's criminal," she said. "Our officials have yet to really move on the ground to make sure that we are OK. They're allowing us to just go through this and wait it out. But by then, how many people will have suffered?"
Even as she's looking out for many of her relatives and neighbors in East Austin, Rendon said it makes her angry to hear elected officials say that the community needs to band together and take care of one another during this time.
"How can we take care of one another when we can't even get cellphone reception?" she said. "We can't even drive to our families because we'll get stuck on the road, and there's no transportation. ... They're not giving us hope, and they're not giving us help."
'They have no information for me'
James Baldwin, 64, of Hutto, got worried after his niece hadn't returned an hour after she left to get groceries when they lost power.
His niece helps him out around the house because he is legally blind. Baldwin ultimately called his friend to come over, so he could borrow his friend's car to charge his phone. His niece was safe and returned later, but Baldwin said that days without power have left him feeling desperate.
"I wake up every morning, and I'm freezing to death," he said. "I'm trying to get some kind of answer from Oncor, and Oncor tells me to call some other number, and they tell me they have no information for me. It's been like that for three days."
His niece, Jessica Meadows, said the cold — as well as being unsure when power will come back — is also getting to her.
"Where's the help?" Meadows said.
Broken ribs and no food
Stewart White, 74, fell on his icy porch in Hyde Park early Wednesday morning and broke two ribs, he said.
After he was taken to Ascension Seton Medical Center in Central Austin, he initially received some food, but then went 17 hours without another meal, he said. Hospital staff told him they weren't getting any food deliveries, and White said he understood what the hospital was going through.
"Some of the staff haven't left here for three days," White said. "They can't get home because of the roads."
His neighbor, Harriet Chaney, delivered bags of groceries to him and the hospital staff on Thursday.