Imagine leaving Minnesota for some warm weather, a nice motorcycle ride, and some good ole southern barbecue, and finding yourself in the midst of a winter catastrophe.
Minneapolis couple Bev and Don Forsman had warmth in mind when they hit the road to Austin, Texas, in February, but little did they know that their four-wheel-drive would come in handy two weeks later.
The Forsmans were working remotely in their Airbnb and looking forward to spending time with their son in Austin. So when meteorologists forecasted a winter storm Valentine’s Day weekend, they did what they would usually do when they hear a storm is coming.
“We went to the grocery store and already the shelves were very picked over. Didn’t think much of it because it’s just a winter storm to us, so we got some things we needed,” Bev said.
By Monday morning, they would wake up to no electricity, heat, or water in their Airbnb.
"We started texting our son to see if they had power or water and they did, but their external pipes were freezing and they were using a heat gun to keep everything going,” Bev said.
Bev says when they looked at the map of Austin, almost everything was off. Only a few areas, including where her son lived, had water, electricity, and heat. So she and her husband left their Airbnb to stay with him for a few days.
“So right now, we have to boil water too. They are recommending everyone boil water for at least two minutes, if it’s going to be ingested in any way, you’re going to brush your teeth, or cook with it,” she told Bring Me The News on Friday.
According to The Associated Press, as the days continued, more than 4 million people didn’t have power. An estimated 13 million people were under a boil-water order, and more than 35 people in Texas have been confirmed dead with that number expected to rise.
Officials in the state said this was more than just a winter storm. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages most of Texas’ grid, said the primary cause of the power outages appeared to be the state’s natural gas generation, with facilities not sufficiently winterized to cope with the historic low temperatures.
There was also a dip in production from coal, nuclear, and wind energy producers, though these represent a smaller proportion of Texas' power grid.
In the past few days, the Forsmans have seen people shoveling snow with dustpans, homes flooded due to pipes bursting, and watched videos of people taping blankets over the windows to keep the cold out.
“We do feel grateful that we know what to expect under normal conditions. It feels like a natural disaster came through and it just shut everything down,” Bev said.
Finding food is still tricky, the lines are long, produce is frozen, and several places can only accept cash or money transfer services due to lost WiFi or their systems being down.
“I did stand in line for an hour at a butcher shop Friday that only took cash or Venmo,” Bev said.
Fortunately, their power came back on Thursday and water was restored to their unit on Friday. They moved back into their Airbnb this past weekend, and are hoping their remaining days in Texas will be warm and sunny.