Students experience mixed emotions during cold weather and week-long power outage


Photo provided by Adeline Camero

Junior Adeline Camero poses outside her house with her mother. She enjoys her first snowfall since 2009.

Ricky Kai, Features Editor

The monotonous tone from the engine of the car lulled her half to sleep, and it was only after an hour when she realized her phone was fully charged. In the car she bundled up in two blankets and four layers of clothes, all in hopes to retain some body heat. 

From Feb. 14 -19, Houston faced the arctic front, unofficially referred to as Winter Storm Uri. Junior Elaine Kugler lost both water and electricity for three days. Sitting in the car to charge her phone was her only choice to stay in contact with the outside world.

When I heard snow was coming to Houston, I thought it might be sleet as per usual when Houstonians get excited about the prospect of snow. That Monday I woke up and I was so surprised. My friends and I walked to the park and slid on the ice and threw snowballs at each other. When I went home that night, my power was out. I drove through Bellaire to pick up my brother and it was almost apocalyptic because everyone lost their power… then we lost water. We stuck it out for 3 days and boiled water and ate canned food from the pantry. It was miserable, and it made me angry with how Texas does their power grid because so many people were affected. It was also good in the sense I had to step back and realize all of the things I take for granted. (Photo provided by Paige Hoffer)

“My family owns an electric car so we could sit in it without worrying about carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes,” Kugler said. “But even with a fully charged phone, I was constantly bored and frustrated with Texas for not doing normal rolling blackouts.”

While she sat in the car, Kugler reminisced just a day before when Texas saw its first snow fall since 2009. Before the front exposed the unpreparedness of families like Kugler’s, the weather brought an exciting scene. 

“I loved it. I love snow,” Kugler said. “I had a snowball fight with my dad. It was nostalgic because I spent my childhood winters in New York.”

Before the power outages, snow was the only thing on her mind. Now, in the car, it was her greasy hair, oily skin, and unwashed clothes which she had worn for two days straight. 

“We first lost power on Monday afternoon,” Kugler said. “‘My initial thought was ‘why isn’t just flickering? Why is it actually turned off? Oh my God.’”

With her phone fully charged, Kugler returned to her own room, navigating her house with dimly lit candles placed strategically through the halls. 

Junior Adeline Camero stared at the ceiling of her friend’s bedroom. Dark shadows were casted upon the walls by the scented candles which gave them enough light to see each other’s faces. Unlike Kugler, Camero sought protection at her friend’s house, whose electricity had been working by the time of her arrival. 

“I went to my friend’s house to try to cope with the situation but they eventually lost power too,” Camero said. “It was so ironic that I went to try to save myself from the cold but ended up experiencing the same thing. The company was nice though.” 

While Camero sat in the dark, she periodically switched from using her phone to staring at the ceiling to conserve her battery. Like Kugler, before her two days without electricity, the snow had brought a surprising scene. 

“My friend Nadia and I went to the park to go sledding,” Camero said. “It was funny because we used boogie boards instead of actual snow sleds but we made do with what we had.”

Now, Camero sat bundled up in blankets, losing track of time in the night. 

“I first lost power on Tuesday or Wednesday I think? Honestly, I forgot because it was so on and off,” Camero said. “At first I didn’t think it wasn’t going to be a long power outage because we honestly didn’t get that much snow compared to other cities. But I realized how unprepared I was when my computer and phone started running out of battery.”

The next day, Camero returned to her home, wearing multiple layers of clothes and trying to savor every feeling of warmth from her heater. Just as she checked her phone, 10 p.m., her entire family caught on to a burning scent. 

“We checked outside because it smelled like it was something burning and we saw the house diagonally from us engulfed in a fire,” Camero said. “It was really scary.”

With the flames nearing her own house, all thought of the frigid temperature disappeared from Camero’s mind. Her uncomfortable situation turned unexpectedly worse and her thoughts turned to brace for the worst. 

“We thought it was because our heater was getting too hot but once we checked outside, there was a huge fire near us, lighting up the entire neighborhood,” Camero said. “My parents were shockingly chill about it, but I was kind of freaking out and packed some things in case the fire spread.” 

To Camero’s luck, the firefighters had calmed the fire, but the damage was already done. 

“When we checked our neighbor’s house the next day, the whole roof was gone,” Camero said. “It was frustrating because I had no control over it and it just felt unfair

With such experiences behind them, Camero and Kugler were glad HISD canceled classes for the rest of the week and some days of the next, adding to more days which students have missed school. 

During the power outage, I went to the park with a lot of my friends to play with the snow and escape the boringness of the house. I was excited to see the snow but my hands were always cold enough to feel like they were gonna fall off. When the power came back on, I was extremely grateful to be able to sleep in the warmth again. (Photo provided by Daniel Wong )

“I do understand the situation and I was glad they cancelled school until Wednesday because a lot of people probably had their pipes burst from the cold weather or had it worse off,” Camero said. “I lost power pretty early, earlier than most of my friends, so I couldn’t really do any work. Plus, I had a test so I was just glad I didn’t have to go through this entire thing worrying about my grades.”

In contrast, Kugler saw something deeper than just the power outages, cold weather and academics. 

“I feel like cancelling school on Thursday and Friday was justified but they should’ve had school on Monday and Tuesday,” Kugler said. “There are a lot of kids that come in and eat breakfast and lunch at the school so they probably struggled the most during the power outages.”

With such drastic changes to her life in the past few years, such as the transition to online learning and having limited social interaction, Camero saw the new year as a way to restart. 

It was definitely an experience because we’ve never had so much chaos and I hope we’re now more prepared for the future,” Camero said. “I was hoping 2021 would be a better year than 2020 but it’s not holding up great.” 

Similarly, Kugler felt numb to the effects of Winter Storm Uri. She said the disaster is just a small conflict compared to the pandemic. 

“I guess it was a once in a lifetime experience but after Hurricane Harvey, I don’t really care for it much. It happened and it’s over,” Kugler said. 

“Life goes on.”