Opinion: Politicization of snowstorm, electrical crisis hurting Texans who can’t fly to Cancun


Photo by Jacquelyn Burrer

Food moved outside after power went out.

This past week, I lost consistent power for nearly 30 hours and was put in significant danger because of my cold weather induced asthma, with no power to do breathing treatments.


Since I was a child, I have had severe asthma problems. For years I had to take inhalers daily until it eventually improved, but I still have significant problems during cold weather and when exercising. Cold weather typically has not been a problem in Texas, unless I spent a long period of time outside during winter, and when I did, I had to do a breathing treatment prior to keep my breathing under control. 


After losing power on Feb. 15, my father drove to Plano to bring my grandmother back to our house while my mother and I moved all of our already warm food outside. Since my family has an electric stove, our only way to make hot food was using our grill, which I used in an unsuccessful attempt to try to warm up tea. 


The only blessing was that our natural gas fireplace never went out, but it was unfortunately not enough to keep my asthma under control. At one point, I began wearing a mask around the house, along with my three pairs of pants and four shirts, to try to keep the air I was breathing warm. Unfortunately, nothing I did was able to help because my house reached temperatures in the 30s, and I simply needed the power to turn back on, or I needed to leave. 


On Feb. 16, I felt like I was about to cough up a lung after being in the cold for so long. I couldn’t walk up the stairs too quickly because I felt like I was going to pass out since I couldn’t physically breathe in enough oxygen. We had been without power for close to 30 hours at that point, which is when my parents decided to send me to a friend’s house, as it looked like we were not getting power back anytime soon. 


I went to a nearby neighborhood and took four breathing treatments a day to get my asthma under control. But even while I was at a house on a 40-minute blackout schedule and taking consistent breathing treatments, my asthma was still flaring up.


My neighborhood was one of the areas that was not on a rolling blackout schedule at all. When everyone lost power the first time, we never got it back except for random bursts that did not start until later in the week. Nearly every house in my neighborhood had pipes burst or leak which caused even more displacement among families. My living room was damaged, and I finally got to return to my house on Tuesday once our pipe was temporarily fixed and water was restored. 


I showed up at school Monday and found out that most people did not even fully lose power, whereas I had a full health crisis on my hands. I was living out of a hotel because my house had no water, and I was not breathing normally until Wednesday, but I was expected to return to school as if nothing happened. 


I had friends who were still without plumbing on Sunday, but they were still trying to do their homework for school the next day. It felt insulting to have such a traumatic week brushed aside by administrators and our elected officials. 


Our legislators are turning this storm into a political problem when it is truly a human health crisis. I almost had an asthma attack with no way to combat it other than my inhalers, which were not doing much because of my frigid environment, while Senator Ted Cruz escaped to Cancun. 


There is a large difference in an occasional snow storm causing small rolling blackouts versus going without power for days in negative temperatures. If I had stayed at my house without consistent power for five days, I would have likely had to go to the hospital, which was blocked by icy roads. 


Because of the negligence of the electrical companies, I was put into a dangerous, potentially life-threatening situation that could’ve been avoided. The former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” Frankly, Texans’ lives, including my own, are being used in a political game for profit, and something needs to change to make sure this never happens again.