Mother and daughter Victoria and Brenda, who sought help for dozens of neighboring residents at their senior living center.

Austin in the Winter Storm: Stories of Resilience

At its worst, the February 2021 Texas power crisis left over 5 million people without power in freezing temperatures, some for more than 3 days. Water service was interrupted for millions of Texans due to frozen or burst pipes, resulting in folks boiling snow and even drinking from swimming pools. Some took drastic, dangerous measures to warm themselves, resulting in cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. At least 111 people died, according to the Department of State Health Services, the majority due to hypothermia.

My husband and I were among those without power or heat in our home for several days. I felt angry toward the state for its lack of preparedness for such a storm, despite having been warned a decade earlier that Texas was at risk for that exact scenario, and I felt vulnerable from the trauma of this disturbing experience.

After our power was finally restored, I felt a sense of urgency to help others who were still struggling in the crisis. Through social media I found out about Austin Disaster Relief Network, an organization that was providing water, food and emergency assistance to those in need, so I signed up to volunteer.

My role with ADRN was as a dispatcher, connecting disaster hotline callers with volunteer drivers who could bring them help. I met dozens of people going through unbelievable turmoil, and dozens more volunteering their time and resources. The quality of the mutual aid was striking, and I largely credit that to the leadership of ADRN.

As I talked to more people on the phone, I felt that some of their stories should be known on a wider level. In April, I reached out to ADRN and told them I wanted to interview survivors I’d met through the hotline. It was a privilege to meet a few folks in person with whom I’d shared such an intimate experience, and powerful to hear them describe their stories in greater detail. I’m grateful that they were willing to relive those experiences, and I hope this audio-photo project demonstrates their strength of character, inspires support for ADRN, and illustrates the consequences of the state’s negligence.

Read and hear their stories below:

Austin in the Winter Storm