- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director
Lily Szymanski’s parents were thrilled.
They texted her the entire weekend, excited about the fact that they were about to see a record snowfall in their hometown of San Antonio, Texas.
She continued to get updates as the Lone Star State became blanketed in snow due to Winter Storm Uri. Lily, a 19-year-old exploratory studies major in CHS, never saw anything like that when she was growing up in Texas. She was equally excited for her family and friends back home.
Then one night, while Lily was walking back from the library, her family contacted her again. The weather wasn’t the pleasant surprise they were hoping for. It had actually turned problematic in the worst way.
“Many of our friends and family were under conditions with no power, and either boiling restrictions or no water,” she said. “Texas rarely gets snow or ice, so we were not prepared for such extreme weather. Several people were even sleeping in their car. Many were stranded because Texans do not know how to drive in such conditions and classes were postponed the entire week.”
That was 10 days ago.
As of Feb. 26, nearly 15,000 people in Texas are still without power, and many are now facing a lack of food and water. In San Antonio, friends and neighbors came to stay at Lily’s parents’ home, which was one of the few structures that didn’t lose power.
“It has been an entire week and residents are finally beginning to get their power and water back,” she said. “However, people are facing difficulties regarding busted water pipes. Overall, everyone in my hometown has been stepping up to volunteer or help those in need to ensure we get back on our feet. It will be a slow process.”
She continues to check in on them regularly.
“I have been okay, just nervous for my friends and family's safety,” she said. “I am confident that with the determination and generosity Texans have, they will get back to normal.”
Leah Lawson, a Physical Therapy student, also hails from Texas, and had family and friends who evacuated their homes due to loss of power and water.
“My older sister is pregnant and had to make the choice to leave her home to travel on icy roads — she lives next to where a 100-plus car pile-up had happened earlier that week due to ice — to my parents who had a generator,” Leah said. “Their apartment was losing heat fast and a second wave of ice was coming. She was worried that if their heat didn’t return they would be trapped.”
Fortunately, everyone was okay. But the problems of power outages aren’t just being felt in Texas. They’re actually occurring much closer to home — like in eastern Kentucky, where nearly 3,000 people are still struggling without power.
“I myself experienced both the power and water outages for a time, but thankfully, mine has been resolved,” said Alexa Robinson, who is in the Physician Assistant program and has moved back to her hometown of Grayson for her clinical year. “This was the worst weather-related situation I have seen here.”
That first week of the storm, nearly all of Carter County was without power and had lost water by Wednesday, Alexa said.
“Many roads were completely impassable,” she said. “At one point there was only a single gas station open in the town with a long wait for fuel. There were multiple churches in the area who opened up as shelters for those without food and power as well. While the majority of people have power back, there are still some who are waiting, and have been since the first storm began.”
In Kentucky, the local chapter of the Red Cross said Elliott County may still have the most need in the area.
And in Texas, there are multiple food banks and organizations across the region, including: