Laramie White has experienced post-storm power outages before – including a nearly two-week stint after Hurricane Harvey.
So she kind of snickered, White said, when she heard rolling outages expected to begin Monday would last 15 to 45 minutes.
She doubted her house on Ashland Drive, around the area of Alameda Street and Everhart Road – which had lost power for eight days after Hurricane Hanna, and 12 days after Harvey – would really be brought back online quickly.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s obviously going to be very, very low-balling, and so I was expecting probably a day without power,” White said.
It went down at 3 a.m. Monday and as of mid-day Wednesday, it hadn’t returned.
By Monday night, she and her husband, wearing several layers of clothes, were rotating turns staying in their trucks with the heater on, keeping their three dogs – a dachshund named Ellie May, a corgi named Coral and a Labrador-pit bull mix named Bailey – warm.
They would “sit there for a few hours, and then go inside, get cold enough that we can’t stand it anymore and they’re shivering to death,” White said. “So then we load them back up, bring them back to the truck, load them back up.”
By Tuesday afternoon, White took refuge with a friend who hadn’t lost power on Padre Island.
They lost ready access to safe water instead.
Thousands without service
As of early afternoon Wednesday, 34,925 Nueces County AEP Texas customers were without power – for some, nearing three days. Still, it was improvement – on earlier days, outages had reached close to 50,000. That’s about one-third of the county’s customers.
In its South and West Texas service area, about 314,000 of roughly 1 million customers were offline, according to the company’s website.
AEP Texas – which had been ordered by the state electricity council to drop additional power load again on Wednesday – pledged in a news release to put priority on restoring power to those who had been without the longest, but noted here was “limited flexibility with the amount of load that can be rotated.”
The outage, as of early Tuesday, further complicated a different disaster – a boil-water notice issued by the city of Corpus Christi for the entire community, following a large main break.
Those without power and heat didn’t have an option to bring tap water to a boil and safely consume it – and bottled water became hard to find, swept up into the arms of long lines of shoppers.
City officials on Wednesday were working to locate and repair the main break, secure adequate bottled water for residents and reopen warming centers.
At a gas station in the Calallen area, masked residents moved rapidly to the site where full pallets of water could be seen.
In one neighborhood – the entirety, residents said, without power – a man took a handsaw to the branches of a large oak tree in his front yard.
He hadn’t been able to find a generator or firewood.
Within hours, temperatures were again forecast to be subfreezing – between 20 and 30 degrees.
Wednesday morning – about three days after losing power – Emilio and Yvonne Venegas had a houseful of energetic kids – some related, some neighbors – a fireplace, unused rooms sealed and cold-weather clothing to keep them warm.
Outside, the couple grilled meat – it was preparing to spoil, they said – while perishables, such as cheese, had been stashed in trash bags and immersed in a jacuzzi still with a light glaze of ice.
They’d been able to find a business that was selling firewood at a reasonable price – some retailers were essentially gouging – and they’d been able to find bottled water.
They were good for the moment within their home with their family, they said – not because they had been prepared, Emilio Venegas said, but because they had reacted quickly.
Funds running scarce
Rene Ramos, his wife, and 12- and 16-year-old sons – in a house near Everhart Road and Roberts Street – had been staying in a single bedroom with a space heater, he said, powered by an extension cord to the generator of a neighbor who still had lights on.
The power had gone down about 4 a.m. Monday, back up for a few minutes several hours later, and shut down again.
The house wasn’t well insulated, Ramos explained, and outside the one bedroom where they were staying “you can literally breathe and you can see it.”
“Our funds are pretty scarce,” he said. “I’m trying to be able to save money so I can buy more gas for the generator and then some food. I try to get as minimal as possible, so that way we can eat something before anything else.”
Worst-case scenario, Ramos said Tuesday evening, he could relocate to a family member’s house. But he didn’t want to “put them out, where we have to find places just to sleep … and they don’t have a lot of water either.”
Ramos purchased some water at the store by Tuesday. But Wednesday, a pipe under the house had busted.
He had about a half-case of water in the back of his truck, Ramos said – what he thought might last about a day – but hadn’t been able to find more at the store.
“We’re trying to do all we can to, you know, get through this,” he said. “And that way, we can all survive another day – and figure out what we can do the next day.”
Kirsten Crow covers government, industry and development in South Texas. Support local news by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe