In February 2021, a massive winter storm struck Texas and many other states across the country. The storm lasted for most of the week of February 14 and impacted virtually the entire state of Texas with snow, ice, and power outages. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this natural disaster significantly impacted the state’s residents. On top of financial and physical health concerns, there continues to be considerable trauma related to the Texas winter storm.
COVID, Snow, Power, and Water
During the week of the storm, Texans not only had to worry about keeping safe from the COVID-19 virus, but they also had to deal with large amounts of snow, failing power, and water shortages. Electricity was intermittent, between planned rolling blackouts and unplanned outages. Water pressure became an issue with many people losing their water supply completely. A boil water order was issued but without power, that became an impossibility.
The uncertainty and fear during the storm not only endangered their physical health but the mounting issues also contributed to mental health issues in many people. The sense of trauma was pervasive among those trying to survive such an unusual winter storm in the state of Texas.
All 254 Counties
The winter storm, named Uri by the weather experts, left dozens of people dead in the state. Millions were without power for extended periods of time and almost 15 million experienced water issues. The economic costs of the storm are predicted to exceed those from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Lee Loftis, director of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, said “All 254 counties will have been impacted in some way by the freeze. That is just unheard of.”
A True Humanitarian Crisis
One catastrophe after another compounded the effects of the pandemic and the severe winter storm, resulting in what is being referred to as a “true humanitarian crisis.” The unusually cold and devastating storm shocked the state of Texas. The bitter cold, followed by unsafe roads and sidewalks, created major safety issues.
While the serious of issues continued for the better part of the week, residents were without water and power for days on end. Many used grills and gas stoves to try to stay warm, or ran their cars inside closed garages, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning. Others died from hypothermia inside their extremely cold homes. House fires resulted from improper use of fireplaces.
The physical struggle of staying warm and protecting themselves and their families has resulted in mental health issues for those who had such a difficult time dealing with the catastrophe. Added to the stress experienced for the past year during the pandemic, the Texas winter storm created a sense of trauma and distress to many people in the state.
The American Red Cross says that responses to such disasters can vary, but most of the common reactions include the feeling of being drained, becoming easily irritable and frustrated, and a change in eating and sleeping habits. Symptoms of this kind of trauma can also include brain fog, fatigue, a strong desire to be alone, sadness, and depression.
Robert Emery, vice-president of safety and a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston noted that “People were already stressed and dealing with a variety of challenges with the pandemic, and then to have this laid on top of it has really been quite challenging for all the citizens of Texas.” James Elliott, a professor of sociology at Rice University, added that “Resilience is one thing. Resilience when things just keep happening over and over can just sort of leave you without the capacity to sort of be hopeful.”
Many people across the state of Texas are experiencing the effects of the trauma as lingering distress. One resident wrote on social media, “I looked down at this chair that I keep by my door and it was white from the light of the moon, and my body froze. At that moment when I looked at that chair and thought it was snow, I was reintroduced to the effects a traumatic experience can have on your body.” David Peters, an episcopal priest at Saint Joan of Arc Episcopal Church in Pflugerville, wrote, “We were powerless, literally. I’ve also felt fear symptoms— fear to go places, to leave the house.”
If You’re Suffering from Trauma
The Texas winter storm was a traumatic event, physically and mentally. You may need assistance in working through the issues you experienced. Know that help is available for you. If you are having suicidal thoughts, you need to speak to someone immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You can also call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990. Both lines are open 24/7.
Healing from Trauma Starts at Makana Path
At Makana Path, we work with you to safely reprocess your trauma so you can regain control over your life. If you have turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the mental and emotional impacts of the Texas winter storm, such as self-medication with alcohol or drugs, we can help you address that as well. Breaking the painful cycle of trauma and addiction is possible.
We also understand the challenges of staying at home and social distancing during COVID-19 and remain open to provide the help you need during these challenging times. To learn more about trauma-informed treatment, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.