This story has been updated to correct the forecast for Wednesday night. The forecast assumes that temperatures will drop to 30 to 40 degrees. A heavy frost between 20 and 30 degrees is forecast for Thursday evening.
Laramie White had previously experienced post-storm power outages – including a nearly two-week stay after Hurricane Harvey.
So she giggled a bit, White said when she heard that the rolling outages, which were slated to begin on Monday, would last for 15 to 45 minutes.
She doubted her house on Ashland Drive near Alameda Street and Everhart Road, which lost power eight days after Hurricane Hanna and twelve days after Harvey, would come back online really quickly.
“I was like, ‘Well that’s going to be very, very low obviously, so I was probably expecting a day of no power,” White said.
It went down at 3 a.m. on Monday and it hadn’t returned by Wednesday noon.
On Monday night, she and her husband, who wore multiple layers of clothing, took turns in their trucks with the heat 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 couple of hours and then go in, get cold enough that we can’t take it anymore and they are shaking to death,” White said. “Then we recharge them, bring them back to the truck, recharge them.”
On Tuesday afternoon while her husband was looking for a space heater and generator, a white man fled to a friend who had not lost any electricity on Padre Island.
Instead, they lost access to clean tap water.
Thousands without service
By early Wednesday afternoon, 34,925 AEP Nueces County Texas customers were without power – for nearly three days for some. Still, it was an improvement – in earlier days, outages had hit nearly 50,000. That’s about a third of the county’s customers.
According to the company’s website, around 314,000 of around 1 million customers were offline in its service area in South and West Texas.
AEP Texas – which was ordered by the State Electricity Council on Wednesday to lower the additional electricity load – promised in a press release that it would prioritize restoring power to those who have been without the longest, but noted that “the flexibility with the Power supply is limited amount of load that can be rotated. “
The outage early Tuesday complicated another disaster – a communal boiling water notice issued by the city of Corpus Christi after a major major hiatus.
Those without electricity and heat had no way of boiling tap water and consuming it safely – and bottled water was hard to find and swept into the arms of long lines of shoppers.
On Wednesday, city officials worked to locate and repair the main break, ensure residents have adequate bottled water, and reopen heat centers.
The crisis across the city was clearly felt in a neighborhood in the Calallen area, where masked residents rushed to a gas station where full pallets of water were being dumped.
In a nearby neighborhood – the whole thing, said residents with no electricity – 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 a few hours, temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees were forecast again.
Wednesday morning – about three days after the blackout – Emilio and Yvonne Venegas had a house full of energetic children – some relatives, some neighbors – a fireplace, unused rooms sealed, and cold-weather clothes to keep them warm.
Outside, the couple were grilling meat – it was preparing to spoil, they said – while perishable goods like cheese had been stored in garbage bags and soaked in a hot tub that was still slightly glazed with ice.
They had been able to find a shop that sold firewood at a reasonable price – some retailers essentially hollowed out – and they had found bottled water.
They were good at their home with their family for the moment, they said – but, as for most, the storm caught them off guard.
“We reacted pretty quickly,” said Emilio Venegas. “But as for the preparation? No, we weren’t prepared.”
Rene Ramos, his wife and 12- and 16-year-old sons – in a house off Everhart Road and Roberts Street – lived in a single room with space heating, he said, powered by an extension cord to a neighbor’s generator, the still had the light on.
The power supply had failed on Monday at around 4 a.m., a few hours later it was restarted for a few minutes and then switched off again.
The house wasn’t well insulated, Ramos explained, and in front of the one bedroom they lived in, “you can literally breathe and you can see it.”
“Our funds are pretty tight,” he said. “I’m trying to save money so I can buy more gas for the generator and then buy some food. I try to get as minimal as possible so that we can eat something before anything else. “
In the worst case, Ramos said Tuesday evening, he could move to a family member’s home. But he didn’t want to “take them out where we just have to find places to sleep … and they don’t have much water either.”
Ramos bought some water from the store by Tuesday. But on Wednesday a pipe was blown under the house.
He had about half a case of water on the back of his truck, Ramos said – which he thought was a day – but he hadn’t been able to find it in the store.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep this up,” he said. “And so we can all survive another day – and find out what we can do the next day.”
More: Live guide for reporting on the winter storm in Corpus Christi
More: People fill Corpus Christi hotels after the winter storm
Kirsten Crow covers government, industry and development in South Texas. Support local news by reading our subscription options and specials at Caller.com/subscribe