Kids Health

Parents Resort to Burning Toys & Taking Risks to Keep Kids Warm in Texas

Record low temperatures and an overwrought power grid made for the perfect storm in Texas this week, leaving millions without power or access to safe water. The ongoing power outages and rolling blackouts have also left many in the Lone Star State without heat, creating a dangerous situation. While Senator Ted Cruz was jetting off to Cancun, parents have been put into an especially challenging position as they resort to everything from sleeping in their cards to burning toys in order to keep their children safe and warm.

For Philip Shelley, his pregnant wife, Amber, and their 11-month-old baby, Ava, of Fort Worth, the cold has brought a double crisis. “[Ava] is down to half a can of formula,” Shelley told CNN. “Stores are out if not extremely low on food. Most of our food in the refrigerator is spoiled. Freezer food is close to thawed but we have no way to heat it up.”

A family in East Austin resorted to dangerous methods to stave off the freezing cold temperatures, when they lit the burners on their gas stove to keep warm. “I know carbon monoxide poisoning, but what else can we do?” Brewster, told The Wall Street Journal about the eight people currently huddled around the stove to stay warm. “Is anyone going to help us? I have a baby in here.”

Some parents took to Twitter to share their stories, like @taleofonegirl who said her family was going on 47 hours without electricity and 20 hours without water. “We have a 3 week old baby staying warm under a blanket fort with us and our three dogs hoping we don’t suffocate/freeze in our sleep,” they posted alongside a photo of the newborn snuggling with a pet dog. “Wish us well.”

Another parent posted about how they needed to layer their children under piles of winter clothes and blankets to keep them warm. “Being without electricity for over 24 hours and having 2 kids is horrible in #Texas. My 2 kids both woke up sick even though I put 3 layers on them and 4 blankets to sleep. These power outages are unacceptable. Do better.”

Parents have even reported that they’ve resorted to burning their possessions. “I literally burnt anything wooden that I could stand to lose just to keep my kid warm,” @sag3andi tweeted, noting that nothing is being done to get the electric back on in their area. “They’re saying electric companies can’t travel well, yet Houston has made zero attempt to clear or salt the roads to help resolve the issue.”

One parent posted a response to an ERCOT status update. “All due respect, but I don’t think you DO understand how hard this is,” they wrote. “I had to saw up my baby’s crib so that we could keep a fire going.” Like so many, the user noted how they have been without power for days now. “And now we’re burning toys (wood blocks).”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has announced on Thursday that the number of Texans still facing power outages has lowered to just under 500,000. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact 211 to find a local warming center. You can also reach out to the Texas Red Cross, Feeding Texas, and the Texas Salvation Army.

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