Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians in Texas weren't prepared for extreme winter weather like this

We check in with two Nova Scotians who are among millions of Texas residents who lost power this week as extreme cold wreaked havoc on power grids. 

'A really crazy time, something I've never experienced here in Texas,' says former Chester resident

A single driver navigates the bridge over Lady Bird Lake after a heavy snow on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via The Associated Press)

Former Nova Scotian Olivia King is used to winter storms, but nothing quite like this.

She was among millions of Texas residents who went days without power this week as extreme cold in the southern U.S. wreaked havoc on the state's power grids. The frigid temperatures have been blamed for the deaths of at least 40 people.

"We've been without heat, we've been without electricity and water for the last three to four days," King, who is originally from New Glasgow, said on Thursday. "I'm very fortunate because our power has come on, although it's limited."

Unlike a Canadian winter storm, she said there are no snowplows or salt trucks on the snow-covered roads. Few people have generators and stores are running out of wood and water. 

"There's a lot of hoarding going on when it comes to groceries and food and water, so it's difficult for people to get those things," she said.

By Thursday, power had been restored to many homes and businesses across the state but many people were still without safe drinking water. 

Olivia King, who's originally from New Glasgow, lost power for days this week during the cold snap. (CBC)

King, who moved to Texas 26 years ago, said even though the power at her house is back, she's keeping the thermostat low and trying to only use water to make food. 

Heidi Foster-Park lives in Katy, Texas, and is originally from Chester. She said her family is among the lucky ones — they lost power only sporadically this week thanks to a neighbour's generator.

"I think the bigger issue is there's a lot of homeless people in Houston, and so they've been setting up centres for people to go stay," she said.

"People have tried going around to hotels, but they're either fully booked or they also don't have power, so it's been a very difficult situation for everyone." 

Heidi Foster-Park is originally from Chester, N.S., and now lives with her family in Katy, Texas. (Heidi Foster-Park)

She knows people who've had their houses flood after pipes that weren't made to withstand cold temperatures burst. She said her brother-in-law called a plumber and was told no one was available until early March. 

The state has also been implementing rolling blackouts to ease the burden on strained power grids. 

While power has been restored to many homes and businesses in Texas, the water crisis persists. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

"People have no warning of that, so they could be cooking a meal in the oven and then their rolling blackout turn comes, and so people are very upset about the power situation," she said.

In the 13 years she's lived in Texas, Foster-Park estimates she's seen snow only twice.

"But never this kind of snow and ice and freezing temperatures," she said. "It's just been a really crazy time, something I've never experienced here in Texas." 

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning and Amy Smith