Toronto

These Torontonians thought they escaped winter by moving to Texas. Then came a deadly storm

Deryck Halstead is one of many Torontonians who thought they left behind cold temperatures when they moved to Texas. Now, they are dealing with a deadly blast of winter weather that crippled the state this week.

Fewer than a half million Texas homes remained without electricity, officials say

Deryck Halstead, known by his friends in Toronto as 'Junior,' moved to Houston in 2015. Now he's stuck in the middle of a rare deep freeze that brought snow and ice to Texas this week. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

When Deryck Halstead moved to Houston from Toronto in 2015, he didn't expect to be dealing with a deadly blast of winter weather six years later.

"Obviously, growing up in Canada — going to school in winter storms — it's not something I'm not used to," he told CBC Toronto on Thursday. 

But winter Canadian-style, Halstead says, is not something Texans were ready for. 

Power was restored to more homes and businesses on Thursday after a deadly winter storm hit the state this week, overwhelming the electrical grid and leaving millions shivering in the cold. Officials estimate at least 40 people have died due to the frigid temperatures.

But the crisis is far from over, with many people still in need of safe drinking water.

Fewer than a half million homes remained without electricity, although utility officials said limited rolling blackouts could still occur.

Quincy Perkins, right, helps a woman free her stuck vehicle during record breaking cold weather in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S., February 15, 2021. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

The storms also left more than 320,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while nearly 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says he expects that residents in the nation's fourth-largest city will have to boil tap water before drinking it until Sunday or Monday.

The water in Halstead's apartment has been off for more than three days and he has been dealing with intermittent power outages. 

He says many of his friends' homes are ruined because their pipes burst and their apartments flooded. 

"The issue is the city is scrambling because they don't know what to do," he said.

"They're trying their best, but it's not something they're prepared for." 

WATCH | Texas residents scramble to stay warm and restore power 

Millions without power as much of U.S. recovers from major winter storm

2 years ago
Duration 2:00
There is a scramble in Texas to stay warm and restore power to millions after a major winter storm hit. Several other states are also cleaning up after flooding and a tornado.

Family goes 4 days without heat, power or water 

Halstead isn't the only former Torontonian braving the Texan winter blast — the experience has also been a struggle for the Norris family. 

Seven-year-old Lyla Norris and her family went almost four days without heat, power or water. 

"It was kind of sad that we lost power," Lyla said. "I did not like the snow." 

Her mom, Megan Norris, moved from Toronto to Austin 10 years ago with her family. 

Now, to get hot water, Norris has to boil it. She and her family have even stayed in their car to keep warm. 

The Norris family has had to stay in their car to keep warm. (Submitted by )

The icy conditions also left many like Jackie Dunn, another transplanted Torontonian, with burst pipes in her home. 

She says she has been trying to get a plumber to fix them, but it's been nearly impossible. 

"There's a limited amount parts because so many people's water pipes are breaking," she said. 

Tracy Copeland's pool froze over due to the sudden onslaught of freezing temperatures this week. (Submitted by Tracy Copeland)

Dunn has heat in her home, but the walls aren't insulated. 

She says the city has asked them to keep the temperature at 20 C.

Schools damaged by burst pipes, nurse says 

As for winter gear, school nurse Tracy Copeland says she's "just not prepared." 

"My sister bought me these mittens and they're from the 2010 Olympics. This is the first time I've actually had to wear them," she said. 

Copeland moved from Toronto to Dallas a decade ago. She said many schools in her area were damaged due to burst pipes. 

"Because I didn't have power for four days, I couldn't even work from home." she said. 

"I think a lot of the teachers weren't able to teach virtually ... Nobody had power." 

With files from Dalia Ashry and The Associated Press

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