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Bermudians feel the Texas chill

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Nicole Correia’s neighbourhood in Celina, Texas blanketed by snow (Photograph supplied)
Seth, Mercedes, Nelson and Nicole Correia in the snow outside their home in Celina, Texas (Photograph supplied)
Vicki Maiato Pace’s farm under snow in Azle, Texas during record-breaking temperatures in the state (Photograph supplied)
Vicki Maiato Pace and her husband, Troy Pace (Photograph supplied)
Vicki Maiato Pace’s farm under snow in Azle, Texas last week (Photograph supplied)

The frigid freeze in Texas last week wasn’t part of Vicki Maiato Pace’s relocation plan.

A devastating winter storm caused temperatures to plummet to -2F. Unused to that degree of cold, Texans turned up the heat and overwhelmed the state’s power grid. Widespread blackouts left millions in darkness for days. Dozens of people have been reported dead.

It was a real shock to Ms Maiato Pace, who moved from Bermuda to Azle, a small city 40 minutes outside Fort Worth, in 2007.

“I was expecting the heat. If I wanted cold I would have moved further north,” she said, explaining temperatures usually range between 55F and 38F at this time of year.

A friend who manages a 911 service called her, “practically in tears”.

“People are so cold that they are putting their children and themselves in their cars and turning on the cars and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. There have been a lot of people who have passed away.”

Although she has struggled to keep the pipes in her house from freezing, she considers herself lucky as she has only had to endure brief periods of blackout.

“My bathroom shower and tub walls are frozen because they are in outside walls,” she said. “In our guest bathroom, the pipes are on the inside, but I have had to keep a heater going in there to keep the pipes going. Right now we have only hot water coming out of the kitchen sink, because that is so far in the middle of the house that it is not exposed to extreme temperatures.”

About seven inches of snow have fallen in Azle. With Texas homes built more for the summer heat, people have struggled to cope. Her in-laws had to move in with her after they lost electricity.

“We have insulation in our roofs, but that is to keep the house cool, not warm,” said Ms Maiato Pace who works for a healthcare provider.

She lives on a farm with her husband Troy Pace, a long-haul trucker. Keeping her miniature donkeys, horses and goats safe during the storm has been a priority.

“My goats would decide to give birth on the coldest day of the year,” she said. “Normally, it just gets down into the 30s. The goats would be fine in those temperatures. But they would not be able to survive negative temperatures.”

She moved them into her garage with a space heater. The horses are another problem. The roof of her stables was taken off in a tornado last summer. At the moment the building is only covered by a tarpaulin.

“As long as horses are eating they produce heat in their bodies,” she said. “So every day we go out and hay them and water them. I have to literally take hot buckets of water and let them drink from the bucket, because I have a 100 gallon water trough that is solidly frozen. There is no way to break it.”

Yesterday the temperature shot up to 61F.

“[Now] we will go from snow to mud,” Ms Maiato Pace said. “[But] I would rather live here where this happens once every ten years, versus living up north where it is every winter.”

Another Bermudian couple, Nicole and Nelson Correia, live in Celina, 45 minutes north of Dallas.

“We moved from Bermuda to Texas in October 2014,” said Ms Correia, a branch office manager for Allied World Reinsurance. “In 2015 we had a little bit of snow, but nothing compared to this. This is insane.”

They have been fortunate not to lose power or water.

“My husband has been sleeping every two hours, and then getting up and turning all the faucets on in the house, so that nothing freezes up,” she said. “I haven’t left my house since last Friday.”

Her parents, Joanne and Peter McKenzie, also live in Celina.

“They lost power at 2am on Sunday,” she said. “They have had rolling outages. The power would come back for 45 minutes and then be out for a few hours. That is not enough to cook or to heat up the house. They were bundling up in their media room which is the only room in the centre part of their house with no windows or doors.”

She and other family members offered to take them food, but her parents didn’t want them on the road.

“They were able to survive,” Ms Correia said. “We are very thankful. Power for them came on at midnight on Wednesday evening.

“The coldest it has been where we are is -3F. That is brutal. There were a few days when the wind chill factor was up and it felt like -30F, at times.”

She described it as “horrific” that some people have lost their homes due to water damage from burst pipes.

The Correias have a fire place that is gas and wood-burning that helped warm they house. They are also wearing gloves, pants and jackets they used to tour a glacier in Alaska last August.

“It is colder now in Texas than it was on the glacier,” Ms Correia said.

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Published February 22, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 21, 2021 at 1:07 pm)

Bermudians feel the Texas chill

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