Jamaican-Americans Battle Harsh Conditions in Deadly Texas Snowstorm

Sheri-Kae McLeod, CNW Reporter

Texas snowstorm
People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Customers waited over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Since Sunday, millions of Americans in Southern USA have been enduring one of the worst snowstorms the region has experienced in recent years.

Among the worst-affected states is Texas where temperatures have dropped to minus 18 degrees Celsius in some areas, the coldest it’s been in more than 30 years.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that over 3 million were still without electricity because of the cold weather. Texas officials also ordered 7 million people to boil tap water before drinking it, following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.

This week’s extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people, some of whom perished while struggling to keep warm inside their homes.

Jamaican-Americas living in the state are among those that have been battling to stay warm throughout the deadly winter conditions, nothing like what they’ve experienced on the island.

One Jamaican-American, Dimitri Lyon, who has lived in Texas for over 10 years, explained that for most of the week, he’s had to stay indoors without electricity and water.

“Things really started to get bad on Monday, when we started to get winter precipitation. By the time I woke up on Tuesday, I realized that we were covered in maybe an inch of ice and an inch of snow. I stayed in and we eventually lost electricity and water supply,” Lyon said in an interview with CNW Network.

He said when the precipitation stopped on Wednesday, he took the risk of going out to get essentials. As is typical in all natural disasters, the shelves in supermarkets across the city of Houston have been empty.

“You were able to find fruits here and there but for the most part, there wasn’t anything else,” he said.

Lyon was able to find one store which fortunately stocked Jamaican non-perishable food items.

Jamaicans are no stranger to natural disasters, as the island has an annual hurricane season. But Lyon said even in Jamaica, he never experienced days of no electricity and no water.

“What I’ve had to do for the three nights or so that we didn’t electricity, it was hard. I’m talking about wearing several layers of clothing and maybe using bedsheets to keep as warm as possible. And that helps very minimally. We got down to about 10 °F (-12 °C) which for Houston is absolutely outside of the norm,” he said.

Lyon said he also knows of other Jamaicans and Caribbean-nationals in the state that have been battling similar conditions.

As of Friday morning, power was restored to more homes and businesses. But the crisis is far from over in parts of the state, where many people are still without safe drinking water.

Oliver Mair, Jamaica’s consul general in Miami, who has jurisdiction for Texas, said he has been in communication with Jamaicans living in Texas, and so far, there have been no major property damage or loss of lives.

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