At first, the snow is engrossing, smooth, dreamy, said students who gathered on Sunday night to play like children in an unusual Texas blizzard.
Then, the electricity goes out. The pipe broke. The toilet stopped working. Food and water became scarce. The winter wonderland has turned into a frozen hell scene.
Four days after nearly a week of freezing temperatures, snow and ice leaving millions without electricity and even more struggling to access drinking water, students living on campuses across the state say they are struggling to find basic necessities. While some campuses have slowly regained power over the past 24 hours, many hostels still lack access to consistent water and food.
“I felt like I was in hell, like in prison,” said Texas State University freshman Nicholas Ware, who spent three days without heat and electricity until Wednesday night. He lives on two meals provided daily by the university and a few chips he buys from a gas station. She hasn’t showered since Sunday due to a lack of hot water and electricity in the shared bathroom.
“When you are here all the lights are off, there is no air, you can hear every movement in the building,” he said. “You can’t talk to too many people because you don’t want your phone to turn off … Sleep is the only thing you can do.”
The university has tried to provide food and shelter for its students, opened heating centers in campus buildings and provided ready-to-eat meals from the dining room. But many are battling dwindling food supplies, staff shortages as employees struggle to get to work, water shortages and power outages. This situation is especially challenging for students in large dormitories who are unable to see their families or access supplies such as extra clothing, food or cars.
Texas Tech University officials told students Thursday on Twitter that the campus may experience a power outage as they announce the campus will remain closed on Fridays and face-to-face classes are moved online or canceled. Texas A&M University bans laundry and tells students to avoid showers because they continue to handle very low water levels. After San Antonio issued a boiling water notification, the University of St. Mary told students on Wednesday evening they had a limited supply of bottled water. Each student received three bottles, said sophomore Zane Smith. The extremely low water pressure also makes rain impossible and students use melted snow to flush the toilet manually.
Unstable mobile service and the internet make it difficult for universities to update students with the latest information, said Lexi Bednar, a student at the University of North Texas.
“It was like a big mess of everyone saying, ‘what’s going on?” she says.
Ánh Adams, another freshman at Texas State, was forced to flee his dormitory Monday morning after a pipe burst on the floor above. He and dozens of other students spent hours in the lobby of another dormitory hall before being transferred to a dormitory hall that had no heating or internet access. She takes all the food in her dorm room and warm blankets. She also quickly knitted a fluffy white hat for herself to keep warm. It is still unclear when he will be able to return to his room.
Other students have been moving around the San Marcos campus chasing electricity to keep warm and charging their cell phones, including Adalia Williams, another Texas State freshman. Her Ugg boots – the only warm boots she has – are worn out from all the wet snow and she has run out of warm clothes due to limited laundry. He said it was difficult to access his eight-story dorm room because the stairs were outside and covered in ice and the lift was broken even before the storm hit. Texas State officials did not reply to requests for comment.
When Williams’s toilet broke on Monday, she was forced to use a cup in a pinch. But he said the biggest struggle continued to find food. He said the queues for food to be brought in two of the campus dining halls were too long to wait in the cold. Nearby restaurants were closed and the shelves at gas stations and grocery stores were empty.
“It’s pretty much the little things like sunflower seeds and peanuts,” Williams said, explaining the slim options available at a nearby Buc-ee gas station. “We’re grateful for anything, but you know, it’s not going to fill us up.”
Once Williams and some of her friends went to nearby Kyle, a town north of San Marcos, to find food, and ended up waiting at Jersey Mike’s for two hours because the restaurant ran out of bread and needed to make more.
At Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, students have no water, which limits their access to toilets. Freshman Bryce Sidney said students had to walk to a nearby student center to use the bathroom.
“I usually go on trips and like to plan them,” says Sidney. “It’s like ‘okay, I’ll go get some food for lunch or dinner and then I’ll stop by the student center and head back to my dorm.’
On Thursday, the school secured portable toilets for student use, placing them outside the dormitory halls. They’re still expecting another freeze tonight.
Sidney said the hall at his residence had leaked a water pipe, although he did not have to move. He hasn’t showered since Sunday and has brushed his teeth using the water he holds in a bowl in his dorm room. University officials did not reply to requests for comment.
Some Texas students living off campus face different challenges because they are forced to fend for themselves without the help of their parents or university administrators. Texas A&M University says they only serve meals to students living on campus, leaving students in off-campus apartments to look for food elsewhere. The official did not respond to questions.
Meanwhile, some students in off-campus housing who experienced electricity and water problems had difficulty getting answers and assistance from apartment management companies.
Aggie’s roommates Cameron Herring and Andrew Gonzales said they were forced to move to a hotel after a pipe exploded in their off-campus apartment, Callaway Villas, damaging more than 60 units. They say the apartment complex does not help students move or offer prorated rent, even though the conditions are not livable. When Herring posted a question asking for help on a private Facebook group hosted by the building manager, he said the post had been deleted and settings changed so students could not post again without the building manager’s approval.
“We can understand the pipe flooding and they are freezing. And it’s not necessarily their fault, ”said Herring. “But it’s frustrating because they leave us in the dark, and then like, delete our posts at a time like this? Is it true? “
Herring provided a screenshot to the Tribune showing that his post is no longer visible.
Management at the apartment complex did not respond to requests for comment.
As time goes by, students on campus at Texas A&M say some living hall conditions have turned into chaos as students continue to go crazy and more off-campus residents have turned up to access heat, electricity and water. Junior Matt Austin said that common areas and hallways were filled with trash, ovens and microwaves had been damaged and furniture being persecuted due to slippery road conditions made it difficult for custodial staff to come to campus. The usual college demeanor, such as the loud-voiced student running down the hallway, had increased.
But the most concerning issue he has noticed is that as students try to get through this crisis, their persistence against the COVID-19 pandemic has waned.
“This has made people forget the precautions for COVID because I would definitely say that the use of masks like that has decreased,” he said. “People are just assuming that it’s not something they need to worry about right now.”
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