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Power Outages and Water Shortages: Houston Emergency Response in Photos

Houstonians are still in need of clean drinking water, basic supplies after a historic winter storm in Texas led to widespread power outages

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, severe weather is compounding the challenges felt by residents of Houston, Texas, after a winter storm led to massive power outages and water shortages that impacted millions.

The storm left many families without access to running water, and 13 million Texans — nearly half of the state’s population — were under a boil water advisory. The state also faced bottled water shortages at grocery and convenience stores.

There is a significant increase in demand for food, and local nonprofits such as CARE partners Bethel’s Heavenly Hands and Heads Up Houston, have been responding in southwest Houston and surrounding communities. The community outreach programs have set up food distribution sites and are providing water, food, and household goods to hundreds of people daily.

“On the ground, the snow and the cold snap is gone but the aftershock is not,” said Pastor James Lee, the Executive Director of Bethel’s Heavenly Hands.

He says families wait in line for hours at the food distribution site to receive a single case of bottled water.

“It’s gonna be tough, because you have to use bottled water in order to [prepare] your food, to brush your teeth, to flush your toilets, all those things. A case of water may [run out] in an hour or two.”After nearly 75 years of responding to humanitarian crises around the world, CARE began supporting U.S.-based needs in 2020.

Ryan Shepard, the Associate Vice President of US Programs at CARE, said the partnership with Bethel’s Heavenly Hands — part of the CARE Package Relief program — is helping meet critical needs in Houston.

“As we’ve seen with the coronavirus crisis, and now we’re seeing this weather emergency with our neighbors in Texas, we’re surging the type of support and response that CARE is known for all around the world,” Ryan said.

To date CARE has worked with partners to distribute 18,500 cases of water, 40,000 pounds of food, 600 gallons of milk, and $30,000 in direct emergency cash assistance – serving nearly 3,400 families and counting.

CARE is seeking an additional $340,000 in donations in order to provide emergency water and cash assistance for underserved residents in Houston.

“There are some people who are going to take longer to get back on their feet. There are some people that weren’t on their feet prior to the cold snap,” said Pastor Lee.

In Houston, local environmental groups reported that predominantly Black and Latino communities were the first to lose power. These communities have also been hardest hit by the pandemic.

“We’re in need of as many hands and as much support as we possibly can get,” said Pastor Lee. “My mission statement and ministry is that if everyone does a little bit, no one has to do a lot.”

Photo by Kate Adelung/CARE

Hundreds of vehicles fill a parking lot in Houston, Texas, near a food distribution site organized by Bethel’s Heavenly Hands. The line of vehicles snaked far beyond this parking lot, and through the neighborhood.

CARE has partnered with both Heads Up Houston and Bethel’s Heavenly Hands since 2020 and is supporting both organizations’ food distribution sites with additional staff and supplies.

Photo by Kate Adelung/CARE

After waiting in line for hours, cars pull up to the food distribution site at Bethel’s Heavenly Hands. The parking lot of the community organization has been designated as a food distribution hub for the Houston Food Bank and is distributing everything they have on hand, including food, charcoal, lighter fluid, pet food, and cleaning supplies.

Photo by Laura Noel/CARE

Yolanda Green, a staff member at Bethel’s Heavenly Hands, left, greets Beverly Mai, right, as she and other volunteers and staffers helped distribute food to hundreds of people.

In addition to the hundreds of vehicles, there was a walk-up line at the distribution site.

Photo by Laura Noel/CARE

David Mcullough directs cars at the food distribution site. Following the snowstorms that disrupted power and water service to much of Houston, up to 13 million residents were on a boil water advisory at one point.

A joint team from Heads Up Houston and Bethel’s Heavenly Hands is also conducting home visits to deliver water, food, and emergency cash assistance to 1,000 families in the community, and determining what additional home repair support might be required due to burst pipes and other water-related damage.

Photo by Laura Noel/CARE

Gabby Dirden, Independent Consultant at CARE Package Relief, helps Walter Ballard collect food and water for his family during Bethel’s Heavenly Hands food and water distribution in Houston, Texas.

Photo by Laura Noel/CARE

Yolanda Green, a staff member at Bethel’s Heavenly Hands, helps other volunteers and staff distribute food to hundreds of people. For the past six months, CARE has supported Bethel’s in hiring workers from the communities they serve as part of their food distribution efforts.

While the site opens at 7:30 a.m., cars begin lining up at 6 a.m. to secure their spot, although the team operating the site say they don’t turn away anyone who is in need.

For more information or to donate, visit CARE.org/Texas.

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