Canadians in Texas say they’re coping better than most in winter storm


Armed with winter survival and driving skills, Canadians living in Texas are coping with the storm better than most in the state right now.

Having lived up north for years, Canadians in the state would be used to the cold weather and inches of snow, but some said despite this, they’ve never experienced conditions as bad as what they currently have in Texas.

“In all of my years in Canada, I’ve never had a power outage longer than a couple of hours. I’ve never had to deal with collecting snow to flush to the toilet,” said a software engineer working in Austin, Texas.

None of the homes in her Austin neighbourhood have good insulation, said Janessa Frykas, originally from Dauphin, Man.

Not many people in the area know how to drive in the snow and ice, said Frykas, who moved to Texas for work about a month before the pandemic began.

“If something like this would have happened in Manitoba, the housing would have been more insulated and the political situation surrounding it would have been less ridiculous,” she said.

Water is loaded into cars at a City of Houston water distribution site Friday. The drive-thru stadium location was set up to provide bottled water to individuals who need water while the city remains on a boil water notice, or because they lack water due to frozen or broken pipes. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

Toronto-born theatre critic Jessica Goldman said she’s glad she hasn’t gotten rid of some of her Canadian clothes, which have come in handy when her Houston house lost power days ago.

Asked if she wished she was in her hometown, Goldman, who has been in Houston for about seven years, said she just wishes she was somewhere with water.

“We’re Canadians, we’re used to the cold. That isn’t the biggest issue. The problem with Houston is that they’re not used to the cold,” she said, noting that pipes in the area are not buried underground and burst in cold weather.

Water pipes ruptured by record-low temperatures have created a shortage of clean drinking water.

Texas authorities ordered seven million people — a quarter of the population in the second-most populous American state — to boil tap water before drinking it because low water pressure could have allowed bacteria to seep into the system.

“It’s been really hard because we just don’t have the tools,” said Jackie Dunn, 60, who lived in Ontario for 40 years and moved to Austin in 2003.

“If this had happened at home, we’d be all good. But because we’re down here, we don’t even have ice scrapers in our cars,” she said.

Dunn said unlike most, she can drive in the snow, so she was able to go downtown to check into the coffee house and theatre she manages.

“But people here don’t have snow tires. They don’t understand that hitting your brakes when you’re on a patch of ice is not a good idea and they tailgate still,” she added.

She said she knows a few people in the area who are from Canada, Minnesota and New York state.

“We all just kind of laugh at first, like at the beginning of this, we were kind of laughing at how everybody is all scared,” said Dunn. “And then it got really bad and it was like, this is no joke.”

While her home in Austin has power, they haven’t had water for days and had to check into a hotel to get access to water, she said.

Her Canadian friends and family have been jokingly telling her to just come home to Toronto, said Dunn.

“[They said] at least if you came here, you’d have the same weather and free health care,” she said

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