The ground outside of Jessie Cheung’s ’24 Davenport College window has been blanketed with snow for nearly the entire month she has been on campus. Record-breaking wintry weather also hit her hometown last week — 1,500 miles southwest of Yale.
A historic winter storm swept through Texas and several other southern states early last Monday, taking a massive toll on Texas power grids and leaving, at its peak, four million Texas residents without heating and electricity in their homes while temperatures hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit. Millions of others — including remote Yalies and the friends and families of Yale students on campus — soon found themselves without access to treated water.
“Here, I was seeing snow and it was so pretty,” Cheung said. “I felt really guilty, to be honest. My parents were trying to get milk for their restaurant, but the stores were closed. I should have been there to help them out — they have been swamped at work.”
For Cheung and other students living away from their homes in Texas this semester, the crisis — declared a major disaster by the federal government — has highlighted disparities between their own living situations and those of their families and friends.
Reaching family and friends in his hometown of Houston has been challenging for Jonathan Jalbert ’23, since many have only sporadic access to power.
“On my end, it’s frustrating that I can’t really do anything to help,” Jalbert wrote in an email to the News. “It seems like they’ve gotten through the worst of the storm itself, but there might be long-term home damage that my family will be dealing with for awhile, so the stress isn’t over.”
While her family members lost power for a day, and several relatives had to contend with burst pipes, Liz Carter ’24 said that her family was lucky to be largely shielded from some of the most serious impacts of the storm.
“Being worried about my friends and family has definitely taken up a lot of my focus,” added Carter, who currently lives in New Haven. “To watch my closest friends search for groceries was concerning.”
Other Yalies who have remained in Texas for the semester have acutely felt the effects of the storm. Karen Lin ’24 remembers being “very excited” for the snow last week, until temperatures plummeted below freezing. Though her family is currently without drinkable tap water, Lin said that she was grateful to have power — in contrast to many of her family’s friends.
Lin said her head of college, first-year counselor and others in her residential college have been “extremely supportive” over the past week.
“I can’t help but think — oh God, what if I had been in classes right now?” said Mikayla Johnson ’23, who is currently on a leave of absence while living at home near San Antonio. Her family has had access to electricity and water this week, but a two-minute boil notice is in place in her town as a precaution against using potentially contaminated tap water.
Joy Yun ’24 is currently taking classes from Texas, but her family was not affected by the power outages. Still, several members of their church community who needed a warm shelter took up temporary residence in their home.
“Before we met this family, we were very cautious with COVID, but because they needed somewhere to stay we just invited them,” Yun said. “During the pandemic, it’s hard to figure out who to contact for help. A lot of people out there don’t have others to go to.”
Emily Tian | firstname.lastname@example.org