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Snowy BBQs and burning baby gates: Texas TikTokers capture historic storm's destruction

"I recorded the video because I wanted people to see how crazy it is here," Wilson said.
Image: A couple wears multiple layers of clothing under sleeping bags to keep warm at their home in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 18, 2021.
A couple wears multiple layers of clothing under sleeping bags to keep warm at their home in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 18, 2021.Tamir Kalifa / The New York Times via Redux

With power outages and water shortages stretching state-wide after a powerful winter storm hit Texas this week, some turned to TikTok to document the impact of the historic cold snap.

The videos show homes flooded due to burst pipes, families huddled under layers of blankets and some even boiling snow before using it for drinking and cooking, offering the world a glimpse into the dire conditions that many continue to face in Texas.

In Austin, Texas, Matt Qualman, 27, turned to TikTok after breaking down his son's baby gate and burning it to keep warm as temperatures got as low as nine degrees inside his apartment. (Warning: video contains profanity.)

"It's snowing and freezing, and we didn't have heat … I didn't have any firewood at the time, nor did I know where to buy any because no place sells firewood and the closest thing to me was a baby gate," said Qualman, adding that his make-shift fire "warmed the place right up."

Qualman said his family wasn't prepared for such a large storm, and it has been "miserable" waiting for the power to come back on.


Cut the power to residences while vacant office buildings use tons power?! ##fyp ##texas ##texasweather ##oncor ##ercot ##governorabbott ##CBRE ##poweroutage

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Blaine LaBron in Dallas used the social media platform to show that most of the large corporate buildings had power, while he and other residents were left in the dark for days due to the storm.

"Guess who else has power? Every single building in downtown Dallas, all of these offices are sitting empty, but they have power," LaBron said as he zoomed in on the brightly lit offices across the street.

In Temple, Texas, Arreon Castillo and Andris White, both 20, haven’t had water or electricity at their apartment complex since Monday. When the pair got hungry, they decided to cook outside where Castillo filmed a video of White grilling at their snowy outdoor BBQ set-up.

“We had to find a way to cook our food, so we just decided to do what we know best which is BBQ, and we had no lights, so we had to make do,” Castillo and Andris told NBC News.

Meanwhile, in Plano, Texas, Earl Wilson, 28, an elementary school teacher, gave his followers a tour of his flooded apartment on Monday after a pipe burst in a nearby unit. Wilson said his home was dark and wet, and that he "felt like he was in the movie Titanic."

"I was sitting on the couch when I started to hear water pouring in from everywhere, but I didn't know where it came from, and I instantly panicked," said Wilson, who later went to a hotel that night.

The next day, Wilson said he returned to his apartment and used his clothes to absorb as much water as possible; however, he said his carpeted bedroom and closet are still wet and likely ruined.

"I recorded the video because I wanted people to see how crazy it is here," said Wilson. "It's unbelievable, and I am so happy I have the video because if I were just talking about it, no one would realize how much water was actually in this place."

While Wilson's power has been restored, he said it was a "very stressful and cold week."

Not too far away, Johnson and Beth Ellis, who also live in Plano, Texas, recorded themselves walking around their home showing off all of the appliances they couldn't use because of the power outages.

"Lovely oven and microwave … wife, is a wonderful cook … love it can't use it," Johnson said at one point in the video.


Woke up to this video from my parents. At least they are keeping eachother entertained during the ##poweroutage ##texassnow ##texassnowstorm2021 ##fyp

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Soon after, the couple sent the recording to their family group chat, and their daughter Sheridan Ellis posted it to her TikTok account, saying that "it had to be shared."

"My parents have been married for 35 years, and they are obsessed with each other, and I think they wanted to bring some humor to a tough situation … I knew that people would enjoy it and make them laugh," Sheridan said.

As of Friday, power had been restored for millions of Texans and in some areas hit by the storm, temperatures finally inched above freezing. Still, millions are without safe water at home, and residents looking for groceries or bottled water said they arrived at stores with bare shelves and long lines.