IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Texas counts its losses and begins to mourn those who died in the cold

"I fear there will be more once we thaw out," said one Abilene charity activist.
Image: Eric Traugott warms up his young son, Eric Traugott Jr., beside a fire, made from a discarded wooden armoire outside of their apartment in Austin, Texas, that remains without power on Feb. 17, 2021. (Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times)
Eric Traugott warms up his young son, Eric Traugott Jr., beside a fire, made from a discarded wooden armoire outside of their apartment that remains without power in Austin on Feb. 17, 2021. They've been without power since early Monday morning.Tamir Kalifa / The New York Times via Redux

An 11-year-old boy who had just seen snow for the first time.

An ailing 75-year-old Vietnam veteran who left his house to fetch an oxygen tank from his truck.

A 60-year-old man sitting in a recliner beside his wife in their living room.

These are just a handful of the Texans who, authorities say, apparently froze to death during the devastating winter storm that has paralyzed the state, cut off heat and power to millions, and plunged a proud people into the cold of a pre-Industrial Revolution-like existence where basic necessities like food and drinkable water are now in short supply.

With much of country focused on the unfolding tragedy in Texas, President Joe Biden said Friday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is already on the ground lending a hand and that he is hoping to visit the state himself next week.

“If I can do it without creating burden for folks, I plan on going,” he said.

The death toll from the wintery onslaught in Texas and across nine other states was 47 and counting as of Friday, officials said. And the shock in Texas, where most of those deaths have been reported, was palpable.

“A man FROZE TO DEATH under our collective noses. In Abilene!” Josh Casey, president of the Abilene Fresh, a charity that donates fresh food to nonprofits, said on his Facebook page Thursday. “You guys read that? I don't even know what to do with this information. Except to check on my immediate neighbors.”

Casey, in a telephone interview Friday with NBC News, said he expects that more tragedies will be uncovered in the coming days.

“I fear there will be more once we thaw out,” said Casey. “I found out about this death from my friend who called me to process what he had seen. This was a person who was in a nice house, who probably had a pension, who participated in the American Dream. And he froze to death in his living room.”

NBC News has reached out to the Abilene Police Department for more details about the man who died. He was described in The Abilene News Reporter as a 60-year-old who “was found deceased in his bed inside a house that felt like the same temperature as the air outside.”

“The man’s spouse was evacuated and taken to the hospital for treatment,” the newspaper reported, citing the fire chief, Cande Flores. “Her condition is not known.”

Two other people in Abilene died as a result of the extreme cold, Flores said, including a 67-year-old man who was found on a downtown street.

In the small city of Conroe, about 40 miles north of Houston, 11-year-old Cristian Pavon had spent much of Monday playing in the snow, something he’d never seen growing up in Honduras or in the two years the sixth grader had spent in Texas living with his mother.

“That’s why he was excited outside,” Cristian’s mother, Maria Elisa Pineda, told The Houston Chronicle on Thursday. “Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick.”

Displaying the cellphone photos she had taken of her son, dressed in a red hoodie and frolicking in the snow, the grieving mom told the newspaper that her son wasn’t sickly. She said that after the power went out in her mobile home on Monday morning, she tucked him into bed that evening with his 3-year-old stepbrother.

Pineda said she wasn’t immediately concerned when Cristian didn’t get up the next morning because he was a late sleeper. But when she checked on him at 2 p.m., “he was already dead,” she told the newspaper.

Now police suspect death due to hypothermia and are investigating, the newspaper reported.

Northeast of Houston in the small town of Crosby, 75-year-old Carrol Anderson left his house Monday when his oxygen supply ran out and went out to his truck to retrieve the portable oxygen tank he kept there for emergencies. That’s where he was found dead on Tuesday.

“He shouldn’t have had to die because he couldn’t breathe because we didn’t have power,” Gloria Anderson, Anderson’s wife of 30 years, told The Houston Chronicle.

Anderson, a Vietnam Veteran, had asked his provider for more tanks the previous week, his wife said. But the storm got there before the tanks did.

The thermometer read 19 degrees on the night Anderson died, the newspaper reported.