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Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

Several Days Into The Texas Deep Freeze, Food Is Scarce

People wait in long lines at an H-E-B grocery store in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. The large supermarket chain said the "unprecedented weather event in Texas has caused a severe disruption in the food supply chain."
People wait in long lines at an H-E-B in Austin on Wednesday. The supermarket chain said the "unprecedented weather event in Texas has caused a severe disruption in the food supply chain."

The extremely cold weather in Texas hasn't just shut down power and water to millions of people in the state. It's also hammered food supplies.

Customers are sharing pictures on social media of empty grocery shelves across Texas and people desperate to stock up are forming long lines outside food stores.

H-E-B, a major Texas grocery chain which has more than 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, said the "unprecedented weather event in Texas has caused a severe disruption in the food supply chain.

"Like many other Texans are experiencing, this disruption is complicated by power and water outages. For H-E-B, this means temporary impacts to manufacturing, warehousing, store operations, and the daily lives" of employees and their families, the company said.

H-E-B said it was putting a purchase limit on some items and modifying hours temporarily for some locations. "At any time, store hours could be adjusted according to operations ability," the chain said.

In the meantime, Texans are simply running out of food.

As The Texas Tribune reported, "Across the state, people are using up supplies they had stockpiled and losing more as items start to spoil in dark refrigerators. Some are storing their remaining rations in coolers outside, and trips to the grocery store often do little to replenish pantries."

Austin resident Cristal Porter told the publication that her local Target "was out of meat, eggs and almost all milk before I left" on Monday. "Lines were wrapped around the store when we arrived. ... Shelves were almost fully cleared for potatoes, meat, eggs and some dairy."

Walmart, a major grocery retailer, reported that more than 200 of its stores were closed as of Thursday, including several in Texas. That's down from more than 400 stores closed earlier in the week.

"The safety of our associates and customers is our top priority," Walmart said in a statement on its website. "We assess the status of our facilities and will continue to operate as long as it is safe to do so."

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, tweeted that the situation is "worse than even the early days of the pandemic. Grocery store, fast food and gasoline lines are longer than ever. Many stores are closed, including pharmacies."

"Many vulnerable people can't eat because they can't get electricity or water to cook and can't get on the roads because of the dangerous conditions," Castro added. "At the same time, few orgs are actually delivering food and water to people."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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