Due to the deadly storm that has hit Texas recently, several supermarkets are now running desperately low on food due to power outages.
The U.S. state continues to reel from the effects of the winter storm. Seven million people have been placed on "boil water orders", and more than 325,000 Texans have been left without power for five days.
Images shared to social media shows hundreds of desperate Texans waiting in long lines outside grocery stores across the Lone Star state.
Now, residents can't pick what they want from the market as they found the shelves virtually bare.
The storm has kick-started a growing crisis in the supply chain of food. Due to blackouts, fresh products have gone to waste. Treacherous roads are impossible to traverse for delivery trucks to deliver new stock.
The "unprecedented weather event in Texas" has caused severe disruption to H-E-B, a Texas grocery chain. They have more than 400 stores in Texas and Mexico. Now, the chain was forced to close 10 of its stores. The company added that "Like many other Texans are experiencing, this disruption is complicated by power and water outages. For H-E-B, this means temporary impacts on manufacturing, warehousing, store operations, and daily lives."
School districts from Houston to Fort Worth have also been forced to indefinitely halt meal distributions to students.
The Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, added that dairy farmers around the state are also being affected. They have to pour $8 million worth of milk down the drain every day as they can't get it to dairies.
The state's agricultural sector officials have warned that the storm could hamper food access for weeks to come due to the current strain on grocery stores.
To make matters more stressful, people are now facing a decline in fresh drinking water. Due to the record-low temperatures, the water treatment plants have been shut as pipes have frozen up. Meanwhile, in the capital of Austin, a power failure at the city's largest water-treatment facility also plunged the 950,000 residents under a "boil order".
Officials in the state have now placed more than seven million people under orders to boil tap water before drinking it.
More than 325,000 homes and businesses still have no power.
Governor Gregg Abbott demanded answers from the state's electricity supplier over the catastrophic failure that contributed to at least 10 storm-related deaths.
Hospitals in the Austin area have also lost water pressure and heat, which forced one hospital to evacuate some patients.
In response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced plans to deploy more than 700,000 litres of bottled water. They will be delivering more than 60,000 blankets and industrial-sized generators to help power hospitals and other critical structures in the coming days.
Austin City Manager, Spencer Cronk, added that Storm Uri has "Stressed our entire community in ways we have never experienced."
Drinking water supply is even more concerning, with seven million Texans across Arlington, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio issued with boil water orders. 263,000 people have been impacted by non-functioning water providers. About 590 public water systems across 141 counties are affected, disrupting the supply of water. This has an impact on around 12 million residents already reeling from the storm.
Meanwhile, Houston residents resorted to filling up buckets of water from a spigot in a local neighbourhood.
In Galveston, Mayor Craig Brown said burst pipes had depleted the areas water supply, leaving hospitals with a "dangerously low" supply. A resident added that "It is crazy that we just watched NASA land on Mars, but here in Houston, most of us still don't have drinking water. It seems absolutely mental that some cold weather can have such a huge effect on what is supposed to be the energy hub of the world. The fourth largest city, in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world!"
In Kyle, the situation has become dire. The city of 48,000 people just south of Austin have been told to suspend all water use unless essential to sustaining life.
Officials stated that "water should only be used to sustain life at this point. We are close to running out of water supply in Kyle."
Even though residents across the state are returning to their homes to find the power back on, they face further issues. Their water pipes have burst in their absence, flooding their houses and collapsing their ceilings.
Galveston Mayor Brown stated that "The human suffering that is occurring through this is very very concerning."
Galveston is used to dealing with hurricanes, but Brown said the crisis triggered by the storm is "worse."
"This is worse than a hurricane. In a hurricane you can go to the mainland and get away from this. In this particular situation, no matter where you go in Texas, you still have a concern that is similar to what we have here."
Celia Cole, CEO of the Hunger Relief organisation Feeding Texas, told the Texas Tribune eight food banks have asked the state for assistance in feeding communities.
This is not a third world country. This is Houston, Texas. I spotted a line of people filing up buckets of water from a spicket at Haden Park. Why? Millions either have no water or are under a Boil Water Advisory. pic.twitter.com/VHYH5Hbqjj— Erica Simon (@EricaOnABC13) February 18, 2021
Local businessman Jim McIngvale – known as Mattress Mack – said he was trying to get food from wherever he can. He has to feed hungry residents as around 500 Texans sheltered in his store. "People were freezing in their homes. They had no heating and electricity and compounding the problem they had no water. Their lives have been totally disrupted by this terrible power outage and water shortage. So it's a terrible situation."
ERCOT is in charge of managing the distribution of all of the energy in Texas and maintaining its grid. But they underestimated the storm and didn't produce enough reserve energy. They claimed that it predicted that peak energy demand would be 67 gigawatts. However, it reached 69 gigawatts on Sunday night, which was the first night of the storm. The agency then cut the power across the state by close to half – reducing it to slightly over 40 gigawatts. Each gigawatt powers some 500 homes.
MORNING EXCLUSIVE: @michaelstrahan speaks with local Houston legend Jim McIngvale aka ‘Mattress Mack’ as he opens his doors to help millions of Texans after winter storm. https://t.co/E1sP0GNcjP pic.twitter.com/imdRNLwoKx— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 18, 2021
The lack of food and markets having to throw away food that has gone bad due to the power outages is causing other problems. Several residents have been scavenging trash cans around the supermarkets to find something to eat. Mckniff said a group of employees were standing guard around the dumpsters to stop people salvaging the food.
Employees of the stores have been guarding the trash cans. However, residents soon got upset. Police have been called to assist and stated they will have to use force if they do not leave.
"Unfortunately, due to loss of power at this store, some perishable food was no longer safe for donation to local hunger relief agencies. Our store team became concerned that area residents would consume the food and risk foodborne illness. They engaged local law enforcement out of an abundance of caution. We apologise for the confusion," they said.
"Fred Meyer donates 5.5 million pounds of safe, nutritious surplus food to our food bank partners and communities every year. We are engaging our store teams with this important reminder of our established processes in situations like this."
But the activists on the scene believe the incident shows the value the city puts on people in need.
"The people who were there, weren't there for selfish reasons – they were there to get food to distribute to hungry people around the city. There are mutual aid groups that have been helping feed people at warming centers, because the city doesn't have enough resources to feed them."