A 60-year-old man froze to death in his own home in Abilene, Texas, as bitterly cold temperatures gripped the state amid a massive power outage, the city’s fire chief said Friday.
“Definitely heartbreaking,” Abilene Fire Department Chief Cande Flores told KTLA, describing the man’s death as one of the most tragic stories he’s ever encountered in his career.
Flores corrected some earlier reports that the man was discovered dead in a chair, clarifying that he was found deceased in his bed Wednesday beneath layers of blankets.
His “wife was sitting in a recliner covered up with several blankets. He was deceased, she was found to be in some distress,” Flores said.
The woman survived but was suffering from the extremely cold conditions inside their home, where temperatures were nearly identical to the frigid weather outside. She was hospitalized.
The 60-year-old’s death was one of six tied to the freezing cold reported in and around the western Texas city this week, the Associated Press reported.
Flores told KTLA that city leaders had warned residents to avoid staying in their homes due to outages that left millions of Texans without power for days earlier this week, urging them instead to seek shelter at warming stations set up in the community.
“It’s really something we don’t encounter in a career even,” Flores said. “To see the temperatures dip as low as they have and for as long as they have, have really caused some issues.”
With the weather improving and power restored to a majority of residents, Abilene is, like many cities across the state, now in a recovery phase, according to Flores.
But the biggest problem now involves a water shortage that resulted from pipes that burst and were damaged during the winter storm. Millions of people across Texas remain under orders to boil tap water before drinking it because low water pressure could have allowed bacteria to seep into the system.
Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Bob Fenton said teams in the state were distributing fuel, water, blankets and other supplies.
President Joe Biden has already declared an emergency in Texas, a move intended to add federal aid to state and local response efforts.
On Friday, Biden said he’s considering a visit to the state soon, though he didn’t specify when that could happen.